The Vancouverite’s Guide To The Best Nearby Lakes

Unlike many of your typical major cities, Vancouver’s proximity to numerous lake spots is close and accessible. While it is the ocean that gives us our reputation, more swimming-friendly and serene locations are only a stone’s throw away. To really embrace all that the West Coast super city has to offer, it is essential that you take a look at what helped to give us the name ‘Beautiful British Columbia’. From fun watering hole spots, to picnic-friendly areas, to hiking, fishing and scenic boating locations, there is a plethora of lakes waiting for you to discover them. Keeping the driving time from Vancouver to less than three hours, here are some of the best lakes available to Vancouverites.

Sasamat Lake

Location: Port Moody

Distance from Vancouver: 45 minutes 

Sasamat Lake-nancytinarunswrites.wordpress.com

As one of Vancouver’s warmest lakes, Sasamat Lake—located in Belcarra Regional Park—is perfect for those days where all you want to do is swim and play water sports. The lake is lined by White Pine Beach and will hit the spot if you are looking for a mid-day summer escape with your friends. Throw a birthday bash or end of school party there to really bring in the warm season. Featuring a floating bridge that is perfect for fishing, Sasamat Lake also attracts those who wish to paddleboard, kayak and canoe. Motorized boats, however, are not permitted so bring that raft you have had in the basement all winter! And for those who do not have access to a car, Translink does provide seasonal transit services.

Whyte Lake

Location: Cypress Mountain, West Vancouver

Distance from Vancouver: a 45-minute hike from Eagle Harbour

Source: Whyte Lake Trail, West Vancouver. August 8, 2010. (Stephen Hui)
Source: Whyte Lake Trail, West Vancouver. August 8, 2010. (Stephen Hui)

This one is for those who desire a peaceful and natural lake visit. With a trail that is very new, Whyte Lake is not by any means a polished beach but rather a lightly rugged rainforest experience. Named after early 1900s Horseshoe Bay area landowner and developer Colonel Albert Whyte, small but picturesque Whyte Lake can be accessed by following the trail beside Nelson Creek, and features a modest wooden dock. With sections of the hike to the lake covered with boardwalks to protect the forest’s ecosystem, heading to Whyte Lake for the day is a great way to place yourself directly within nature. The water is relatively warm for swimming, although at times murky—this particular lake is a great hangout spot for lunch.

Alice Lake

Location: Squamish

Distance from Vancouver: 1 hour

Source: Alice Lake-www.env.gov.bc.ca

Alice Lake is hugged by dense forests, large mountains and grassy spots ideal for picnicking. There are four fresh water lakes within the Alice Lake Provincial Park, all accessible by trails. The beach area can get busy, but there are little areas to walk to that provide a bit of privacy for those looking for a relaxing scenic experience. Featuring three public beach areas, swimming floats and change houses, Alice Lake is accessible from a campground if you wish to turn your beach experience into a weekend camping one. This is a great spot for the family and those who need to escape the city without putting on too many kilometers.  

Cultus Lake

Location: Chilliwack

Distance from Vancouver: 1 hour 

Source: Cultus Lake-www.cultuslake.bc.ca
Source: Cultus Lake-www.cultuslake.bc.ca

Water-skiing and wind surfing fans, head on over to Chilliwack for the Cultus Lake experience. Located within the Cultus Lake Provincial Park, this lake is ideal for parties and summer fun enthusiasts who like their days propelled by adrenaline. For those who venture away from the lake, there is golfing, hiking, mountain biking and—for the kids and the kids-at-heart—waterslides! Cultus Lake is warm and one of the most swimmer-friendly spots on this list, so a short visit is never enough. With warm, sandy beaches and mountain views that are a B.C. lake must-have, Cultus Lake is an easy spot for the Vancouverite who wants to camp but cannot afford a hefty transit time. The campgrounds feature playgrounds, a convenience store, horseshoe pits, boat rentals, pet-friendly swim areas and basketball and volleyball courts.

