Located in the wild western part of Canada’s British Columbia territory, Vancouver is a great city for culture, food, and outdoor adventure within arm’s reach. Being so close to nature, it’s also a great destination for stargazing – if you know where to go.
In this post, I’m breaking down the best places for stargazing in Vancouver, from a few spots within the city where you’ll have to contend with light pollution to the pristine dark skies outside town (including one that’s an official dark sky park!).
Whether you’re visiting Vancouver or call The Couve home, you’ll have a number of places to go the next time you want to see the night sky or there’s an important astronomical event you want to observe.
In this post, I promote traveling to a destination that is the traditional lands of the Cayuse, Umatilla and Walla Walla, S’ólh Téméxw (Stó:lō), Hul’qumi’num Treaty Group, səl̓ilwətaɁɬ təməxʷ (Tsleil-Waututh), šxʷməθkʷəy̓əmaɁɬ təməxʷ (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh-ulh Temíx̱w (Squamish), and Stz’uminus peoples, among many others. With respect, I make a formal land acknowledgment, extending my appreciation and respect to the past and present people of these lands. To learn more about the peoples who call these lands home, I invite you to explore Native Land.
Where to Go Stargazing in Vancouver
Like most cities, Vancouver offers limited places where you can go stargazing. Still, it’s possible to find less light-polluted spots in the city and enjoy scenic views of twinkling stars. Below are some great spots to go stargazing in Vancouver.
David Lam Park
We’re not going to lie. David Lam Park is right in the heart of town, so light pollution is quite bad there and will affect your stargazing session. Nonetheless, David Lam Park provides unobstructed views of the sprawling sky, and you’ll be able to observe a few stars. A popular area for pedestrians, the park is an ideal place to set up your telescope and watch dazzling meteor showers or the full moon.
1300 Pacific Blvd, Vancouver, covapp.vancouver.ca
Jericho Beach/Spanish Banks
Jericho Beach/Spanish Banks is a long stretch of beach between UBC and Point Grey. Combining convenience and quality, this spot is arguably one of the top places to go stargazing in Vancouver. Thanks to being farther from the city, the Spanish Banks have less light pollution and offer wide patches of clear skies. Head out to the furthest West parking lot at the Spanish Banks and walk across the field toward the seawall for the best views.
HR MacMillan Space Centre Observatory
Located at Vanier Park, HR MacMillan Space Centre Observatory is an excellent venue to discover the wonders of space. HR MacMillan Space Centre Observatory is an astronomy museum that offers shows, exhibits, and workshops to bring people, science, and culture together. While you can visit the museum any time during the week, the Gordon Southam Observatory opens only on Saturdays until 11 pm. The observatory offers guided stargazing tours to view the best stars, planets, and nebulas.
1100 Chestnut St, Vancouver, spacecentre.ca
Stargazing Spots Within 1 Hour of Vancouver
You don’t have to go that far away to find great Vancouver stargazing spots. Only an hour away, most of these places have darker skies than you will find in downtown Vancouver.
Aldergrove Regional Park
Surrounded by farms, Aldergrove Regional Park has minimal light pollution. The park is popular among stargazers, and it organizes stargazing events every year. Last year, it offered a Star Gazing and Stories program, where people had the chance to watch the Perseids meteor shower and listen to stories from parks staff, as well enjoy a lantern-lit trail. If you’d like to spend a whole day there, the park has excellent amenities like picnic tables, multiple trails for walking, cycling, and horse riding with viewpoints.
27240 8 Ave, Aldergrove, metrovancouver.org
Boundary Bay Provincial Park is only a short drive from Vancouver to Tsawassen. Like Aldergrove Regional Park, huge farmland encloses Boundary Bay Provincial Park, ensuring you’ll enjoy unpolluted sky views. You can set up your telescope on some of the beaches near the area if you want to enjoy the surroundings. However, you’ll find the best stargazing spot at the south end of 72nd Street near the access to the dike. As a heads up, the park closes its gates at night, so make sure you park outside the gates.
Boundary Bay Rd, Delta, metrovancouver.org
Campbell Valley Regional Park
A blend of meadow, hardwood forest, marshland, and cedar-filled ravines, Campbell Valley Regional Park is a gorgeous park, with sprawling natural beauty. The park is immense and has lots of pitch-black spots where you can watch the stars at night. Don’t get too cocky, though. If you are unfamiliar with the surroundings it is easy to become lost when the park is completely dark. The old racetrack in the park is a dark and safe spot to set up your telescope.
20285 8 Ave, Langley Twp, metrovancouver.org
Cypress Mountain offers an opportunity to escape the lights of the city. There’s plenty of spots where you can stargaze or watch meteor showers. For the best views, make sure you’re facing north while choosing your spot on the mountain. A parking lot at a bend in the Cypress Bowl road is a popular point where you’ll find fellow stargazers observing the cosmos. You’ll see there’s a large street light near the parking lot, but you don’t have to worry as it’s the only one and it doesn’t turn on every night. The site is only accessible when it’s not full of snow.
