Looking to “get away from it all” but can’t afford to actually go anywhere? Well you’re not the only one. As sunny skies and warmer temps begin to grace our presence, everyone is looking for an excuse to escape the city for some west coast summer fun. While it’s always a plus if you can get away for more than one day, sometimes it just isn’t feasible with our far-too-busy schedules.

Lucky for us, Vancouver is surrounded by myriad opportunities to get out and adventurize to our heart’s content. One destination that I somehow only recently discovered is Golden Ears Provincial Park–one of the largest parks in BC, located just 11KM north of Maple Ridge! From mountain peaks and waterfalls to paddle boats and beaches, this natural playground has a lot to offer on a gorgeous summer day.

Map from Lonsdale Quay to Alouette Lake

Leave Vancouver, picnic basket and flotation device in tow, in the early or mid morning—this will help ensure that you get a parking spot when you arrive at your destination. While the south beach (first “day area/beach”) is a popular stop, my suggestion is to make your way past the fully paved roads and keep heading north until you get to the end of the line, i.e., North Beach/Gold Creek. From the Gold Creek parking lot find your way to the Lower Falls Trail—don’t worry, the trail head is easy to find.

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The Lower Falls Trail is an easy 5KM (round-trip) stroll along a well-manicured gravel walkway. This path takes you on a nice tour of a typical—not to mention stunning—west coast Hemlock forest as you make your way along Gold Greek. Make sure to pause along the way to take in the wonderful creek-side vistas that are scattered along the way.

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At the end of the trail you’ll come to a wooden guardrail set up in front of a relatively small yet striking waterfall. The colours are astounding, and it would be easy to set up camp at the foot of the falls, but I would recommend you continue along the small trail that veers upwards at this point.

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About 1 minute later you’ll find yourself at the top of the falls, which provides for some amazing photo opportunities and a lovely spot to stop for a snack. Sunbathers and dog-walkers alike camp out up here, soaking in the sun and gazing in to a deep blue-green pool that precedes the watery precipice. Note: there is a strong current here. While the water looks refreshing as all heck, DO NOT swim here.

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After you’ve had your fill of creek-side life, head back down to the Gold Creek parking lot. If you walk to the end of the Lower Falls Trail you can just head right across the road and enter the North Beach Trail. This 1KM path takes you to a less frequented beach area of Alouette Lake. Throw down your blanket among the bocce games and sand castles and settle in for some much needed rest.

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For the not-so-faint-of-heart, there’s some popular cliff jumping areas along the path that leads to North Beach. This area is characterized by crystal clear green waters and lots of little fishes—a lovely spot to for a quick swim if you haven’t had your fill.

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Aside from short hikes and lounging around, the park also offers kayak/canoe/paddle boat rentals at south beach, intermediate climbing areas, paths for cycling, areas for fishing and boating, and much more. Cell service is limited and plumbing is not the norm, so plan on roughing it a bit with maps and porta-potties. Most importantly–stay safe, have fun, and enjoy your day-tripping!

Heads up: In the summer months this park gets extremely busy. While there are a number of large (and free!) parking options around, the park has been known to close its gates when it reaches capacity. Plan ahead to come early and stay late, or splurge and plan a camping trip – you won’t regret it!