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Cycling Vancouver: Spanish Banks Hill offers a not-too-steep climb, or a fun descent with ocean views

Give this stretch a go if your looking to do some hill repeats or a leisurely coastal coasting 🚲

This installation of our new series of guides to Metro Vancouver cycling destinations features a route on the far west side of the city between West Point Grey and the University Endowment Lands. 

Where: “Spanish Banks Hill” or “Spanish Banks” – the section of NW Marine Drive that extends from the Spanish Banks parking lots to NW Marine Drive and Chancellor Boulevard.

Why: Either a not-so-long, not-so-steep 2 km climb suitable for hill repeats (westward), or a fun descent with a beautiful ocean view (eastward).

Difficulty: The section of road specifically mentioned here is from the Spanish Banks parking lots to the juncture of NW Marine Drive and Chancellor Boulevard. It is about 2 kilometers in length, with an average grade of 3.2 percent. There is one steeper pitch that lasts a couple of hundred meters (give or take), but it is easily conquerable for most riders on most bikes. When in doubt, shift to easier gears and take it slow the first time.

How to get there: Unless you want to do specific on-bike training (hill repeats, for example), Spanish Banks Hill is not really a destination in itself; it is more a feature of a longer route. Most cyclists approaching Spanish Banks from the east ride east on W 4th, then turn right onto NW Marine Drive. NW Marine Drive will take you past Jericho, Locarno, and the Spanish Banks beaches. Coming from the west, many cyclists ride west on NW Marine Drive through UBC before turning left to stay on NW Marine Drive (if going “straight,” NW Marine Drive westbound becomes Chancellor Boulevard).

Important notes:

  1. NW Marine Drive by the beaches (Jericho, Locarno, Spanish Banks) is very busy in the summer.  Many drivers are looking for parking, and their attention can waver.  Please be careful of cars turning into parking spots, and of cars exiting parking spots.  Head on a swivel, friends!
  2. There can be many cyclists climbing the hill westbound.  As you are on the road, you share the road with cars.  For your own safety, please be mindful of where you are on the road and try to stay as close to the right side of the lane as possible. This will allow drivers to pass comfortably – which gives you more space, too. And from personal experience, drivers can get very frustrated.

Brian Lim likes to ride bikes (sometimes with his camera). He's a complete and consummate amateur - both in cycling and in photography, and says he doesn't take himself seriously - and neither should you. Lim wants to share his love of cycling, so please reach out if you want to talk! You'll find him on Instagram at @wheelsandwhisky.