6000 Cypress Bowl Rd, West Vancouver, cypressmountain.com
One of the top places for Vancouver stargazing during late summer days, Mount Seymour is a popular stargazing hot spot, especially during the famous Perseid meteor shower in August. There’s a parking lot about 2/3rd of the way up the Mount where stargazers regularly gather to surf the starry sky. Unless you’re staying in the parking lot, you can’t go stargazing during the fall/winter in Mount Seymour due to heavy snow. Still, it’s a great place to enjoy winter sports!
You can hardly beat the dark skies that Porteau Cove offers stargazers and astrophotographers. Located about halfway between Vancouver and Squamish, Porteau Cove has a great lookout over the waters of Howe Sound that grants sprawling views of the distant sky. The best part is that you don’t need to hike a strenuous trail to reach the lookout. Make sure you drive to Porteau Cove early as the park closes at 11 p.m. every night.
SFU Trottier Observatory
Right within the heart of the Burnaby campus, the Trottier Observatory at Simon Fraser University is an excellent place for those who want a complete stargazing session. The Trottier Observatory features a six-meter-diameter dome housing a 0.7-meter diameter reflector telescope that brings closer the mystery and the excitement of the universe. You can also set your telescope in their sundial at the viewing plaza adjacent to the Observatory. The Trottier Observatory at SFU is also open to the public a few nights throughout the year. Be sure to check their schedule as the dates change.
643A Science Rd, Burnaby, sfu.ca
Whytecliff Park sits in West Vancouver right by Horseshoe Bay and offers the whole package: sunsets, sunrises, and stargazing. So, don’t arrive just in time to watch the stars. Instead, pack for a night picnic and get there earlier to witness the sun setting behind Bowen Island and the city. Then, watch the stars come out without any interruption. There’s plenty of dark spots around Whytecliff; just try to avoid setting your telescope too close to the ferry terminals.
7102 Marine Dr, West Vancouver, westvancouver.ca
Stargazing Spots Within 2 Hours of Vancouver
It’s no secret that the further you go from city lights, the more stunning the stars you’ll gaze upon at night will be. If you don’t mind driving, you’ll find starry skies just two hours from Vancouver.
Brackendale Eagles Provincial Park
In addition to being a popular spot for eagle watching, Brackendale Eagles Provincial Park is also a great place to watch the night sky. Brackendale Eagles Provincial Park is near the Squamish River and the Cheakamus River, away from obstructions (trees, mountains, etc.) and light pollution. The gorgeous scenery, with lots of moss, fishermen, eagles, and vultures, is worth seeing during the day. So, we recommend planning a day trip to the area as well.
Sitting above Squamish in the Garibaldi Provincial Park, the Elfin Lakes is a popular spot for many activities: hiking, snowshoeing, skiing, and mountain bicycling. On top of that, you won’t believe the night views at Elfin Lakes. These twin lakes offer stunning views of the cosmos from the backcountry camping area. This location meets standards for low light pollution and allows astronomers clear views of stars and planets in the night sky.
Hope Slide offers year-round outdoor recreational opportunities, and of course, the incredible night skies. You’ll find many spots to set up your telescope. However, there are a few with unbeatable night views. The parking lot at Hope Slide is one of them, offering pitch dark skies. There’s glare from the few street lights on the highway, but they won’t interfere much in your session. You’ll find great views of the cosmos to the south as well. Try to avoid setting your telescope to the east and west since mountains block the views there.
McDonald Park Dark Sky Preserve
With absolutely no light pollution, McDonald Park Dark Sky Preserve in Abbotsford is one of the top places for stargazing in Vancouver. The Sumas Mountains on the riverbank enclose the park and block the light from nearby cities. The skies here are so dark that the Fraser Valley Astronomers Society hosts stargazing events in the area. You may want to check if there’s one taking place when you visit.
If you go on your own, beware that McDonald Park is for day use only and remains open when FVAS members attend an astronomical event. There’s a high chance that McDonald Park’s gates close at night while you’re stargazing on your own.
39451 No. 3 Rd, Abbotsford, fvas.net
Best Times of Year to Go Stargazing in Vancouver
Vancouver has a temperate climate with four distinct seasons. Like other cities in the region (such as Seattle or Portland), winters in Vancouver are overcast and often rainy; this weather blends into the transitional seasons of spring and autumn too. Thus the best time of year to go stargazing in Vancouver is during the summer months between mid-June and mid-September. During this time of year, you’ll encounter the lowest chances of cloud cover, plus warmer nighttime temperatures and low humidity.
Can You See the Milky Way in Vancouver?
Within Vancouver, like most cities, seeing the Milky Way is virtually impossible. However, thanks to its location in British Columbia, Vancouver is relatively close to the dark skies needed for Milky Way views. Within 1-2 hours, you can easily drive to places where the milky way is very visible.
Have other questions about stargazing in Vancouver? Let me know in the comments!