Summer is coming, and it’s time to find your favorite lakes near Vancouver. We found many, and this post is all about them.
Can you imagine British Columbia as a beach destination? I couldn’t before we moved there, but actually, it turns into one each year, even if only for two short months. No, I don’t really mean ocean beaches. There are nice ocean beaches, but the warmest average water temperature in August is around 11.3°C (52.3°F) which is nowhere near pleasant for me. I mean the lakes!
Whonnock Lake is a lesser-known one, ideal for small kids
British Columbia has over 20000 lakes, and you can find some which warms up to enjoyable temperatures in summer. If I say it’s enjoyable, most people would also find it pleasantly warm, because I get cold very easily. So let’s see the best lakes near Vancouver for the summer – most of them suitable for swimming, some are for paddling or kayaking.
8 best lakes In Vancouver & Metro Vancouver
Lost Lagoon, Stanley Park
Lost Lagoon is in the heart of Vancouver, inside Stanley Park. This one is not for swimming (water quality is not good enough), but it’s the only lake you find in Downtown Vancouver, so I included it in the list.
The serene 1.8 km loop around Lost Lagoon is very scenic, and you can often spot ducks, Canadian geese and turtles in the lake. There’s a pretty cherry tree grove at the eastern edge of Lost Lagoon if you visit during cherry blossom time (peak blossom time is usually throughout April), and you can continue walking on the Stanley Park Seawall, or visit the Rose Garden later.
Trout Lake, Vancouver
Trout Lake is in East Vancouver, in John Hendry Park. The park itself is actually a great place to hang out any time of the year. It has sport fields, two playgrounds, a lakeshore loop trail, several picnic areas and a sandy beach. There are lifeguards in the summer. If you’re looking for places to swim in Vancouver though, Trout Lake is not the best choice.
It’s a small lake, more of a bog. Murky water, full of ducks, geese and bugs – even by taking a look at it, I had concerns about the water quality. It’s often among the first places in Metro Vancouver to be closed to swimmers each year because of high E.coli levels in the water.
But it’s worth a visit because of the nice, flat, stroller-friendly lakeshore loop and the spacious grassy areas. You can see the snow-capped North Shore Mountains until early summer as you walk around the lake.
There are two playgrounds, “Trout Lake playground” is beside the Trout Lake Community Centre, the other is on the other side of Trout Lake, and it’s called “John Hendry Park playground”. Trout Lake playground is among the best ones in Vancouver, with a treehouse and slide, a climbing rope dome, monkey bars, a spinner, a smaller slide, different swings (baby swing, belt swing, accessible swing, saucer swing) and a large sandbox with water in the summer months.
More fun things to do in Vancouver:
Buntzen Lake, Anmore
tranquil spring views from the Buntzen Lake Loop
Buntzen Lake is outside of the city, but still in the Metro Vancouver area, about 40 minutes drive from the city center. It’s actually a reservoir, managed by BC Hydro, but I wouldn’t have figured it out by looking at the amazing crystal clear water and the surrounding mountains. You feel in a remote wilderness here – well, maybe any time other than summer.
The 4.8 km long lake is popular for boating, kayaking and swimming. There’s a roped-off swimming area with a sandy beach and lifeguards in summer, and there’s a separate dog beach. The water doesn’t get too warm, but it’s pleasant for swimming on a hot day. There’s a large grassy area with picnic benches behind the beach.
You find countless hiking trails around Buntzen Lake. The most popular is the 10.5 kilometer Buntzen Lake loop trail. It’s far from being flat, and it’s not short either, but it’s very scenic.
It has not been possible to complete the loop for a while now, because a suspension bridge at the north end is under construction. North Beach is also closed. The work is expected to be finished by April 2023. I still love this trail, especially on a sunny day in the colder months when I can experience the serenity of this beautiful landscape. It’s a year-round trail and rarely gets any snow. (But when it does, it’s magical!)
Diez Vistas is a more challenging ridge trail, and it has several rocky bluffs with amazing views of the Indian Arm on the way. To get back to the main parking lot, use the west side of Buntzen Lake Trail, making it a ~16 km loop.
Parking at Buntzen Lake
Parking can get so challenging in the Buntzen Lake Recreation Area that it deserves its own paragraph. Sunny summer weekends (even weekdays) are the busiest, and parking fills up insanely quickly. Since it’s not possible to park outside of the park gates on the streets of Anmore (parking is forbidden, unless you’re a resident), if the parking is full, you’re out of feasible options.
In the summer of 2022 a parking reservation system was introduced to handle traffic better. You had to book parking (for free) in order to enter Buntzen Lake Recreation Area (yes, they checked it at the gate). Reservation is not in effect anymore as summer has gone.
