There’s something I just love about a hike that ends up at a lake, especially when the views are as good as the ones on this list of the best lakes near Vancouver, BC!
The best part about hiking to a lake is that if the forest fire smoke rolls in again as it has the past few years, you can still see the lake and enjoy a quick dip. Whether you’re looking for a hike to a lake near Vancouver or a lake you can swim in, then this list has you covered.
There are lots of lakes in BC, but this post is focused on lakes in the Lower Mainland. And, if I’m missing any of your favourite Lower Mainland lakes then let me know in the comments!
AllTrails is my go-to hiking app for finding, planning, and navigating while I’m out on the trails. With offline maps on AllTrails+ you can be confident you’re still on the right track, even without mobile signal.
Be AdventureSmart this summer
Remember to respect the terrain, environment, and other users while you are enjoying the trails. Follow the three Ts—trip planning, training, and taking the essentials. AdventureSmart is a great resource to help you get informed before heading outdoors.
Know where you’re going
Apps like AllTrails can be great but if your phone runs out of battery or you’re out of signal they’re useless. Make sure you have a trail map and a compass with you and know how to use them, to stay safe on the trails this summer. These trail maps for Vancouver and the surrounding areas will help you know where you’re going as you hunt for these lakes in Vancouver.
Best swimming lakes and lakes to hike to near Vancouver
There are so many beautiful hikes near Vancouver (that’s one of the reasons I wanted to move here in the first place!). The lakes near Vancouver make some of the best swimming lakes in BC since they tend to be a little bit warmer. I’m working my way through an ever-growing list of hikes and hoping to tick off many more this summer hiking season!
Map of Vancouver’s best lakes
All 25 lakes on the list below (plus Callaghan Lake) are on this map so you can see exactly where they are.
Lakes in North Vancouver
Want a hike that’s close to home? Check out these hikes to beautiful North Vancouver lakes.
Mystery Lake is one of many alpine lakes on the North Shore Mountains and probably the best lake in Vancouver for a refreshing dip.
This lake is up on Mt Seymour and is one of the more popular easy lake hikes close to Vancouver. The hike to Mystery Lake is quite easy since it’s not too long nor too steep, for this reason, it’s a great hike to do with kids too. On a warm summer’s day, you’ll see plenty of families relaxing and swimming by Mystery Lake.
This lake is not only great to hike to, but it’s a great lake to swim in near Vancouver too. Mystery Lake is relatively warm for an alpine lake and in the peak of summer, you’re not going to be able to resist a dip!
Top tip: Remember to pack bug spray! Mt Seymour gets a lot of bugs in summer, especially by water!
This lake in Vancouver is perfect for a refreshing swim and has earned its reputation as one of the best swimming lakes near Vancouver. Cabin Lake is up in the Cypress Mountain ski area and is one of the lakes you’ll pass during the hike to Eagle Bluffs. It’s arguably the best lake for swimming and relaxing by on Cypress Mountain, the others being Sam Lake and Theagill.
It’s not an isolated lake by any means since it’s easy to access, pretty and great for swimming. After you’re done enjoying the lake I’d recommend hiking up a little further to a viewpoint on Black Mountain – it’s well worth it!
One of the best Lakes in Vancouver is Sasamat Lake. It’s easy to get to and known for being one of the warm lakes near Vancouver making it perfect for swimming alone, as a family or in small groups.
The surroundings are beautiful and you can walk the trails that go around the lake within an hour or so. Sasamat is very close to Buntzen Lake, so if you’re ticking off lakes on this list you can easily visit both in one day.
Top tip: The parking at Sasamat gets very full as it’s one of the best lakes to swim in Vancouver. Make sure to arrive earlier on in the day, especially if it’s a sunny summer weekend!
Another of the lakes in Vancouver for swimming is Buntzen Lake. This one doesn’t involve any real hiking to access but, there are plenty of hikes in the area if you wish!
Formerly known as “Lake Beautiful” before becoming managed by BC Hydro in the early 1900s, Buntzen Lake is now a big recreation area. You can hire canoes, go hiking, picnic and BBQ and there is also a dog beach area so your dog can enjoy swimming in the lake too.
If you’re looking for a lazy lake day near Vancouver then Buntzen is a great option!
Sea to Sky, Whistler lakes & Pemberton
There are even more beautiful lakes near Vancouver as you travel north on the Sea to Sky (see where to stop on the sea to sky highway here!). This list isn’t even complete but it does cover some of the more popular and well-known lakes near Whistler, Squamish and Pemberton.
Deeks Lake is one of the lakes along the Howe Sound Crest Trail that runs from Cypress Mountain to Porteau Cove. You can also do a day hike to it without having to hike the entire Howe Sound Crest Trail.
Hiking to Deeks Lake takes about 7 hours and it’s rated moderate-strenuous as it’s pretty steep, especially at the beginning. Whilst you don’t get panoramic views on this trail, you will get glimpses of the Howe Sound below and it’s really all about the lake so that’s your reward!
