10. Gates Park
As smooth and green as a kale smoothie, Gates Park is what I always imagined a super-rich guy’s backyard might look like.
Besides its meticulously manicured patches of grass and trees lined up like lampposts, Gates boasts a baseball diamond, a soccer pitch, changerooms, washrooms, an outdoor gym, playgrounds and tennis.
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Located at 2300 Reeve Street, the park is a short hike from the Coquitlam River.
If you’re taking transit, you can hop off at Lafarge Lake-Douglas and then take the 174 bus to Maple Street and McAllister Avenue, leaving you with a 10-minute walk to the park. If you’re driving, there’s usually a few parking spots to spare.
Complaints (not mine): Despite bylaw officers doing 157 patrols through the park in 2020, off-leash dogs and their oblivious owners have made the park an uncomfortable experience, according to some residents. Discussing the problem earlier this year, Port Coquitlam council considered a few different options, including deploying plainclothes bylaw officers.
Compliments: A gateway to nature, it’s like a golf course without the blemish of 18 holes.
9. Blue Mountain Park
Coquitlam’s oldest park has a bit of everything: a baseball diamond, tables, tennis courts, a playground, spray park, and some big swaths with nothing at all.
Features: Located just north of the ever-expanding Austin Heights neighbourhood, Blue Mountain is slated to get a new master plan next spring, which could mean tennis and pickleball courts, more paths and picnic spots.
My two cents: While I wouldn’t be averse to better lighting (it’s easy to lose the main path at night) I hope they don’t disturb too much of the nothing.
One of the things that makes Blue Mountain Park so special is that it’s a good place to be with people and an ideal place to get away from everyone.
8. Bert Flinn Park
Walking Bert Flinn and breathing in the Douglas-firs is like getting 60 minutes of Christmas whenever you need it.
A haven for mountain bikers, hikers and dog walkers, the nature park is 300 acres lined with looping gravel paths and biking trails.
- Complaints: There’s nothing there. If you want a chair you better bring it and if you need to go to the bathroom you’ll need to hold it.
- Compliments: There’s nothing there. It’s trees, creeks and you. Any additions would diminish it.
Much used and tightly held, a pre-election brouhaha over a possible roadway through the Port Moody park drew the attention of environmentalist David Suzuki, actor/animal rights activist Pamela Anderson, and a couple thousand Port Moody residents. (Council eventually voted against the possibility of the roadway.)
Getting there: located northeast of Pleasantside, your best bet is probably to hop off the bus at David Avenue.
With gentle inclines, hikers can circumnavigate Bert Flinn in about an hour, a feat that allows you to feel like an athlete without being one.
7. Minnekhada Park
There’s a narrow path that extends over water and into the trees so perfectly straight it looks like nature rolled out the red carpet just for hikers.
Welcome to the marsh pit.
Located east of Burke Mountain on the edge of a marsh, Minnekhada Park is populated by wood ducks, beavers, bears, cougars, and hikers.
Hiking it: A 10-kilometre hike can be finished in about two-and-a-half hours. There are some steep stretches, but those give way to amazing views at Addington Lookout and High Knoll.
Bonus: If you’re there between 1 and 4 p.m. on the first Sunday of the month, you can also check out Minnekhada Lodge.
Rules: Dogs must be leashed and there’s no cycling on the trails. Metro Vancouver also notes the “extensive bear and cougar habitat.”
Directions: Hop on Coast Meridian and take Victoria Drive northeast to Quarry Road.
History: The name Minnekhada is taken from Sioux and roughly translates as rattling water.
6. təmtəmíxʷtən/Belcarra Regional Park
It’s got beaches, enough to trails to exhaust a camel and a view of Buntzen Lake that looks like it was ripped from a J.R.R. Tolkien book.
Formerly Belcarra Regional Park, the area was renamed in recognition of the land’s history as the Tsleil-Waututh’s largest ancestral village. Roughly pronounced “Tamm-tamm-eeuff-ton,” (the ‘a’ sounds are soft), the name translates as “the biggest place for all the people” in the hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ language.
There’s a mighty strong argument to be made that – once you get there – təmtəmíxʷtən/Belcarra Regional Park is the best park in town. Getting there, however, is a bit of a trial.
For cyclists, the route to the park is a suck-in-your-breath and hope for mercy from drivers nightmare. For drivers, the route is mainly lovely. You wind deeper and deeper down a tree-lined road that leads you into the heart of nature. And then you find pay parking. I suppose for some people it’s a bit like scaling the slopes of a mountain and running into your student loan officer at the peak.
Metro Vancouver is mulling the April-through-September pay parking for 2022.
Transit: If you hop off the SkyTrain at Moody Centre you can take the #182 or the #150 to White Pine Beach during the summer.
