As someone who is afraid of heights, it seemed unlikely I would ever stroll across any suspension bridge, much less one that spans 140 m (460 ft), 70 m (230 ft) above the river and valley floor below. But when in Rome you do as the… well, you know the saying. Recently Q and I found ourselves in Vancouver, British Columbia and looking for something to do. There are many touristy, outdoorsy, adventurous activities in this coastal city and one that kept getting repeated was Capilano Suspension Bridge Park. Assuming it was nothing more than a bridge I felt confident I could watch Q cross the bridge while my feet remained safely planted on the entrance side. Once we arrived it became apparent this wasn’t just a bridge but rather a well thought out eco-tourism attraction. With parking and a coffee shop across the street from the park, we knew this was going to be much more than just cables and wood planks.
Nonetheless, imagine our shock when we became aware admission for the two of us would cost a few dollars short of $100. For that kind of money, I was curious to see if they had human rickshaws running you across the bridge on their backs all just to add to the adventure and get your money’s worth. Not wanting to part with our hard-earned cash just to cross a bridge we hmm’d and haw’d until the ticket agent assured us there were other items in the park and that it would take us hours to wander through it all. With nothing else on our agenda planned and no other activities we were aware of in North Vancouver we bit the bullet and paid.
The first thing we noted was how accessible Capilano is with shuttles to the park daily and city buses that passed by throughout the day. As previously mentioned there was ample parking for those who drove and a drop-off and load zone for the many tour buses that visit the site regularly. The park is open year-round and even on a rainy winter day, such as the one we visited, the bridge still draws tourists in droves. Maybe it’s the accessibility. Maybe because it feels like you are in the wilderness. Whatever the reason it was quite busy and I heard horror story upon horror story of hour-long waits to walk across the bridge during the summer season.
The bridge lays no claim to being the longest or highest in the world and the history of the bridge is as varied as the proprietors’ who have owned it. From its inception, Capilano was designed to lure tourists in with the promise of a beautiful wilderness oasis. Coastal British Columbia is blessed with beauty from the rainforests Capilano calls home. And to ensure a magical, almost ethereal connection to nature, the current owner has taken the bridge and the park to the next level.
Even though we had paid I still wasn’t sure whether I would cross the bridge considering there were many activities on the entrance side. From totem poles that were created by local First Nations to information displays of Native life and the history of the bridge itself, there were many things to do. Trails wandered along this side of the river canyon, as did the Clifftop attraction. Built on the cliff face, this cantilevered, suspended walkway gives visitors an unobstructed view of Capilano River. With partial glass floors, I felt this was one activity I could live without and snuck into the Trading Post before Q would try to convince me otherwise. As any other trading post in any Canadian tourist town, this one was filled with beautiful pottery, jewelry, clothing and toys. Many items were Canadian and First Nation made and the shop had the staples of fudge and maple syrup and candies – as should be expected in a Canadian specialty store. After I bought myself some mittens and ok maybe a wee bit of fudge, Q and I exited towards the bridge. This bridge is long… When you are afraid of heights…. It is really, really long. It didn’t feel as high as I thought it would but I was anxious nonetheless as it swayed from the movement of people crossing in both directions. I won’t get into too much detail but let’s just say that at midpoint the bridge swings back and forth considerably and it drops so deep you have quite the incline to climb to reach the other side. Not impossible but something to note if you have trouble walking.
As you reach the far side of the bridge you are greeted by a cabin that sells snacks and hot drinks. Just what you need on a cold, wet day. After grabbing some hot chocolate we began wandering the many walkways, paths and boardwalks laid out on this side of the canyon. It is also here you will find Capilano’s Treetop Adventures. Platforms built high up in the canopy of the trees linked by mini suspension bridges. It was like a giant tree house grid for those young at heart. And by young at heart, I mean everyone as long as your capable of climbing the first set of stairs to the starting platform. The day we visited the park was still decorated with it’s Canyon Lights display. Spheres floated over a small pond, lit birds were suspended in the air among the treetops and twinkly stars lined the many paths, bridges and platforms. It was all very beautiful and I would imagine at Christmas, magical.
After spending almost 2 hours in the rain I was drenched and frozen to the bone and it was time to leave. The best time to visit (fewer wait times) is in fall, winter and spring but remember it rains in Vancouver in winter like a monsoon every night. Ok, not quite but it rains a lot! Although ponchos are provided, make sure to bring some mittens to keep your hands dry and warm. If visiting in the summer come early or late in the day to miss the majority of the crowd. Although wheelchairs and strollers are allowed in the park, they are not permitted on the bridge.
You can read about Capilano Suspension Bridge Park here. And although we really did enjoy ourselves and the park is beautiful, there is a hefty price tag attached to the visit. There are other suspension bridges in the area that are free (without all the other attractions) or if you prefer to enjoy nature within the safety of a city and have money to spend, Capilano won’t disappoint as it truly does deliver a beautiful, wilderness oasis.
~True North Nomad
Have a magical place you love to visit? Tell us in the comments below.
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