This is one of the lakes near Vancouver that’s quite quiet. It’s a less well-known hike and so you won’t have to deal with the same crowds you get at The Chief a little further up the road.
Petgill Lake is another great lake along the Sea to Sky highway. You can use the parking for Murrin Lake and then carefully cross the highway. T
here’s a small wooden sign that marks the beginning of the trail to Petgill Lake and takes you up the steep banks where you’ll need to scramble to begin with.
There are a few good viewpoints of Howe Sound and after about 30-45 minutes you’ll begin to descend before following an old forest road. The trail is pretty up and down from here on in before you reach the lake.
Petgill Lake is pretty but there’s also another viewpoint just 10 minutes further where you’ll get a sweeping panorama of the Howe Sound below which is recommended.
The lake is absolutely beautiful but you’re going to have to work for those views. The trail to Wedgemount Lake is notorious for being incredibly steep and gruelling; you gain more than 1100 meters in just 7km! But those turquoise waters at the end? Worth it!
You can camp up at the lake to break up the gruelling hike, although you must reserve in advance at Camping.BCParks.ca
My current favourite lake near Vancouver is Garibaldi Lake. This was one of the first lakes I visited in Canada (Lindeman was first) and I was blown away not only by the colour of the lake itself but by the surroundings.
This hike is very popular for good reason and if you want to avoid adding 4km to your hike then arrive at the trailhead before 8 am on summer weekends to get a parking spot.
This is also a popular place to camp with campsites both at Garibaldi Lake and in Taylor Meadows. You will need to reserve at least a month in advance during summer.
It’s also not uncommon to see bears in Taylor Meadows so remember to pack bear spray!
You can read more details about the trail in my posts below:
- Read about my hike to Garibaldi Lake
- Learn more about the hike to Panorama Ridge
- Read about hiking Black Tusk
The insta-famous Joffre Lakes are just as pretty as everyone makes out. Thom and I visited Joffre Lakes in early November last year and started hiking early in the morning which meant we were able to avoid the worst of the crowds. It was super busy on our way back down though!
Joffre Lakes Provincial Park actually has three lakes that just get better and better as you continue up the trail. The trail itself also has some incredible views for the majority of the way too.
Lake Lovely Water
This one is very high on my bucket list but involves a bit more planning to get to.
Lake Lovely Water is within the Tantalus Mountain Range (my favourite mountains which I remind Thom of every time we drive the sea to sky) near Squamish. This hike is only accessible by boat or by taking a helicopter if you’re feeling fancy.
After a canoe or boat trip across the Squamish River, it’s a fairly steep hike up to Lake Lovely Water. Here there’s a hut run by the Vancouver Section of The Alpine Club of Canada, or there are tent pads too for camping.
Just off the Sea to Sky highway, Lillooet Lake s a popular place for weekend camping trips for people from all over the Lower Mainland. Though busy, you’re likely to find somewhere to pitch a tent it just might not be the biggest or most picturesque spot.
After talking about visiting Elfin Lakes ever since we moved to Vancouver I finally managed to find a weekend where it wasn’t raining/I didn’t have stitches/a dodgy foot from a bike accident and hiked up to Elfin.
This was in late May and there was still plenty of snow on the trail with the lakes only just beginning to thaw out. But man was the colour of the water cool and the snowy mountain views beautiful!?
Hiking to Elfin Lakes is a long day trip so it’s often broken into an overnighter where you can either stay in the Elfin Shelter or camp. In the winter you’re camping directly on the snow but it does mean you get to camp closer to the lakes so you can see them directly from your tent!
Cirque Lake & Callaghan Lake
Cirque Lake is in Callaghan Lake Provincial Park near Whistler. This beautiful lake near Whistler is not only pretty because of its location but the shape of it is also quite unusual. It’s almost the perfect circle hence the name!
Reaching this lake isn’t the easiest either but it does mean it’s almost always pretty deserted. After travelling down a bumpy, pot-hole-ridden road you’ll need to canoe for a couple of kilometres on Callaghan Lake before hiking for an hour or so to Cirque lake.
So really you’re getting two lakes for the price of one on this hike. Not only do you canoe on Callaghan Lake but you’ll get beautiful views of it from the high points on the trail to Cirque Lake too!
Tenquille Lake is just north of Mount Currie in Pemberton. Getting to the trailhead requires a 4×4 but if you’re prepared for a longer hike and don’t have a 4×4 you can walk the last 5km.
If you’ve driven up to the trailhead it’s about a 1-1.5 hour hike along a well marked and maintained trail to Tenquille Lake. There are campsites and a cabin as well as a swimming dock up here. For more adventure, there are tonnes of peaks you can scramble up and explore!
Watersprite Lake is another beautiful turquoise lake up near Whistler. Again, this one requires a 4×4 to get to the trailhead.
Hiking to Watersprite Lake provides amazing views of the Mamquam River and the peaks of southern Garibaldi Provincial Park. You’ll hike mostly along old logging roads before crossing a boulder field and finishing up at the lake.
