The University of British Columbia
The University of British Columbia

“UBC” stands for the University of British Columbia, and “UEL” stands for the University Endowment Lands.

Years ago, the University of British Columbia was granted space by the province at the tip of Vancouver’s Point Grey on “University Hill” for a campus and additional land was set aside which was known as the University Endowment Lands. The UEL was to be used as a lands trust for development and sale to raise money for the University. The land not used by the University was returned to the Province in the 1930s and much remained undeveloped for many years until it became too late to develop it without massive opposition. In 1989 the province turned remaining land over to the Greater Vancouver Regional District (Metro Vancouver) and Pacific Spirit Regional Park was formed out of part of the Endowment Lands.

These lands are not actually part of the City of Vancouver, nor UBC, but are part of Metro Vancouver, and are administered by them. The local police force is the RCMP, and not City police. The park, including Wreck Beach, is administered by Metro Vancouver, formerly and still properly known as the Greater Vancouver Regional District, and still referred to as the “GVRD.” As you’re going along Marine Drive, all of the land between the road and the ocean is Marine Drive Foreshore Park.

UBC/UEL includes the following features:

  • The University of British Columbia (UBC)
  • Wreck Beach
  • The Museum of Anthropology
  • UBC Botanical Gardens
  • Pacific Spirit Regional Park
  • …among others

UBC & The Endowment Lands (3.0 km/1.8 mi) (orange and blue lines):

University Hill – N. W. Marine Drive

Westbound – Up the Hill

Bicycle/pedestrian path up the hill to UBC from Spanish Banks.
Bicycle/pedestrian path up the hill to UBC from Spanish Banks.
Unfortunately for many riders, it’s all at the top of a big hill which is a continuation of high land forming a southerly spine to Point Grey. Those riding along the Spanish Banks seaside will have avoided it all the way to the tip of Spanish Banks. But to go any further around the point, it’s necessary to climb that hill.

The hill is almost two kilometers in length. People in decent shape can make it up without stopping, but they mention it ruefully later. Partway up you’ll see a convenient bench by the path which is a good place to stop and gather your resources for the climb.

Of our seaside rides, it’s the biggest hill you have to go up or down by a long shot, so we look at it as the necessary exercise component of our ride. Without it, and without doing the almost-500 stairs at Wreck Beach, the flat seaside paths don’t offer much opportunity to build muscle.

If you do the hill three times a week for three weeks in a proper gear you’ll get used to it. “Three times a week for three weeks and you’ll be fine” is our mantra. Once up the hill you have all of UBC and the bike-friendly trails of Pacific Spirit Park to explore, or, if you prefer, you can continue on around Point Grey on a fast, sort-of-flat road to West 41st Street. Finally, going up that hill also gets you to Wreck Beach where you get to go down the same distance and then walk back up again for a different kind of leg and aerobic exercise.

From Spanish Banks continue up on N. W. Marine Drive (North-West Marine Drive) past Acadia Beach parking lot.1

Riding past the Acadia Beach parking lot, you’ll see a sign directing you to “share the road.” There used to be a sign telling you to ride on the path, but it disappeared in early 2015. You may still want to take the path because the road is narrow and there’s no option to walk your bike if you get tired. Take your kids up the path, not the road.

Riding through the forested ravine you’ll want to change into a lower gear in anticipation of the coming incline, and as soon as you hit the open area of Marine Drive Foreshore Park you might want to stop and take off a jacket because the temperature goes up. If the sun is out, you’ll really notice the difference.

When you get to the top of the hill, you’ll see Trail Four down to the seashore to your right, and UBC ahead and to your left. The Museum of Anthropology is along Marine Drive to the right, and Wreck Beach can be accessed either by cutting through UBC (see map) or by riding around the Point on Marine Drive to the right.

Want to go down to the beach? You’ll know you’ve reached Wreck Beach’s main trail six when you come upon a row of four or five bike racks on the right on Marine Drive and some strange-looking metal huts which are the toilets marking the top of the trail.

Lock up your bike at the top and start walking. During the summer you’ll find food and drink available for purchase and there are toilets at the bottom similar to the ones at the top of the stairs. Otherwise, there’s nothing in the way of services.

Eastbound – Down the Hill

Returning to Spanish Banks down N.W. Marine Drive is a simple matter of sitting on your bike while you speed past all those poor suckers labouring up the hill. You’ve paid your dues, so look proud.

Don’t take the path at the side of the road, and if you do decide to take the path, don’t go fast. Those people labouring up it won’t appreciate it. Take the road.

The road is really not at all bad. In our years we’ve never felt threatened by cars and often they are happy to lag behind you enjoying the scenery and won’t pass even if given the opportunity. We’ve had a car deliberately drive behind us at night all the way down the hill so as to let us see by their headlights (thanks!) because it can be quite dark there at night.

At the bottom you can continue along Marine Drive if you want, or cross the road and enter into Spanish Banks Beach through the gate. If you do it fast enough, you’ll feel like a 747 landing at the airport as soon as you hear the sound of your wheels hitting the gravel path. The trick is passing through that 2-foot-wide space between steel poles at high speed. Remember to look and signal!

Riding On: Adjoining seaside routes

East: Downhill back to Vancouver via Spanish Banks and the beaches along Point Grey.

West: Park your bike and walk down to Wreck Beach (for the exercise), visit UBC, or continue around Point Grey along North-West Marine Drive (becoming South-West Marine Drive) to south Vancouver. With the exception of Wreck Beach, our seaside route ends here, perhaps to take up a riverine route sometime in the future. In the meantime – explore!

  1. If you decide you don’t want to go up the hill, stop and lock up your bike at Acadia Beach and walk along the foreshore. You can walk all the way to Wreck Beach along a somewhat rough seashore that may be difficult but not impossible to traverse at high tide. It’s about a half hour’s walk. []