Trail running (Mountain Running, Fell Running) is the intersection of running and hiking. Using a fast & light approach you are able to cover lots of ground quickly and visit beautiful back-country spots in a day before returning home or to camp. It's also a more challenging style of running in which the terrain is rugged, dirty and forces you to adapt to it. Either way it's an incredibly fun activity and Vancouver is a world-class trail running destination. You would be silly not to try it out!
The risks of being in the back-country are the same as for hiking. Since you carry less equipment, your safety margins are thinner and you should respect this fact. Route finding can be challenging on some trails like Pacific Spirit Park or the North Shore where many trails intersect one another. Hypothermia warrants special mention, in running clothes you are warm while active but if you stop, are unable to continue, and wet your core temperature will drop quickly. As for hiking, always tell a responsible person of your plan, your expected return time and when/who to call for help.
Essential Gear List
- Running Shoes
- Wool or synthetic clothes. Avoid Cotton
- Good socks (wool)
- Light windbreaker for cool or wet conditions and post-run
- Hat + gloves
- Water; 1 liter /hour activity
- Food; you need electrolytes for runs >1 hour
- A plan, map & compass
- Stopwatch (optional)
- Positive outlook
Vancouver is one of the best cities in the world for trail running. We are very close to wild places, the climate is moderate (rain isn't a deterrent) and the terrain is challenging. Below are a few trail runs worth doing (add more to build this page up!). For ideas on routes check out the Hiking Trips page. There is also a guidebook for Vancouver which you could borrow from a VOCer.
These trails are well packed, they are close to civilization and have friendly bail options.
Pacific Spirit Park
There are many options to explore this huge park on the University Endowment Lands. Access is super easy, just bike/bus to your trailhead. There is a whole network of trails here to make up your own route.
Iron Sword - 4.3 km
Iva Mann Loop - 7.5 km
Another classic Vancouver run. The sea-wall, while not a trail, is worth running. The entire interior of Stanley Park is a network of trails. Make up your own route here too and explore this urban rain-forest.
The main run follows the sand from the docks of the Royal Yacht Club to the Spanish Bank Creek. There are sections where you have to either cross some boulders or run around them along the sidewalk. For an easier variation use the sidewalk.
Spanish Bank Traverse - 5.6 km
These trails are rougher around the edges, there could be terrain challenges such as log-bridges (of questionable integrity), uneven surfaces and the distance from trail-head increases.
North Shore Mountains
There is a whole rats-nest of trails on the North Shore mountains, the majority of which are public-transit accessible. The best beta for these is to pick up a $8 trail map from MEC and connect whatever lines you want. The hardest part is finding the time to do them all!
Lynn Loop - 5.1 km, 'Classic'. Lower to Upper direction recommended. Run to Third Debris Pile or Norvan Falls for a good long-run.
Follow the BCMC trail up parallel to the Grouse Grind for a burly run.
These trails are for backpacking trips into the back-country. You will be far away from other people, most people would have boots if they were there. There can be substantial terrain challenges such as boulder-fields, bush and water crossings.