Richmond has plenty of inviting green spaces, ranging from the lush Richmond Nature Park to waterfront Iona Beach Regional Park. But savvy outdoor fans also know there are more than 80 kilometres (50 miles) of easy-access trails here—and they’re the perfect way to stretch your legs, get some fresh air, and encounter some delightful flora-fringed scenery.
On a recent blue-skied Sunday morning, we slapped on the sunscreen and checked out the West Dyke Trail, one of Richmond’s most popular walking and cycling routes. Read on for our handy tips on how to plan your visit and what to look out for along the way.
The West Dyke Trail is full of great views. | Photo: Tourism Richmond
This 6km (3.7 mile) trail runs between Steveston’s Garry Point Park in the south and Terra Nova Rural Park in the north. Popular with walkers, joggers, and cyclists, the trail’s flat terrain fringes the lush green marshlands of Sturgeon Banks, itself lapped by the Strait of Georgia and framed by the looming North Shore mountains and distant Gulf Islands peaks.
Signage at the trail head in Garry Point Park. | Photo: John Lee
It typically takes around an hour to walk the trail, unless you stop at some of the many benches overlooking scenic views along the way (this is a great sunrise and sunset-watching spot). There isn’t much shade along much of the route, so sunhats and sunscreen are recommended. There are also washroom facilities at the Blundell Road intersection, plus a water fountain at the junction with Williams Road.
Consider making a full outdoorsy day of it by also visiting the parks that bookend the route: Terra Nova has its own well-marked trails, a flower-packed bee garden, and one of the region’s best children’s playgrounds; Garry Point Park offers sparkling ocean views, scenic little beaches, and lots of birdlife to check out.
We started at Garry Point—the West Dyke Trail connects to the park near its Scotch Pond area. Within minutes, we found ourselves on a wide gravel path built atop one of the massive earth-covered dykes constructed to protect low-lying Richmond from flooding. There’s a narrow, canal-like trench on one side of the trail, but you’ll spend most of your time gazing at the breathtaking, breeze-licked marshland that unfolds along the trail’s western edge.
Driftwood logs look like natural art installations in the marsh. | Photo: John Lee
This vast green expanse is the pathway’s main visual. It's a flat, ever-changing swathe that accompanies and slowly mesmerizes you throughout your walk. Bristling with plant life and buzzed by birds and insects, it’s almost mystically tranquil—even though the West Dyke Trail is well-used by locals and visitors, there are still plenty of pockets of quiet solitude to enjoy. Fellow trail users tend to be a friendly bunch, and almost everyone you meet greets you as they pass.
Unexpected highlights we spotted on the mostly dead-straight trail included some black and white Belted Galloway cows grazing near the trail and countless gnarled driftwood logs that punctuate the grass like natural art installations. But it’s the abundant plants and wildlife that stop many walkers in their tracks.
Belted Galloway cows grazing near the trail. | Photo: Tourism Richmond
FLORA & FAUNA
At first glance, the marsh seems fairly uniform in its lush greenness. But you soon realize it’s brimming with a huge diversity of shrubs, plants, and flowers, making it a haven for local and visiting wildlife. We spotted dense ferns, lofty bulrushes, and endless stripes of bright-hued flowers, including lots of delicate pink and white sweat peas.
Fauna-wise, we saw lots of birds: squadrons of finches darting across the marsh, plus gaggles of tiny bushtits flying between the shrubs. Solitary herons flew gracefully overhead, while a pair of bald eagles circled on high, keeping an eye on the possible lunch movements in the grass below. Coyotes can also be spotted here sometimes, particularly in the early morning or later in the evening. An important part of the ecosystem, they tend to avoid people and spend the majority of their time out in the marsh.
Wildflowers fringe the West Dyke Trail. | Photo: John Lee
NEED TO KNOW
The West Dyke Trail can be easily accessed from Garry Point Park or Terra Nova Rural Park. The trail is accessible for bikes and you can also bring your dog, although you must keep it leashed at all times. Benches can be found alongside the trail, and are perfect for a scenic rest. Click here for more information on the trail and here for a handy route map.
If you spot wildlife along the route, make sure you give it plenty of space and do not allow your children or dogs to give chase. Do not pick any flowers or vegetation along the route.
Parking is available at both parks, but you can also plan your visit by public transit via TransLink’s website. Garry Point is easier to reach by bus than Terra Nova, which is a 15-minute walk from the nearest bus stop.
The West Dyke Trail is popular with runners and joggers. | Photo: John Lee