We usually never had a problem with parking at Buntzen Lake outside of the summer months. The parking lot is giant (almost 600 spaces!), it really only fills up if half of the Metro Vancouver area pours here on summer weekends. But it’s really nice in the summer, one of my favorite lakes for a beach day, and I can’t blame anyone who wants to enjoy the same. However, we only managed to get a parking reservation for weekdays.
Sasamat Lake, Belcarra Regional Park, Port Moody
Sasamat Lake is another insanely popular one to spend a beach day. It’s smaller than Buntzen Lake, and it gets pleasantly warm in the summer.
White Pine Beach, a beautiful white sand beach, is a favorite for lots of families and rightly so: warm, shallow water, soft sand, great amenities (washrooms, picnic benches, concession) and lifeguards on site in the summer. It’s one of the most pleasant swimming lakes in Metro Vancouver.
There’s also a 3.1 kilometer loop trail around Sasamat Lake. It runs directly on the lakeshore and is flat for the most part. It was one of the first trails I walked with my toddler, and we returned there several times. The proximity of water makes it enjoyable for kids, and the terrain offers some challenges (roots, rocks and stairs at places), but has very little elevation change, so it’s great as an introductory hike for families.
You can extend the Sasamat Lake Loop to Woodhaven Swamp to add a few more kilometers in an old-growth forest and on the educational trail around the swamp.
Parking at Sasamat Lake
Since Sasamat Lake is one of the best lakes to swim in Vancouver, you bet it’s challenging to find parking there in the summer months.
Summer season has parking fees all over Belcarra Regional Park: $2.50 per hour or $15 per day, from April 1 to September 30 in 2023. Parking before 10 am is free, you pay for parking after that. You can’t reserve parking in advance, and there’s no time limit for how long you can park.
The conclusion? Arrive as early as you can (10 am is waaay too late on a summer day). You can only park in marked bays, and there are overflow parking areas along the shoulder of Tum-tumay-whueton Drive, indicated by signs. They all fill up early on a sunny summer weekend.
Alternatively, bus #182 takes you into the park, so you can opt for a park & ride. It’s a seasonal stop though, no bus is available for the colder months of the year. Parking is not a problem in the colder months though. (It’s a very North American way of thinking to us, offering a bus only if parking becomes a problem, which means that having a car and driving is the obvious way to travel.)
Mystery Lake, Seymour Provincial Park, North Vancouver
If you’re looking for swimming lakes in North Vancouver, Mystery Lake is one of your best bets. It’s not accessible by car, you have to hike to reach it, but it’s a short hike.
It’s located in Mount Seymour Provincial Park, but considering it’s a sub-alpine lake, it gets pleasant for a swim on a summer hike. There’s no sandy beach area though, you can get into the water from the rocks that surround the lake. Or you can just lie on the flat rocks to bathe in the sun and have a picnic on the lakeshore.
To get there, take the 1.6 km long trail that ascends about 150 meters over tree roots and loose rocks. It’s one of the most popular North Vancouver lakes, so it gets busy.
It’s one of the few places where parking is not a problem though, even on a busy summer day. But you might only find a spot in the lots that are further away from the trailheads, so it can add a kilometer or two to the hike.
climb up to have the best lake view (narrow path, minimal scrambling)
Winter is a different story. Mystery Lake is covered in snow and is part of the Mount Seymour Ski Resort, so you can’t hike there. Most of the parking lots are reserved for resort visitors, as well, so winter parking might be more challenging if you’d like to do some snowshoeing or winter hiking on a clear winter day during ski season.
Another thing to consider for a summer visit: the trails of Mount Seymour are notorious for bugs. Mosquitos usually eat you alive in June, and conditions get better as all the snow meltwater dries up. It varies each year, but late August and early September could be the nicest time to visit Mystery Lake: days are still sunny, but all the mosquitos have died.
It’s one of the most easily reachable and best lakes near Vancouver, if you’re up for the short hike, because the trailhead is only a 30 minutes drive from the city center. Much closer if you live on the North Shore (but I guess I don’t need to introduce you to Mystery Lake in that case).
Cabin Lake, Cypress Provincial Park, West Vancouver
Cabin Lake is one of the most popular lakes in West Vancouver, located in Cypress Provincial Park. It has a similar look and feel to Mystery Lake, and they are both popular swimming holes on the North Shore.
Cabin Lake requires a 2.5 km hike from the Cypress Mountain Parking Lot. It’s another one of those rare parking lots that can’t ever fill up in the summer, because there are several giant parking lots and overflow areas. You might need to walk a bit more if the closer ones are full.
The lake is up in the Cypress Mountain ski area, and you’ll pass it during the hike to Eagle Bluffs – which is a nice one to do, with several more lakes on the way and a pretty Howe Sound view at the end.
