The purple and green glow of the aurora borealis is one of the best things to witness in the night skies, and this is your guide to observing them in Vancouver, Canada. Have your camera at the ready to catch its dance.
The northern lights are a natural occurrence in an area known as the auroral zone. Luckily if you are keen to feast on this incredible sight, there are plenty of great places to venture to, such as Scandinavia, Iceland, and of course, Canada.
If you didn’t already know, the west coast city of Vancouver, located in the province of British Columbia, Canada, offers visitors the chance to see the northern lights in all their glory. Still, you need to plan to make sure conditions are optimal.
We are here with our ultimate guide on how to see the northern lights in Vancouver, so you will know the best time and place to see them, as well as some inside tips and tricks to ensure this all-Canadian experience is unforgettable.
See the northern lights in Vancouver – the WBL top tips
- Venture as far north as possible to get the best views.
- Follow the local aurora alerts to know when to expect the show.
- Choose a day that is clear, dry, cloudless, and completely dark.
- The best time to see them is between September and March, with December and January being the prime months.
- Bring warm clothes as Vancouver can get very cold in winter.
- Some provincial parks have opening hours, so always check this beforehand.
How to see the northern lights in Vancouver – an overview
When planning your sighting of the northern lights in Vancouver, it is essential to know that the conditions must be perfect; by that, we mean there must be clear, dark skies and little light pollution.
As well as this, it is just as important to know where in the city it is best to view the aurora, so stick around for the best tips and tricks.
While Vancouver is a city, and large cities are generally not the best place to see the northern lights, you should know that they are sometimes visible from Metro Vancouver, even with urban light pollution. So you might be in luck if you are there at the right time.
December to March is the prime time to witness the dancing lights in the night sky, something that people worldwide desire, so the first step is to make sure you are there at the right time of the year.
While the odds of seeing the northern lights in Vancouver are not as high as in other Canadian regions like the Yukon Territory or even the mountain towns of Whistler and Banff, if you keep an eye on the aurora alerts while on your British Columbia trip, then your dream could become a reality.
One of the key things to note is that the best way to see the northern lights in and around Vancouver is to get as far away as possible from the bright city lights and make your way to some of the best aurora sighting spots.
RELATED READ: Our guide to seeing the northern lights in Iceland.
Best places to see the northern lights in Vancouver – the top locations
When in Vancouver, remember these top spots for viewing the aurora borealis:
Porteau Cove Provincial Park
Located along the famous Sea to Sky Highway north of Vancouver, Porteau Cove Provincial Park is close in proximity, yet far enough away not to let the city lights disturb the viewing experience.
This beach area has no light pollution and some of the best conditions for sighting the magical skies; just make sure the skies are dark and cloudless before you set off.
Address: Porteau Cove Rd, Squamish-Lillooet D, BC V0N 2E0, Canada
When it comes to seeing the northern lights, you might have already guessed that finding the nearest mountain might be a good idea, and you are right.
Burnaby Mountain is an excellent choice for viewing the aurora in Vancouver. The north face of the mountain is an iconic stargazing spot and the site of Simon Fraser University.
Address: 100 Centennial Way, Burnaby, BC V5A 2X9, Canada
Spanish Banks Beach, located in Metro Vancouver, is one of the top spots to see the northern lights in the city. Make your way to the westernmost part of the beach for the best views, and keep up to date with the weather conditions to ensure cloudless skies.
Address: Metro Vancouver, BC, Canada
Delta & Tsawwassen
This is a great place to venture if you don’t want to go too far from the city but still want to glimpse the northern lights in Vancouver. Here you will be surrounded by farmland, little light pollution, and open space, all while being close enough to the centre of Vancouver.
Address: British Columbia, Canada
Other notable mentions
Iona Beach Regional Park: This beautiful location offers stunning mountain, island, and sea views at the best of times and is ideal for seeing the Northern Lights in Vancouver if the conditions allow.
Cleveland Dam: The further north of the city you go, the better the chances of seeing the aurora, so it is advised to go towards Cleveland Dam in North Vancouver for the best chances of a sighting.
Muncho Lake Provincial Park: Located on the Alaska Highway in British Columbia, this glorious far north location is a fantastic place to observe the aurora in the night skies since it is remote and takes some effort to get there. Despite the distance, this location is definitely worth adding to your British Columbia itinerary.
Sakinaw Lake: Sakinaw Lake near the Sunshine Coast makes a magical setting for observing the northern lights, with the backdrop of mountains and outline of spruce trees, so add this to your list of must-visit aurora spots.
Your questions answered about the northern lights in Vancouver
In this section, we answer some of our readers’ most frequently asked questions as well as those that appear in online searches.
What are the Aurora Borealis?
This magical dancing light display happens solely in the Northern Hemisphere, within the aurora zone, and is known as the polar lights. The natural phenomenon is caused by a geomagnetic storm and is referenced in the legends and myths of several ancient civilisations.
Where do you have the best chance to view the northern lights?
You should check out the aurora forecast for favourable conditions if you are planning to catch major aurora activity. If you plan to take photos, we advise using a longer exposure.
How can you view the Northern Lights near Vancouver?
You can view the northern lights in Vancouver by picking a spot with little light pollution, following the aurora alerts in the area and choosing a dark, clear, and cloudless night.
So, if you thought there was no chance to see the northern lights in Vancouver, you were wrong because there are plenty of great spots to witness this natural display, given all conditions are optimal.