You can go there for crabbing, fishing or just to enjoy the swamp. The park closes at 7 p.m.
5. Town Centre Park
The park that grew up around a gravel pit.
At last check, Town Centre Park didn’t have any facilities for jai alai or bog snorkelling – and that’s about it.
Located a short hike from Coquitlam Centre, the sprawling park has space for basketball, baseball, tennis, volleyball, soccer, skateboarding, roller hockey and fishing. There’s a playground for the kids, a spray park for the dry and Rocky Point ice cream for the hungry.
Unlike Minnekhada Park, which is ideal for getting away from everything, Town Centre Park is where you go to be in the middle of everything.
Getting there: There’s some free parking and it’s easily accessible by SkyTrain.
Nitpicking complaints: It’s difficult to imagine the late-night brainstorming sessions that led to the decision to call the park in the centre of town, Town Centre Park. For visitors who prefer parks of the dude-chilling variety, it may be a shock how well-groomed Town Centre Park is. If it were a person, Town Centre Park would be able to tell you the difference between the lotus and the envelope napkin folding techniques.
4. Lafarge Lake
There’s not a whole lot of spots in the city where you can reel in a rainbow trout and get to the SkyTrain while the fish is still cold.
Lafarge Lake has come a long way from its days as a gravel pit.
Ordinarily, it’s a lovely 1.2-kilometre walk that only occasionally feels like a computer simulation of nature. But Lafarge really shines (literally/figuratively) in the last month of the year during Lights at Lafarge. It’s not quite as breathtaking as VanDusen, we admit, but it’s not nearly the hassle of getting there, either.
Getting there: Easy as pie. Hop off the Millennium Line at Lafarge Lake-Douglas and take a six-minute walk to the lake.
Controversy: Based on your votes, we’ve ranked Town Centre Park #5 and Lafarge Lake #4. I’ve got to be honest, this feels like putting Pippen over Jordan or Garfunkel over Simon. There’s also the issue that if we consider Lafarge Lake as part of Town Centre Park, then TCP is the best park in the Tri-Cities. However, we didn’t and it’s not.
3. Buntzen Lake
If we’re going by looks, Buntzen Lake should probably be #1.
With its 10-kilometre hike and network of trails snaking through towering trees, Buntzen remains one of the most beautiful pieces of B.C. history.
In the days when water powered streetcars and city lights, it was called Trout Lake. In its more conceited days, it was Lake Beautiful. Its history goes even deeper, however.
In 1911, E. Pauline Johnson chronicled The Deep Waters, a tale told to her by Chief Joe Capilano. During a time of a ceaseless rain that submerged mountain peaks, tribes gathered on the shores of Lake Beautiful.
With modest elevation gains, the trail offers novice hikers an ideal introduction to hiking, according to author and hiker Stephen Hui.
In his book Destination Hikes, Hui guides the hikers through the views around the lake before pausing at the aptly-named Vista No. 1.
“Naturally, as numero uno, the views don’t get any better than this,” he writes.
In suspense: BC Hydro is planning to replace the Buntzen Lake suspension bridge. While trails remain open, hikers can’t loop around the lake. However, there’s no timeline for that replacement yet.
2. Mundy Park
It’s the rare park that feels like a forest.
Mundy Park is an ideal spot to run, to meander or to try to get a glimpse of wildlife, There’s bears and squirrels and – just maybe – a few painted turtles in the park.
There’s also Spani pool, a place for off-leash dogs, a baseball diamond and a lacrosse box.
It’s a delightful spot that probably wouldn’t exist if not for a failed attempt at land speculation. In the 1880s, George Munday picked up the parcel due to his ultimately misguided belief that the railroad was on its way.
And so, while there were a few lots sold and a lot of logging, the parcel was more or less intact when the city got the land.
Besides losing out on a pile of cash, George Munday faced another loss as posterity dropped the A from his name and gave us Mundy Park.
1. Rocky Point Park
Could this be the place?
It’s usually after leaving the Moody Centre SkyTrain station and schlepping across the sunken parking lot that I find myself wondering if I got off at the wrong stop.
Could this be the place?
But once you clamber up and out of that parking lot and your eye fills with green it’s like you found a shortcut to Shangri-La.
In the summer you can grab a bite at Pajos and enjoy the ambience provided by the seagulls that crowd your table like an over-attentive maitre d. There’s Rocky Point Ice Cream (I particularly recommend the raspberry lime mojito).
There’s a playground, a summertime splash park, and a great big patch of grass that’s perfect for a game of catch or flying a kite.
Toward the water there’s shoreline trail, there’s kayaking and paddleboarding and just enjoying the view.
I don’t know if it’s the best park in the Tri-Cities but it is objectively delightful. And, based on your votes, Rocky Point is definitely the place.
Thanks for voting, everybody.