Run along the Dykes in Maple Ridge/Pitt Meadows with panoramic views of the countryside, marshes, rivers and mountains. (Greater Vancouver)
One of my favourite places to run near my home in Mission, BC, Canada is the dyke system in nearby Maple Ridge/Pitt Meadows
- Difficulty: Easy
- Terrain: well-groomed gravel/dirt trail
- Length: as long as you want!
- Flow: interrupted by a few easy to cross roads
- Scenery: open farmland along rivers with mountain backdrop
- Safety Issues: off leash dogs
- Bathrooms: port-o-pottys in parking lots
- Drinking water: No
- Transit Access: No
- Parking: free parking lots and street parking available
- Night Access: open but not lit
- Special Features: Chicken Feed Dispenser at Neaves Road (bring quarters!)
- Nearby Attractions: Golden Ears Cheesecrafters, Grant Narrows Regional Park
An easy 45-minute drive east of downtown Vancouver will find you in the semi-rural, picturesque suburbs of Maple Ridge/Pitt Meadows. Nestled between the Alouette River, Pitt River and the Fraser River, Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows are set on a giant floodplain that are protected by a vast system of dykes. Equal in its beauty to Vancouver’s running routes along the seawall, and definitely off the beaten path, the dyke system is an outstanding network of multi-use walking and bicycling trails. With 64km of interconnected trails, you can literally run as long and as far as you want!
The trails are completely flat, and the surface is mostly packed dirt and gravel. My feet have often thanked me for choosing to run my long runs on these well-cushioned paths. While I love to do a trail run in the forest, I have been known to snag a tree root and fall on my face, so the groomed obstacle free dirt and gravel is a real bonus. Large trees line the trails and there is some shade, but overall it is an open trail, so sure to consider this if it’s a hot day! The open area does lend itself to lovely breezes though, especially near the rivers.
Our local volcano! Mt. Baker
The trails run along farmland and marshes and offer incredible views of the mountains to the north. The immense, panoramic beauty often stuns me. You can see the mountains called Golden Ears to the north and on a clear day you can also see the glacier topped peak of Mount Baker (a dormant volcano that is part of the Mount St Helens chain) to the southeast.
Wildlife is abundant along the trail, including a wide variety of birds, beaver, deer and even the odd black bear. I don’t know my bird species well enough to comment on what you might find, but the area is popular with avid birders, and even I can appreciate the pretty birds that come in a variety of colours.
The only thing I find frustrating about the trail is the domestic wildlife: dogs. There are a few designated off leash zones, but most of the trails are technically areas where furry friends are supposed to be leashed and of course, in either case, they are supposed to be under control. Now I love dogs!
I have three dogs, including two Great Danes (that’s my girl Stella in the picture), but I have anxiety attacks when a dog charges towards me while I am running while the owner shouts “don’t worry he’s friendly!” or calls the dog’s name uselessly. Even the gentlest dog can trip a runner, and I hate to give up my pace to side step Fido! However, to be safe, I try to size up each canine companion and if I think they may be a hazard to my feet, I slow down and wait until they are really under control. Anyways, I still love the dikes, but off leash dogs are a hazard that any runner needs to be wary of!
One of my favourite routes for a long run…
There are several access points, some with street parking and some with small free parking lots. I prefer to park at the parking lot at 210th where there are even some port-a-pottys if you need to use one pre or post run. My favourite long run route is to follow the trail west from where I park all the way too the Pitt River and then head north or south along the Pitt River itself. This makes a great out and back for an 18-20km long run with virtually zero elevation change!
I should mention too, that the trail crosses a few small roads, but these are easily negotiated and well marked.
The trail system itself has interpretive signs, detailing local history and environmental information, and there are frequent benches along the side of the trail which provide a place to rest, often with a beautiful viewpoint.
A favourite stop for families is a little farm on the corner of Neaves Road, where you can purchase ‘prehistoric chicken feed’ (corn) for a quarter and few the chickens. The chickens are only about 1km from where I park at 210th and sometime my children will wander up to feed the chickens while I go for a short run. So, if you are visiting with non-runners, they could happily walk and enjoy the scenery while you run!
Maple Ridge/Pitt Meadows is really the gateway to a whole system of parks, trails and lakes that begin where the suburbs mix with farmland, as well as popular farm circle tours. You could easily make a day of it coming out from the city; even a sweaty runner could always take a dip in one of our lakes or rivers to rinse off. A very popular and beautiful park that is actually connected to the dyke system is Grant Narrows Regional Park, which offers boat rentals and lovely picnic spots. This is the local trail guide which includes the dyke system and much more!
Sunset on the Alouette River