Cabin Lake is great for a refreshing swim, but it has no sandy beach area, and mosquitos cause quite a bit of annoyance in early summer. There are lots of rocks around the lake, so people can spread out to enjoy a dip or a lakeside picnic. It’s one of the best swimming lakes near Vancouver, the trailhead being only 30 minutes drive from the city center.
Deer Lake, Burnaby
Deer Lake is one of the best family-friendly lakes in the Lower Mainland. It has easy walking trails, nice grassy areas, playgrounds, lake views and boating opportunities.
The 3.5 km flat lakeshore loop is great to do any time of the year. It’s flat and stroller-friendly, paved or boardwalked almost all the way. Except for a few short sections, it runs directly on the lakeshore, offering tranquil lake views, the best views of the Burnaby skyline, chances to spot turtles and several benches on the way. It’s another one of the great introductory trails to hiking with toddlers in Metro Vancouver.
The calm water of Deer Lake is perfect for kayaking, canoeing or paddleboarding. Due to decomposing plant life and water-quality fluctuation swimming is not allowed. But there’s a sandy beach area which is popular for playing in the summer, and it has a few swings, too (offering scenic views to mum who pushes the swing).
You find another playground at the Burnaby Art Gallery, and there’s also Century Garden, particularly impressive in spring (rhododendrons in May are my favorite).
Deer Lake Park is only 20 minutes drive from downtown Vancouver. The dedicated parking lot can fill up quickly on any nice weekend, but you find street parking nearby.
Como Lake, Coquitlam
One of the lesser-known Lower Mainland lakes is Como Lake in Coquitlam. Como Lake Park is a small one, but it’s ideal to spend a nice afternoon, walking around the lake, boating or enjoying the greenery.
The flat, hard packed gravel loop trail around Como Lake is only 1 km, partly shaded, so it can be pleasant even on hot summer days. You find benches along the loop and throughout the park, so it’s never a problem to sit to take in the colors and sounds.
Large grassy areas are suitable for ball games. There are two boat docks, one on each side of the lake. Power boats are not permitted, but all others are welcome. It’s a small, quiet lake, ideal for kayaking or canoeing with kids. Water quality is not sufficient for swimming though.
Families will love the playground on the lakeshore, I was surprised about the variety and cuteness of the play structures. It’s fenced, has a little boat dock and boat (basically, a miniature Como Lake), a tiny house, several slides with climbing structures, music features and a selection of swings.
It’s not the most breathtaking lake in Metro Vancouver, but it’s a barely known local gem, and a pleasant place to spend a nice morning or afternoon.
8 more pretty lakes near Vancouver
Looking beyond the Metro Vancouver area, there are even more wonderful lakes that are still day trip distance from Vancouver.
Rolley Lake swimming area
Cultus Lake, Chilliwack
Cultus Lake is one of the busiest swimming lakes in the Lower Mainland, and it’s also a beloved recreation destination for fishing, kayaking, paddleboarding, water skiing, hiking and camping.
Located about 1.5 hours drive from Vancouver, in the Fraser Valley, it’s a popular day trip destination from Vancouver – so expect insane traffic and parking challenges on any warm summer weekend. Honestly, Cultus Lake is not that attractive to us because it gets so busy.
It offers sandy beaches, camping, a giant waterpark (if that’s your thing) and boating opportunities. The lake is large and the water gets warm enough to be enjoyable, the scenery is the usual: mountains and forests as the background.
Chilliwack Lake, Chilliwack
Chilliwack Lake is almost 2 hours drive from Vancouver, and it’s considerably more quiet than Cultus Lake. Colder, too. But the mountain views are even more majestic.
Chilliwack Lake Provincial Park has a wide sandy beach, boat launch and campground. The lake is ideal for kayaking, canoeing, fishing or swimming. You find plenty of hiking trails nearby, like the easy Chilliwack Lake campground loop, the spectacular Lindeman Lake and Greendrop Lake hike, or the challenging Flora Lake Trail.
Alouette Lake, Maple Ridge
Alouette Lake is one of my favorite lakes around Vancouver in any season. It’s in Golden Ears Provincial Park, northeast of the small town of Maple Ridge, but it feels like the wilderness far away from civilization.
Alouette Lake is not particularly good for swimming, because it’s a large and deep lake, and it remains quite cold even in the summer. But you can swim if you want, there are two main beaches: South Beach is accessible by car and North Beach is reachable on a 1 km walk on North Beach Trail from Gold Creek Parking. South Beach has a vehicle-accessible boat launch.
North Beach Trail
Kayaking, canoeing or hiking is pure joy here, with astonishing mountain scenery and countless trails of different length and difficulty in Golden Ears. North Beach Trail is our favorite easy trail in the park, really, it’s more of a walk, but with wonderful river viewpoints all the way and scenic North Beach as a final picnic destination.
