Burnaby Mountain Park: Wonderful Views and Other Attractions

Burnaby Mountain Park is a lovely place to visit. It offers wonderful views of the ocean as well as other attractions. The park overlooks Burrard Inlet and Indian Arm in one direction and the cities of Burnaby and Vancouver in the other. I always feel as though I’m on top of the world when I visit it on a clear day.

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Part of the rose garden in Burnaby Mountain Park

Burnaby Mountain

Burnaby Mountain is around 370 metres (1,214 feet) high. It’s located in the northeastern part of Burnaby. It’s dwarfed by the Coast Mountains on the other side of Burrard Inlet. On the other hand, its smaller elevation make it quicker and easier to climb while still giving the climber a good workout. A trail for both walkers and cyclists travels up the mountain. The mountain is a great place to study nature as well as exercise.

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A view from the park

Getting to the Park

The park is located at the top of the mountain near Simon Fraser University. People can travel up the mountain by car or bus instead of by walking or cycling. The park has a parking lot for visitors. The bus stops at the university. A short walk from the bus stop will take a visitor to the park.

It might be a good idea to walk to the park with someone if you don’t drive (or walk with your dog, as I do). The main part of the park and its parking lot are open and popular areas that almost always have other visitors, but the treed and forested trails leading to and from the park are more secluded.

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Lilies that I photographed in the park

An Overview of the Park’s Attractions

The views are not the only attraction in the park. The park has a restaurant (as well as a public washroom located behind the restaurant). A rose garden is in bloom in summer. Even when the flowers aren’t blooming, the landscaped area is pleasant to sit in. “Playground of the Gods” is an interesting and impressive sculpture. In summer, an eco-sculpture can also be admired.

Hang gliders sometimes take off from the park. In winter, people have great fun tobogganing down a grassy slope, though they are officially discouraged from doing this. The mountain often has snow when the communities at its base don’t.

The park has picnic tables and a playground for children. The trails into the forest that lead away from the park are interesting for walkers, runners, and mountain bikers to explore. The forested area of the mountain (the largest section) is known as the Burnaby Mountain Conservation Area. Simply sitting on a bench or on the large grassy area in the park and contemplating the view is enjoyable and very often relaxing.

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Part of the Kamui Mintara sculpture

Kamui Mintara or Playground of the Gods

Kamui Mintara is a sculpture consisting of a collection of carved wooden poles. The sculpture was carved in 1989 and was created by Nuburi Toko and his son Shusei Toko of the Ainu culture. The Ainu are an indigenous people of the island of Hokkaido in northern Japan and historically of some Russian islands as well. The sculptors live (or did when the sculpture was created) in Kushiro, Burnaby’s sister city in Japan.

The figures on the sculpture are significant. The animals represent the gods as they existed when they created the world. The Ainu are shown in relationship to the gods and nature. British Columbian animals are used to depict the deities, including an owl, an orca, a bear, and a salmon. The sculpture occupies quite a large area and is interesting to explore.

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An eco-sculpture of sandhill cranes

Eco-sculptures

From summer to early fall, eco-sculptures can be seen at various locations around Burnaby. Most of them represent animals that can be found in the province. One of them is always placed in Burnaby Mountain Park.

The sculptures have a mesh-like frame of metal that is stuffed with soil and then covered with porous landscape fabric. (The frame is shown in the young crane in the photo above.) Holes are created in the fabric and small plants are placed in them. The plants are used to depict the hair, fur, feathers, and scales of the animals.

As might be imagined, the process of creating an eco-sculpture can be labour intensive. Each year, the public is invited to help place the plants in some of the sculptures. There always seems to be plenty of volunteers.

For several years, an eco-sculpture of a pair of very tall tancho cranes was present in Burnaby Mountain Park. The real-life birds live in Japan. For the last few years, sandhill cranes have been shown instead. These birds are seen in British Columbia. The sculptures are often moved to different parts of the city from one year to the next, so there is no guarantee that a particular sculpture will be seen in a particular location.

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Tancho cranes

The Great Trail or the Trans Canada Trail

The trail that goes up and over the mountain and through the park is part of the Great Trail. Many people still call the path by its former name of the Trans Canada Trail, which I prefer. I think the latter name is awesome because it conveys the idea that the trail enables pedestrians and cyclists to travel across the entire country.

The trail was started in 1992, which was Canada’s 125th birthday. It currently extends over 24,000 km or 15,000 miles. The path was said to be finished in 2017, the year of country’s 150th birthday. In reality, it’s still being created. While it’s true that there is a continuous route for walkers across almost the entire country, some sections of the “trail” are simply shoulders of highways. The organization that created the trail is still working on replacing these areas with off-road paths. They depend on the efforts of local communities for much of their work.

The trail travels across the southern part of Canada. In the western part of the country, however, a branch travels to the north. Islands are located off the west and east coast of the country. (There’s a map of Canada on the homepage of this site.) In these areas, the trail requires travel by a boat of some kind.

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The rose garden

I think a visit to Burnaby Mountain Park and its surroundings is very worthwhile for visitors to the Greater Vancouver area. Fortunately, I live quite near to the park and am able to visit it often. The climb up the mountain is good exercise for me and my dog. There are lots of benches in the park for me and other visitors to rest if necessary.

A visit to the park is always enjoyable, but it’s most interesting when the views are clear. It’s fun to try to identify familiar places from on top of the mountain and to watch the activity in the inlet. Binoculars are useful, but the view can be appreciated without them.

 

Enjoyable Activities in the Whistler Blackcomb Area

Whistler Blackcomb is an internationally popular ski resort in British Columbia. The attraction is located about a two-hour drive north of Vancouver. I’m not a skier, but I find a visit to the resort and its surroundings enjoyable at any time of the year. It’s a lovely area that offers many interesting activities.