Garibaldi Lake

Location: A ten-minute drive from Whistler

Distance from Vancouver: 1.5 hours

Source: E Samy - www.ehabweb.net
Source: E Samy – www.ehabweb.net

The scenery at Garibaldi Lake will be familiar to you, as it is one of the most B.C. postcard picture friendly spots in the province. With its lush glacial beauty, regal surrounding mountains and signature icy turquoise colours, Garibaldi Lake is breathtaking and ideal for visiting tourists. A trip to the Garibaldi Provincial Park Lake requires some hiking, so do not bring too much to carry; there is a steep uphill climb, but the lake is more than worth the exercise. Give yourself five hours for a round trip total, not including lake enjoyment, lounging and picture taking. Garibaldi Lake is not the warmest of swimming spots, but certainly perfect for a scenic picnic and solid proof that the province you live in is a real stunner.

Lost Lake

Location: Whistler

Distance from Vancouver: 2 hours

Source: Lost Lake-artofliving.summitlodge.com
Source: Lost Lake-artofliving.summitlodge.com

Not to be confused with Vancouver’s Lost Lagoon, Lost Lake is very close to Whistler Village and offers a decidedly more metro approach to the lake experience. Located within the forested Lost Lake Park, this beach spot is perfect for parties, family outings and swim binging. Dog friendly and—most importantly—fun friendly, Lost Lake has docks, a kids area, BBQs, picnic tables and a concession stand fit for your summer day cravings. And it goes without saying that the views are beautiful—Whistler needs no introduction when it comes to gorgeous scenery. A day at Lost Lake will solidify Whistler as not just a great winter spot, but a great summer spot as well.

Ivey Lake

Location: Pemberton

Distance from Vancouver: 2.5 hours

Ivey Lake-www.whistler-realestate.ca
Source: Ivey Lake-www.whistler-realestate.ca

This one is for all you fishing enthusiasts; grab your tackle box and head out to Pemberton for some world famous fly-fishing. Alone between the mountains of the Pemberton Valley, Ivey Lake offers breathtaking views of coastal forests and waters well stocked with rainbow trout. Private owners rent out lakefront log cabins for those who want a longer experience and to really get good at their cast and release technique. A great get-away, Ivey Lake is perfect for the person who wants a peaceful and rewarding natural experience, and is ideal for boaters and adventurers. So go grab yourself a fishing license and get some lake therapy.

Joffre Lakes

Location: Pemberton

Distance from Vancouver: 2.5 hours 

Source: Joffre Lakes-www.arunaphotography.com
Source: Joffre Lakes-www.arunaphotography.com

Perfect for a Sunday trip, pack up what you wish, hop in the car and you will be at Joffre Lakes in no time. This camping spot features a gorgeous glacial lake—in the same style as Garibaldi Lake—that is known for its piercing clear blue colour. In order to see the upper lakes you will be required to hike for a while, so plan accordingly. The upper lake features a large glacier, and requires a camera in your hiking luggage for those perfect moments you will undoubtedly run into. Like Garibaldi Lake, the Joffre Lakes are very cold—this is more of a picnicking and adventuring spot. Located within the Joffre Lakes Provincial Park, this destination is ideal for fishing and camping. You might even catch a glimpse of some wildlife!

Alta Lake

Location: Whistler

Distance from Vancouver: 2 hours

Source: Alta Lake-www.wikimedia.org
Source: Alta Lake-www.wikimedia.org

Large and inhabiting the space between Creekside and Whistler Village, Alta Lake features numerous parks and is a hotspot for water sports and family events. There really is not a need unmet with food concessions and plenty of grassy space to run free. Alta Lake’s parks are home to picnic tables and onsite BBQs, a watercraft rental concession and a kid friendly play area. For a truly sandy summer beach, this is the spot for you. In Rainbow Park, check out the beach volleyball courts and docks. If you have exhausted Lost Lake, this is a perfect Whistler swimming hole alternative.