When the sun’s shining, there’s nothing quite like taking a dip in a lake, basking on the shore, or maybe just floating on the water with a cold drink in your hand.
Luckily, there are loads of lakes around Vancouver where you can spend a gorgeous afternoon, barbecuing, swimming, and generally lounging around.
Here are our picks of some the best lakes in and around Vancouver – and how to find them.
This is a calm, quiet lake, full of life and natural beauty, on the edge of the Lynn Headwaters Regional Park in North Vancouver. There are several viewpoints and trails around the lake with benches to relax and take in the natural beauty of the area. No swimming permitted.
Where: About 40 minutes’ drive from downtown Vancouver, on Lillooet Road in North Vancouver
Sasamat Lake is warm to swim in, lined with a scenic forest and trails, and is home to White Pine Beach, a beautiful white sand beach. Bliss. The beach is a very popular summer Sunday destination for Vancouverites and a great spot to picnic, swim and sunbathe.
Where: Approximately 45 minutes’ drive from downtown Vancouver, in Belcarra Regional Park, Port Moody
Whyte Lake Park is a small, peaceful lake in the hills above Horseshoe Bay, in the largest park in West Vancouver. The lake, which is an hour’s walk from the road, is surrounded by trails, wetlands, creeks and old-growth forest, and features a dock and a boardwalk.
Where: About 30 minutes’ drive from downtown Vancouver, near Horsehoe Bay, in West Vancouver
Cabin Lake is one of the best swimming holes on the North Shore, and can get quite busy in summer, with plenty of areas for relaxing and diving spots easily accessible from Cypress Mountain Parking Lot, if you’re happy with a 3.5 km hike to get there.
Where: About 45 minutes’ drive from downtown Vancouver, near Cypress Mountain, in West Vancouver
Buntzen Lake is a great hiking lake, flanked by Eagle Ridge and Buntzen Ridge, with Indian Arm Provincial Park and Belcarra Regional Park making up a large portion of the surrounding hiking trails – but you can also swim, fish, and boat on the lake.
Where: About an hour’s drive from downtown Vancouver, north of Anmore
This lake, right in the heart of Burnaby, is a stunning wildlife sanctuary where you can spot bald eagles and belted kingfishers, as well as beavers, ducks and turtles. You can canoe or kayak in the lake, and have a picnic on the shore, but no swimming is permitted.
Where: About 30 minutes’ drive from downtown Vancouver, at 4519 Piper Avenue, Burnaby
Green Timbers Lake
This lake in the heart of the Green Timbers Urban Forest in Surrey is a great spot for fishing, generously stocked with rainbow trout throughout the year. But you can also enjoy a myriad of trails in the surrounding area. No swimming permitted.
Where: About 45 minutes’ drive from downtown Vancouver, on 96 Avenue between Fraser Highway and 148 Street in Surrey
This lake in the heart of East Vancouver offers swimming, concessions, a picnic area, shelters, BBQ pits, sports facilities and lifeguards. It’s also dog-friendly with free parking.
Where: About 20 minutes’ drive from downtown Vancouver, in John Hendry Park at 3300 Victoria Drive, Vancouver
Deer Lake Park is a hub for Burnaby’s arts and heritage attractions. Trails with scenic views connect the lake, art gallery, centre for the arts, museum, and restaurant. Canoe, kayak, pedal boat, and rowboat rentals are available in the summer, but no swimming is permitted.
Where: About 30 minutes’ drive from downtown Vancouver, at 6450 Deer Lake Avenue, Burnaby
One of the most popular destinations in the Lower Mainland, Cultus Lake is a large, warm freshwater lake surrounded by scenic forest-clad mountains. Enjoy picnicking, swimming, boating, fishing, water skiing, wind surfing and hiking there throughout the summer.
Where: A two-hour drive from downtown Vancouver, off the Vedder Mountain Road south of Chilliwack
This is the second-largest lake in the Lower Mainland, and one of the world’s largest tidal lakes. A nature lover’s haven, the vast shoreline alternates between steep shorelines with tumbling streams and secret coves and islands, with sandy beaches for swimming or fishing.
Where: About 1.5 hours’ drive from downtown Vancouver, off Rannie Road in Grant Narrows Regional Park, northeast of Coquitlam
Rolley Lake Provincial Park is a flat, wilderness area blanketed with tall, second-growth conifers. The small, warm-water lake provides opportunities for swimming, fishing, canoeing, picnicking and hiking. Campsites are nestled in the trees minutes from the shore.
Where: About one hour and 20 minutes’ drive from downtown Vancouver, on Bell Street north of Mission
Sea To Sky
Lost Lake is walking distance from Whistler Village, and has all the facilities you need to spend the day – washrooms, picnic tables, swimming docks, BBQ facilities and a concession stand. It’s also dog-friendly and a great spot for watching the sunsets over Whistler.
Where: Approximately two hours drive from Vancouver, near Whistler
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Alice Lake is surrounded by towering mountains, dense forests and grassy areas – a very popular family swimming spot during the summer. The trail around the lake is also popular with excellent views of the Tantalus Range from the DeBeck’s Hill Trail.
Where: About one hour and 10 minutes’ drive from downtown Vancouver, off Highway 99, approximately 13 km north of Squamish
There are four parks around this huge lake, but Alta Lake Park is most off the beaten track, with two serene piers for lounging around, jumping off or admiring the excellent views of Whistler and Blackcomb mountains. Other parks also offer sandy beaches and picnic tables.
Where: About one hour and 40 minutes’ drive from downtown Vancouver, off Highway 99 about five kilometres south of Whistler.
Alpha Lake, just south of Whistler, offers sandy beaches, docks, fishing, BBQs and great swimming, as well as trails everywhere you look. It’s also known for a dodgy rope swing, which may or may not have been torn down again by the time you visit.
Where: About one hour and 40 minutes’ drive from downtown Vancouver, off Highway 99, about five kilometres south of Whistler.
This lake near Squamish has been the subject of crackdowns due to rowdy parties going on late into the night, but there’s a reason it’s so much fun – it’s fairly isolated down a gravel road, the lake water is warm and inviting, and there are loads of rope swings too.
Where: About one hour and 15 minutes’ drive from downtown Vancouver, off Highway 99, about 15 km north of Squamish
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This gorgeous lake surrounded by lush, quiet forest with a shoreline of huge boulders is easily missable. You’ll have to delve through the forest and over rocks to find an outcrop to spend the day, but once you jump off that rock into the warm glacial water… it’s all worth it.
Where: About 90 minutes’ drive from downtown Vancouver, off Highway 99, about 15 km north of Squamish
Lucille Lake is somewhat of a local secret in Whistler and Squamish, with a sandy beach, clear, glacial waters and an island that makes a nice challenge for those swimming out further. There are no facilities around though – you’re on your own.
Where: About 90 minutes’ drive from downtown Vancouver, off Highway 99, about 30 km north of Squamish
Garibaldi Lake is pretty isolated, but this stunning lake is worth the two to three hour steep uphill hike to get there. You’ll feel as though you’ve entered some parallel universe, as you marvel at the turquoise-blue lake lined with glacier-capped mountains and lush green trees.
Where: Approximately 1.5 hours drive from Vancouver, 35 km north of Squamish and 20 km south of Whistler