It’s a long hike at 17km but it’s nowhere near as steep as the similarly coloured Wedgemount Lake. However, camping is allowed if you want to break up the day, just remember to book your camping online in advance!
Russet Lake isn’t the most beautiful lake itself, it’s the surroundings that make it. It lies at the base of the Fissile which is a strikingly bronze coloured mountain which can easily be seen from Whistler Village.
You can see the Fissile from Whistler Village if you look at the Peak to Peak cable car in between Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains. The pyramid shape you see is the Fissile and where Russet Lake is.
The most popular way to get to Russet Lake is to hike the Musical Bumps trail at Whistler which is absolutely beautiful. There’s the distinctive bronze of the Fissile, the great of the other mountains, green grass in the valley and the blue of Russet Lake.
Rainbow Lake is considered to be a bit of a Whistler classic. The moderate hike has a decent elevation but isn’t too long making it a good day hike. Plus there are some beautiful views typical of the area around Whistler, and Rainbow Lake itself is beautiful too.
Note that swimming isn’t encouraged because not only is it cold, but it’s also one of the water sources in Whistler.
A round trip hike will take about 5-6 hours and you’ll also want to allow for some time enjoying the lake itself too. If you wish to turn this into a multi-day trip you can camp at Hanging Lake which is an extra 3km round trip, or Madeley Lake, an extra 9km.
Alice Lake is a lake just north of downtown Squamish that’s great for swimming, kayaking and canoeing and has plenty of mountain biking trails nearby. There’s also a developed campsite up at Alice Lake (book here) that’s suitable for RVs and tents but does book up quickly in the summer months.
Whilst the area surrounding Alice Lake is still super pretty, this lake is more a lake for a lazy lake day than a rewarding hike! In my view, this is one of the best lakes close to Vancouver for a relaxing camping weekend (but book early as camp spots go fast!)
Lost Lake is one of the main lakes in Whistler. It’s surrounded by trees, and mountain peaks and is a great place to chill out for the afternoon if you’ve been busy exploring the hiking and best mountain biking trails of Whistler.
There’s an easy 5km nature trail circuit around the lake too from the village which is great for hiking and biking.
Alta Lake near Function Junction in Whistler is the first lake Thom and I kayaked on after moving to Canada. You can hire kayaks, canoes and paddle boards from a stall on the lake and soak up the mountain views from the water.
Alta Lake is the biggest lake in Whistler and has three park areas where you can relax by the cooling waters.
Cat Lake is a popular swimming lake near Squamish which has a rope swing, wooden rafts and hiking and biking trails. There are also walk-in campsites near the lake too.
Top tip: You can’t reserve camp spots at Cat Lake so arrive early on Fridays to ensure you get a place, especially on long weekends.
Another great Squamish swimming hole is Brohm Lake. At Brohm Lake, you can swim, jump and swing from the rope swings into the water.
It’s quite a shallow lake and very easy to get to from the Sea to Sky Highway. Parking is limited, so arrive early to secure a spot!
Read about hiking to the Tantalus viewpoint at Brohm Lake.
Best lakes in the Fraser Valley
Looking for the best lakes in the Fraser Valley? Here are a few lakes in Chilliwack and nearby to get you started.
Jones Lake is a popular weekend hang out where you can camp lakeside which beautiful views. The drive up here requires a 4×4 with high clearance as the logging road is full of potholes and pretty steep too.
The area is managed by BC Hydro who have provided free campsites. The lake looks beautiful but don’t expect this to be a private experience as the lake is busy and noisy at weekends.
One of the best lakes around Vancouver, BC for an easy hike is Lindeman Lake. Lindeman Lake was the first lake hike I did in Canada. Even on a cloudy day, the colour of the water was amazingly green and the hike up to it isn’t too difficult either. A round trip hike takes about 2 hours and you can extend the hike to Greendrop Lake too if you want a longer hike.
Cultus Lake is one of the most popular lakes in the Lower Mainland. It’s a warm, freshwater lake that’s surrounded by beautiful forest and mountains. There’s a large day-use area here for picnics and BBQs as well as 4 campgrounds and other rentals nearby.
Chilliwack Lake is an ideal spot for canoeing, kayaking, windsurfing, swimming, fishing and hiking. It has a wide sandy beach with stunning views on all sides. There’s also plenty of hiking and exploring to do on the trails nearby.
We housesat for a couple of dogs in Chilliwack when we first arrived on the west coast and enjoyed a morning spent walking around here.
It’s a great option for those of you looking for swimming lakes near Vancouver.
Last Updated on March 13, 2023 by Hannah
Hannah started That Adventurer after graduating back in 2013 and has documented all of her adventures since then. From backpacking South America to city breaks in Europe, a 3 month road trip across the USA in a self-converted van and 6 years living in Canada, you’ll find posts on all of this.
Hannah specialises in active travel and on That Adventurer you’ll find hiking, walking, biking, skiing and all sorts of active travel guides to allow you to see a destination in an adventurous way.