Gold Creek Falls is another popular, easy 5.5 km round-trip trail through picturesque West Coast rainforest and with a powerful waterfall at the end.
East Canyon, West Canyon or Evans Valley are spectacular half day hikes with a wild feel and wonderful vista points.
Whonnock Lake, Maple Ridge
Whonnock Lake is one of my favorite family-friendly swimming lakes near Vancouver. Not because it’s the most beautiful one, but it’s the warmest.
It’s a natural muskeg lake, and with time it will turn into a peat marsh (if left alone). As for now it has a small sandy beach with shallow water and a roped-off swimming area. Kids will love the large grassy playground behind the beach.
If I’d like to swim in a clear lake, I wouldn’t choose Whonnock Lake. The roped-off swimming area is small and shallow, anyway, and there are plenty of more beautiful lakes in the Fraser Valley. However, the shallow, warm water makes it perfect to enjoy a beach day at Whonnock Lake with my toddler. Playground, picnic shelters and the new amenities block tick the rest of the boxes. And it’s not nearly as crowded as Cultus Lake, Buntzen Lake or Sasamat Lake.
Rolley Lake, Mission
Rolley Lake Provincial Park is a flat forested area that surrounds Rolley Lake. This small lake gets pleasantly warm for swimming in the summer months. Fishing, canoeing, kayaking and hiking are also popular, and there’s a campground nestled in the trees, only minutes away from the shore.
The 5.7 km Rolley Lake & Falls loop is a very easy year-round hiking trail. The picnic area has a sandy beach with a roped-off swimming area and relatively shallow water. Similarly to Whonnock Lake, I liked spending quite a few beach days here with my toddler. It’s not the clearest and most beautiful lake, but the beach and the warm water is ideal for having fun with a small kid.
Cat Lake, Squamish
Are you interested in crystal clear swimming lakes rather than murky, but warm kid-friendly ones? Cat Lake is the one for you then.
Actually, it has quite pleasant temperature for swimming, though it’s not as warm as Rolley Lake or Whonnock Lake. It’s also deeper, and there’s no smooth water entrance. Cat Lake is surrounded by mountains, and it gets deep immediately. There are floating docks with ladders to allow access to the water, and the lakeshore is steep and rocky. There are picnic benches around the lake, but there’s no sandy beach area.
The easy Cat Lake loop trail runs around the lake for 1.4 kilometers. It’s in the forest, with occasional lake views. There are also 36 forested walk-in campsites around the lake, accessible on this trail.
Cat Lake is fairly isolated, down a gravel road just north of Alice Lake Provincial Park (and Squamish). The road is okay for any car if you drive carefully, and there are several large parking areas near Cat Lake. I can’t imagine them being full even on the brightest summer day. However, Cat Lake can get busy, because it’s relatively small, and it’s also notorious for loud summer parties.
Lost Lake, Whistler
Lost Lake is probably my favorite of the Whistler lakes, because it’s so tranquil. It’s walking distance from Whistler Village, but there’s a summer shuttle, as well.
There’s a lovely lakeshore loop walk (which is a snowshoe trail in winter), a sandy beach area, washrooms, picnic tables, floating swimming docks, BBQ facilities and a concession stand. And mountain views, anywhere you look, snow-capped until mid-summer.
Brohm Lake can be seen from the Sea to Sky Highway, but it’s not very tempting. It looks like a “nothing special” marshy lake, so I ignored it for a while. As winter was coming to an end, but snowy conditions made most of the high mountain trails around Whistler inaccessible for a few more months, I decided to give a chance to the Brohm Lake Interpretive Forest Trail.
And wow, it was a nice surprise. The trail itself became a favorite for me, especially when adding the steep and short detour to the Tantalus Lookout. But Brohm Lake is a lovely swimming lake in the summer, too.
No, it’s no match for any of the turquoise, glacier fed lakes, but it’s not that ice cold either. Similar to Cat Lake and Lost Lake in appearance, it’s a clear mountain lake, surrounded by pine forests and rocky boulders. There’s no sandy beach, you can find your picnic spot on the huge rock boulders, and you can jump into the lake.
Parking is in the Brohm Lake Day Use Recreation Site parking area, right by the highway. This parking lot is small compared to summertime crowds, but parking is not a problem in spring or fall.
The 8.1 km loop around Brohm Lake is not your flat lakeshore stroll. With a 407 meters elevation change, there’s steep uphills and downhills, and also quite a few long stairs to climb. But it’s an interesting trail, with nice forest, occasional lake views, small creeks and astonishing viewpoints on the west side of the loop.