The 14-foot-wide, paved Columbia River Waterfront Trail follows the shore eastward for 3.5 miles from downtown to Tidewater Cove. It’s a wonderful place for a sunset stroll or bike ride. Find trailheads at Wintler Community Park, Marine Park, Waterfront Park or downtown Vancouver .
Vancouver Lake Park (6801 NW Lower River Rd., 360/487-7100, daily 7 a.m.–dusk daily, $2 cars, free for pedestrians and bikes), three miles west of downtown, is a local hot spot for both sailboarders and anglers. The nearly 300-acre strip of land offers picnicking, swimming, and fishing, plus grassy and shady areas. It is also home to one of the largest great blue heron rookeries in the region, and bald eagles can be found roosting in the trees during the winter months.
A 2.5-mile hiking trail connects Vancouver Lake park with Frenchman’s Bar Park (9612 N.W. Lower River Rd., 360/619-1123, 7 a.m.–dusk daily) along the Columbia River, where there is a public beach for swimming, fishing access, and a very popular sand pit with eight volleyball courts set up in the summer.
There are no lifeguards at either park, which is why most families prefer Salmon Creek Park (off N.W. 117th St., 360/696-8171), a small lake with trained professionals on the lookout during the summer months.
The closest public campgrounds are Paradise Point State Park (360/263-2350), 16 miles north on I-5 near Woodland, and Battle Ground Lake State Park (360/687-4621), 20 miles northeast of town in Battle Ground. Campsites are reservable May through September by calling 888/226-7688 or visiting www.parks.wa.gov .
Private parks in the area include Vancouver RV Park (7603 N.E. 13th Ave., 360/695-1158, $22–38) and 99 RV Park (1913 N.E. Leichner Rd., 360/573-0351, $20–29) in Salmon Creek.