There's something strangely satisfying about prefacing a hike on the Pitt Lake Dike with an overview of the area. The satisfaction comes from the notion that by climbing to the top of a wildlife observation tower I can see things the way thousands of resident birds do. The strange part is that the view of farmland and marshes is so different from the mountains and ocean of Vancouver, B.C., it seems the city can't be only 25 miles to the west.
In fact, the river valleys east of Vancouver are full of rich farmland, much of it diked and reclaimed by Dutch settlers in the 1950s. Many of the dikes make for excellent walking, especially those that parallel the Pitt, Alouette, and Fraser Rivers. I like to hike along the most scenic dikes; with 26 miles to choose from in the Pitt Meadows area alone, I never run out of options. When I want a longer adventure, I book a room at Farmhouse Lifestyle, a 15-acre country B&B, where guests are invited to collect their own eggs for breakfast.
My favorite walks start at Grant Narrows Regional Park, which is in the middle of a huge protected wilderness area. The park sits at the south end of 16-mile-long Pitt Lake, the largest freshwater tidal lake in North America. Within the park, the wildlife observation tower affords incredible views of the lake, valley, marshland, and surrounding mountains. From there I often see herons, raptors, ducks, songbirds, and trumpeter swans.