When the snow starts to fly in the upper alpine, and a gorgeous dusting of white becomes clearly visible on our beloved Lions, like many other Vancouverites, I naturally turn to the mountains for my outdoor fix. Anxiously, I monitor snowfall, weather forecasts and await the upcoming ski season with impatience. Over the years I have learned to turn the waiting game into an exploration game. Why not take advantage of shoulder season to revisit many of our local parks? These little gems are there under our noses and offer a wide variety of walks and easy hikes. One of my favourite weekend destinations is Whytecliff Park, located in West Vancouver. Here land meets sea in an explosion of natural beauty.
At first glance, Whytecliff is a typical park featuring the type of amenities we have become accustomed to. Open green spaces, playgrounds, concessions, covered picnic areas and tennis courts. However, within minutes of venturing out on the walking paths, I quickly realized this is not an ordinary park! Cleverly constructed trails convert rocks and the natural landscape to staircases. Within minutes, like a mountain goat, I found myself scampering over rocky outcrops and soaking up the panoramic views of Howe Sound, the stunning Tantalus mountain range, and passing boats.
My favourite time to explore Whytecliff Park is during the fall or winter months and at low tide. Summer crowds are long gone and there is a sense of peace and tranquility in the air. Personally, I simply can’t resist the opportunity to leave the trails, beach comb and enjoy the walk out to Whyte Islet, arguably one of Vancouver’s most photographed islands. During my recent visit, as I carefully made my way along the beach, I reflected on the park’s unique designation as Canada’s first protected marine area. Harvesting marine life in the sanctuary is prohibited in the interest of protecting this very special marine environment. Consequently, the park has become a local favourite with scuba divers.
Beginner and advanced divers know Whytecliff Park well. They are drawn to this fabulous marine sanctuary with promises of rockfish, nudibranchs, lingcod, crab, anemones, seals and the occasional octopus sighting. In fact, over two hundred marine species call these waters home and eager divers exploring the area delight in critter sightings.
Fortunately, my fall visit was well timed and I enjoyed a brilliant sunny day on the beach. I must confess, Whytecliff’s fifteen plus acres of natural beauty left me speechless. Maybe, I can wait a little longer to dig out my ski gear.
Whytecliff Park is located at the end of the 7000 block of Marine Drive, just west of Horseshoe Bay.