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A photo that I took outside a lodge after a gondola ride at the Whistler Blackcomb Resort

Some Terminology Related to Locations

The names of some of the sites in the Whistler Blackcomb area are a bit confusing, though that doesn’t interfere with the enjoyment of a visit. Here’s a brief overview of the terminology that’s used.

  • The entire community at the base of the mountains is called the Resort Municipality of Whistler, or Whistler for short.
  • Whistler village is a smaller, pedestrian-only area resembling a European village. It’s located at the base of Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains and has ski lifts and gondolas. The village contains attractions for people who don’t ski or who are taking a break from skiing.
  • Blackcomb Mountain has a separate ski resort at its base.
  • Whistler Village and the Blackcomb ski resort are currently run by the same company and are referred to as the Whistler Blackcomb Resort. Walking between the two areas is quick and easy when taking a purpose-built trail.
Gondola

The Peak 2 Peak Gondola; photo by Clarisse Baudot, CC BY-SA 3.0 license

Peak 2 Peak Gondola

The Peak 2 Peak Gondola transports people between Whistler and Blackcomb mountains and provides wonderful views. It travels from the Roundhouse Lodge on Whistler Mountain to the Rendezvous Lodge on Blackcomb Mountain. I took the first photo in this post outside the Roundhouse Lodge.

In order to reach the gondola, visitors must first travel up the mountain in the Whistler Village Gondola or the Blackcomb Gondola. This journey is included in the ticket price (as is the journey in the reverse direction). The trip up the mountain takes about twenty-five minutes and the journey between the mountains about eleven minutes. Anyone planning to take the gondola ride should investigate the closure times and the way to buy tickets to avoid disappointment. The latest information is available at the Whistler website.

When a traveller reaches a lodge on either mountain, they can stop for a meal or for a ski or a hike, depending on the time of year. Of course, anyone going for an alpine hike needs to take the correct supplies with them and watch the time carefully. Though Whistler is famous as a ski resort, it offers enjoyable activities in summer, too. These include hiking and mountain biking.

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Skiing at Whistler Blackcomb; photo by werner22brigitte, CC0 public domain license

Whistler Village, Village North, and the Upper Village

Whistler village contains many restaurants as well as specialty shops, a grocery store, a pharmacy, art galleries, coffee shops, spas, yoga studios, and gyms. The paths through the village are winding and branch into other paths. The route can be confusing for a first-time visitor, but the village is a fun and picturesque place to get lost in. Helpful village hosts are often available along the route. They happily answer questions and provide directions, as I’ve discovered.

Whistler Village is connected by a short walkway to Village North, which provides more facilities, including the Olympic Plaza. The plaza has a skating rink in winter and holds concerts and other special events. Village North also contains a supermarket and a post office. Both Whistler Village and Village North have medical centres that can deal with emergencies as well as non-emergencies. Whistler Village also has a dental clinic. 

To confuse matters, there’s another “village” to remember. The resort at the base of Blackcomb Mountain is now referred to as the Upper Village. It takes around ten minutes to walk there from Whistler Village. The tourist area of the Upper Village is not as big as in the other villages, but it has its own grocery store, eateries, and specialty stores. It’s located next to some luxury hotels. There are many other places to stay at Whistler.

Welcome

The Welcome Figure at Whistler Village

The Cultural Connector

Whistler Village and the Upper Village have a pathway known as the Cultural Connector. Following this pathway enables walkers to visit six cultural institutions. Maps of the pathway are available at the village host booths, at the institutions that are visited, and at the visitor’s centre located at the entrance to the village by the bus stop. (Buses travel between Vancouver and Whistler.)

One of the most interesting institutions for visitors to explore is probably the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre, which describes and exhibits the culture of the First Nations people living in the area. It’s located in the Upper Village. The First Nations are the indigenous people of British Columbia. Two other places that visitors might find interesting are the Audain Art Museum (which is said to be located a seven-minute-walk away from the Upper Village) and the Whistler Museum (which is located in Whistler Village).

The Welcome Figure in the photo above was created by artists at the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre and erected in an area known as the Village Common. The figure not only welcomes everyone to the village but also reminds us of the First Nations connection to the area.

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Jeri: A sculpture by James Stewart at Whistler

More Public Art

I enjoy looking at public art. I photographed the statue above in late winter. The trail to the Upper Village is located in the background of the photo and is part of the Cultural Connector. James Stewart (the sculptor) lives in Whistler. His sculpture is made of bronze and is named Jeri. It depicts a Capoeira dancer who is temporarily resting. Capoeira is an Afro-Brazilian form of martial art that includes elements of acrobatics and dance.

I photographed the sculpture a year ago. It was supposed to be a temporary installation. I don’t know if it’s still on display or in the location where I saw it. Other public art works can be seen in the area, however, even if Jeri is no longer there.

Sculpture back

The Valley Trail

Though the villages in Whistler are interesting, there is far more to see in the area. The walking and hiking trails allow people to observe nature and lovely scenery as well as the neighbourhoods in the municipality.

The only trail that I’ve explored (apart from the pathway to the Upper Village) is the popular Valley Trail. It’s flat and gives a great overview of the Whistler area. It’s 40 km long in total and is open to pedestrians, cyclists, and dogs on leashes. The trail enables visitors to explore lakes, parks, and residential areas. The Whistler website gives ideas for routes that allow travellers to loop back if they don’t want to travel over the whole trail or take exactly the same route back.

The Valley Trail is open all year. Snowshoes or bicycles with fat tires are useful in winter. My goal is to eventually explore the whole trail and to explore some of the other trails in the area. Walking through the villages is nice, but there’s far more that I want to see at Whistler Blackcomb.