I love a city which allows an easy escape to nature, and Vancouver is great in that regard: you’re never far from water when downtown, and Stanley Park provides excellent urban green space. But scenery-wise the real appeal lies further north, across the harbour: Grouse Mountain.
My first trip didn’t make it that far, however! I took a public bus from the city centre across the impressive Lions Gate Bridge, but once the other side of the water, set out on foot up the Capilano road, in search of the other main attraction in the area – the suspension bridge park. This turned out to be an ambitious project given the temperature and steady climb of the road, but by skipping the shuttle buses (the free, sensible way to visit either the bridge or the mountain), was able to explore more thoroughly. In particular, I encountered this internet-famous sign:
and was able to take a detour off the road and down to the banks of the river for which it is named:
Spanning a 70m deep canyon and leading to ancient evergreen forests, the Capilano suspension bridge has been a tourist attraction for almost a century. That was already the second iteration, with the first being constructed in Victorian times; the current, third, crossing hails from the 1950s. Over time, the site has been developed into a series of attractions – the ‘treetop adventure’ walkways take visitors another 30m up into the trees, and the ‘cliff walk’ offers a route anchored to the canyon wall, but otherwise hanging in open air over the river far below. This is meant to be the more adrenaline-soaked experience, but it’s hardly a match for Toronto’s Edge Walk! In fact, I found it more solidly reassuring than the rather… fluid experience of the suspension bridge, which has quite a bounce to it when teeming with summer crowds.
Capilano Suspension Bridge
There’s also a few educational displays, on both the environment – they’re very proud of their lichen! – and first nations culture. There are also the inevitable gift shop, plus some catering options. Given the captive audience, those aren’t particularly cheap; although I received an enormous meal, I think given the price of entry I’d suggest bringing a picnic instead. Rather than repeat the hike, I opted for the shuttle bus back to Canada Place – the driver turned out to be a goldmine of local knowledge, from identifying landmarks to recommending a gelateria!
For my visit to Grouse Mountain I’d gone all-in with the “ultimate experience” ticket. Via shuttle bus, skyride cable car, peak chairlift and finally a lift I reached the highest possible vantage point – the viewPOD attached to the Eye of the Wind turbine.
It turns out you can learn a lot about yourself on a slow chairlift. What I learnt is that I’m terrified of chairlifts. However, it was entirely worth it for the views, both back over Vancouver, and out towards what I would later realise was my train route to Washington state.
View to Mount Baker
The Eye of the Wind
There are obviously more activities available in the winter season, but the chairlift and turbine access are only possible in the summer ‘green’ season, so – terror aside – I’m glad I opted for them. Sadly my budget didn’t stretch to a helicopter tour, so once I’d had my fill of scenery, it was back down via cable car. But I wasn’t quite done with the area – the river is fed by the Capilano lake, and whilst you can’t quite reach the shore (it’s the source of much of Vancouver’s drinking water), there’s plenty of nearby parkland to enjoy too. So the carousel below starts with some shots from there, before adding to those above from the suspension bridge park and Grouse Mountain.