“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” Henry David Thoreau
This week I’m continuing my tour of some of my favourite places in Vancouver, but I’m heading away from downtown and across the Lions Gate Bridge to West and North Vancouver. Here you’ll find some great recreation areas including Grouse Mountain, Capilano Suspension Bridge Park and Lynn Canyon Park.
I have a soft spot for Grouse Mountain. For one, it’s named Grouse Mountain. And while I know that a grouse is a bird, to Australians, like me, it also means great or awesome. If we love something we might say “it is grouse”. And I think Grouse Mountain is grouse.
Secondly, I learned how to ski on Grouse Mountain, along with my younger sister. Our brother, who lives in Vancouver, purchased ski lessons for us for Christmas one year when we were visiting and experiencing our first ‘white Christmas’. We caught the Skyride gondola to the top of the mountain for four afternoon lessons. It was so much fun, even though I wasn’t a natural skier and I haven’t continued the sport since.
Grouse Mountain is a great place to visit, regardless of the season. At a minimum, it’s worth taking the Skyride to the summit, where there are restaurants and cafes and an incredible vista over Vancouver and its surrounds. If you have more time, there is a scenic viewing platform on the ‘Eye of the Wind’ wind turbine, Zipline and paragliding adventures, a birds of prey show, and a wildlife refuge where you can see bears and wolves.
In summer, there are guided and self-guided eco-walks and, for those wanting a challenge, there is the famous Grouse Grind. This is a 2.9km trail up the face of the mountain, which is frequented by many locals and is referred to as ‘Mother Nature’s Stairmaster’.
I have climbed the Grouse Grind twice and I can attest that it hurts! But I still love it. It’s grouse! See my blog – The Grouse Grind: dangerous hike or Sunday afternoon stroll.
Capilano Suspension Bridge Park
For some reason it took me a long time to visit the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park. It was probably because I was a penniless backpacker on my first few visits to Vancouver in the 1990s and I opted to go to the suspension bridge in Lynn Canyon Park instead (because it is free).But last year I finally went to Capilano with a group of friends and I really enjoyed the experience. The cost – at $31.95 – isn’t prohibitive, especially as you could easily spend an entire day here.
Upon entering the park, the first point of interest is a collection of incredible First Nations totem poles, and then it’s only a short walk to the famous suspension bridge. Adjacent to the bridge is the Cliffwalk, which is the newest addition to the park opening in June 2011. We ventured here first.
The Cliffwalk is definitely not for the faint-of-heart or anyone with vertigo. It’s a series of cantilevered and suspended walkways, which are attached to the granite cliff high above the Capilano River. At times the path is extremely narrow and you generally have to keep moving (especially if you’re visiting during the peak summer months).
The Capilano Suspension Bridge was built in 1889. It stretches 450 feet (137 metres) across and 230 feet (70 metres) above the Capilano River. It was fun to walk across, getting used to the swaying motion, but it is, once again, a challenge for those afraid of heights. We paused in the middle to gaze at the incredible view down the canyon.
On the other side of the canyon, there is the Treetops Adventure – a rainforest walk through the mid-story of 1300-year-old-growth Douglas-firs. The raised walkways, viewing platforms and suspension bridges utilise a compression system which uses no bolts or nails on the trees. It’s an amazing walk.
Capilano Suspension Bridge Park also has guided history and nature walks, children’s activities, shops and restaurants. Outside the actual park, there are plenty of other bush walks in the Capilano Canyon.
Lynn Canyon Park
The suspension bridge in Lynn Canyon Park, while not as famous as Capilano, is equally impressive. It’s 164 feet (50 metres) high and stretches across a very picturesque canyon in the Lynn Valley. I’ve been to this park in both seasons and have done some short walks down to the river. In the winter, we were rugged up against the cold and we had to take care on the slippery rocks. But it’s a lovely walk at any time of the year.
There are also plenty of other highlights including the Pipe Bridge, Twin Falls, the 30 Foot Pool and the Baden Powell Trail. The latter is a hiking trail that crosses the entire North Shore mountain range – it links several parks including Capilano River, Grouse Mountain, the Power Line Trails, Lynn Canyon Park and Quarry Rock in Deep Cove. I think I’ll have to check this out on my next visit.
Do you have a favourite place to visit in Vancouver or a favourite hike? I’d love to hear about your experiences.