Exploring Nature in Burnaby, British Columbia via Urban Trails
An Easy Way to Explore Nature
Burnaby is a city in British Columbia, Canada. It's a wonderful place for someone who needs to live in a city but also wants to stay in touch with nature. The city has a network of urban trails for walkers, runners, cyclists, inline skaters, and wheelchairs. To a large extent, these trails travel by natural areas, where there are lots of opportunities to observe nature. Some sections of the trails do travel through a city environment, but even in these areas the trail is usually bordered by cultivated plants that attract birds and insects.
There is an access point to the Burnaby Mountain Urban Trail near my home. I travel along the trail almost every day in order to give my dog and myself some exercise, to explore nature, or to visit nearby shopping centres which are close to the trail. In this article I'lł focus on the Burnaby Mountain Urban Trail and an extension that travels to the top of Burnaby Mountain and the Trans Canada Trail. The mountain offers beautiful views of Burrard Inlet and the surrounding areas. All of the photos in this article were taken by me on my trips along the trail.
What Is an Urban Trail?
As its name implies, an urban trail travels through a city. The ones in my area travel through suburban areas as well as urban areas and are paved with asphalt.
An urban trail isn't the same as a sidewalk. It's wider than a sidewalk in order to accommodate pedestrians, cyclists, and inline skaters at the same time. In addition, the designers try to make urban trails look attractive by adding items such as flower and plant borders, benches, and map displays. The trails may run parallel to a sidewalk, replace a sidewalk, or follow a different route from the sidewalks in the area.
Urban trails are enjoyable to explore. They're great for nervous cyclists or for a cycling family with young children who want to avoid vehicle traffic. In many parts of Burnaby they travel by useful places such as schools, libraries, recreation centres, and shopping centres. Urban trails also enable people to explore nature in a city. Two additional advantages of the trails are that they may encourage people to exercise and they may reduce travel by motorized vehicles.
Travelling along urban trails offers wonderful possibilities. The Burnaby trail network connects to other trails in Vancouver, so an enthusiastic walker or cyclist can travel a long distance and explore a lot of interesting scenery by following the trails. Connections to other trail systems in neighbouring communities are being created.
Travellers will eventually be able to explore the whole of the GVRD (Greater Vancouver Regional District) by urban trail. The GVRD is made of Vancouver and the cities that adjoin it, including Burnaby. People can also explore Canada by following the trail system. The Burnaby urban trail network connects to the Trans Canada Trail, which travels across the country.
The Burnaby Mountain Urban Trail travels around the base of Burnaby Mountain.
The Burnaby Mountain Urban Trail
The Burnaby Mountain Urban Trail travels around the base of Burnaby Mountain and is 6 km long. When it reaches Hastings Street it connects to a pedestrian bridge that takes people to the other side of the street. Here the trail slopes downwards along Cliff Avenue towards Burrard Inlet.
The Burnaby Mountain Trail also connects to the Trans Canada Trail on Hastings Street. This trail travels west into Vancouver and east up and over Burnaby Mountain. The Trans Canada Trail travels across Canada and is said to be the longest trail in the world.
I'm lucky to live near the most picturesque section of the Burnaby Mountain trail. Further to the east the trail passes though a light industrial area and the surroundings are not as attractive. The trail is still very useful, though. It travels by a school and ends near a library, recreation centre, and shopping mall. It also passes near three SkyTrain stations. Skytrain is a light rapid transit system that travels through Burnaby and Vancouver.
SkyTrain provides access to urban trails in both Burnaby and Vancouver, although sometimes a traveller needs to take a short walk from a train station to a trail. Bicycles are allowed on SkyTrain under certain conditions.
Nature Discoveries on the TrailClick thumbnail to view full-size
Urban Trail PhotosClick thumbnail to view full-size
Burnaby Mountain can be reached from the Burnaby Mountain Urban Trail by walking or cycling along a connecting route or by joining the Trans Canada Trail on Hastings Street. Either route to the park and conservation area at the top of Burnaby Mountain is uphill, however. Some people might find it easier to take a bus to Simon Fraser University, which is next to the conservation area, or to drive up Centennial Way to the Burnaby Mountain Park parking lot.
Burnaby Mountain is 1214 feet high. This is low compared to the nearby North Shore Mountains, but Burnaby Mountain is high enough to collect snow in winter when there's no snow at its base. The mountain is forested, apart from an area set aside for Simon Fraser University and another area for Burnaby Mountain Park. Trails lead through the forest and are fun to explore.
The park is known for its wonderful views of Vancouver, Burnaby and the Burrard inlet. It also contains a beautiful rose garden and an impressive sculpture. The sculpture is known as Kamui Mintara, or Playground of the Gods. It was created by sculptors from Kushiro, which is Burnaby's sister city in Japan. Burnaby Mountain Park also contains a restaurant, a children's playground, and an open area covered in grass. People like to relax, admire the view, or eat a picnic on the grass. It's also a popular area for kite fliers.
Burnaby Mountain Park
Photos of the ParkClick thumbnail to view full-size
Burrard Inlet is a coastal fjord leading eastwards from the Strait of Georgia. The Strait of Georgia separates mainland British Columbia from Vancouver Island. British Columbia's capital city, Victoria, is located on Vancouver Island.
Burrard Inlet separates Vancouver and Burnaby (which is located to the east of Vancouver) from the North Shore Mountains and the cities of West Vancouver and North Vancouver. Bridges connect the two sides of the inlet. The inlet is a busy place. There's nearly always something interesting to see on the water. The Port of Vancouver is located beside Burrard Inlet.
Photos of Burrard InletClick thumbnail to view full-size
The Trans Canada Trail
The Burnaby Mountain Urban Trail provides access to the Trans Canada Trail. This trail was started in 1992—Canada's 125th birthday. It's about 24,000 kilometres long and stretches from the west coast of Canada to the east coast. In addition, a branch extends up into the Arctic.
Officially, the trail was completed in 2017, which was Canada's 150th birthday. Even the organizers admit that some sections need improvements, however. The connection between different parts of the country is complete, but not the trail itself. In some places, the "trail" is the shoulder of a road, for example. Some of the trail sections that have been truly finished are lovely based on what I've seen, but the potential dangers of the shoulder situation need to be solved.
A trikke is a three-wheeled vehicle that looks something like a non-motorized scooter. The rider propels the trikke by shifting their body weight. The video below shows the Burnaby Mountain Urban Trail as well as trikkes in action.
Trikking Along the Burnaby Mountain Urban Trail
Since walking, nature study, and photography are three of my favourite activities, I'm very lucky to live where I do. I can travel a short distance along my local urban trail, walk (or cycle) into other parts of Burnaby or into Vancouver along trails, or follow the Trans Canada Trail up Burnaby Mountain. I get exercise and see beautiful and interesting scenery at the same time. That's a great combination.
© 2013 Linda Crampton