“Originally home to Burrard, Musqueam and Squamish First Nations people, Stanley Park was not one designer’s grand scheme but an evolution of a pioneer city’s hopes and dreams; a place for its citizens to recreate themselves through active sport or peaceful relaxation.”
City of Vancouver
Having decided to travel back to Vancouver later this year, I thought I’d spend the next few weeks writing about my favourite things to do in and around Vancouver – and sharing some of my photographs of those places.
Top of that list is cycling around the Seawall in Stanley Park.
Stanley Park is a 1000-acre oasis situated on the north-western edge of downtown Vancouver. The park features beautiful gardens and forest areas, picturesque ponds and pristine beaches, and over 27 km of trails – for walking, cycling and mountain biking. The park is also home to the Vancouver Aquarium and Totem Poles – and at Prospect Point there are spectacular views of the northern mountains and Lions Gate Bridge.
The Seawall, which was built to hold back erosion, took over 60 years to complete (beginning in 1917). It stretches 8.8 km (5.5 miles) around Stanley Park, but is part of a seaside path that covers the entire inner waterfront of downtown Vancouver. I have, on one occasion, extended my ride beyond Stanley Park to English Bay, False Creek and Granville Island – which I will feature in my blog next week.
The ride around the Seawall is one-way (counter-clockwise direction) and the bike path is thankfully separated from the pedestrian walkway. It’s often very busy in any case, so take care. I usually hire a bike from Spokes Bicycle Rentals, located at 1798 W Georgia (on the corner of Denman Street and only a block from Stanley Park). But there are literally dozens of bike hire places along Denman Street – so take your pick.
This is such a fun thing to do while in Vancouver and here are some of my highlights.
At the beginning of the ride there are views back across downtown Vancouver and the boats in Coal Harbour.
Most of my rides in Stanley Park have been in September when beautiful autumnal colours begin to spread through the trees. It’s a gorgeous time of the year.
One of the first stops is the wonderful Totem Poles, which are unique to the Pacific Northwest. They are crafted from red cedar trees and tell the traditional stories of the First Nations people.
The Lions Gate Bridge connects downtown Vancouver with the North Shore including Horseshoe Bay where my brother lives – so I’ve journeyed over that bridge on many occasions. The ‘Lions’ refers to two mountain peaks north of Vancouver.
I once tried to ride up to Prospect Point via one of the dirt trails that crisscross Stanley Park. Unfortunately, I chose poorly as the trail had sharp hair-pin bends and was extremely steep. I encountered a few other cyclists coming downhill and we all had one thing in common – none of us were on our bikes. I asked one guy if I was on the right path to Prospect Point and he laughed and said yes, but you’ve picked the most difficult way to get there!
The views from Prospect Point are wonderful, especially on a clear day when you can see the mountains. My ride back down was via a sealed road and another dirt trail, which led to Siwash Rock. If I’d had more time I would’ve explored some of these inner trails that wind their way through the dense forest.
Other highlights of the ride included the beach between Siwash Rock and Ferguson Point, and the Lost Lagoon. The latter was once an extension of Coal Harbour, but is now a freshwater lake. There is an abundance of birdlife here and quite a few squirrels.
Have you been to Vancouver? What is your favourite thing to do in this wonderful city?