Vancouver is an expensive city, and any attraction that offers free transportation to its gates moves to the top of my must-see list. Capilano Suspension Bridge Park was our first stop post cruise, and after dropping luggage at our post-cruise hotel, we were off for a day of exploring. With a conveniently located shuttle stop at Library Square, only feet from our hotel door, we were whisked away for a 15 minute narrated tour on a comfy bus.
It was a foggy, rainy, overcast morning, but that didn’t dampen our spirits nor those of the employees at Capilano. Everyone from the bus driver to the guy that served us our ice cream was so pleasant that we easily forget about the less-than-ideal weather conditions. Thank goodness for my North Face rain jacket that I purchased pre-trip. It was worth every penny! However, even if I wasn’t prepared for the weather with my great jacket, the park hands out free yellow ponchos. Yes, free! Being from the land of Disney where they charge upwards of $10 for a rain poncho, it was quite refreshing to see the park take such good care of their guests. The poncho really came in handy for us to keep our backpack covered and our camera equipment dry. Upon entering the park, we were first presented with the history of the park in a well done display. Artifacts, photographs, and and informational placards tell the story of the bridge that dates back to 1889 when its first visitors traversed from one side of the Capilano River to the other. From there the path leads to the largest display of First Nations totems in British Columbia. Each totem tells its own story and there are park guides on hand to help you interpret what they say.
Leaving the totems behind we decided to explore the newest feature of the park, the Cliffwalk. Opened in 2011, the Cliffwalk offers explorers the opportunity to walk suspended 300 feet over the Capliano River. Not for the faint of heart, the walkway is secured into the granite face of the canyon wall and hovers over the canyon floor beneath it. So after descending a series of stairs, I was plopped on a 20 inch walkway keeping me from plummeting to the canyon floor below. This was a single line endeavor as our party inched our way along the path. Bring patience with you because on a busy day you will stop and wait while other families capture that perfect photograph, much like we did.
The highlight of the Cliffwalk is the curve that made me feel as if I was floating over the forest. To my right, the granite canyon. To my left, the fog-filled air. I had to keep reminding myself I wasn’t on a series of switchbacks climbing a canyon trail, but instead floating to side of it. The eeriness of the fog and drops of plopping rain helped add to the surreal mood. If I closed my eyes, I could actually imagine what it might be like to be an explorer making my way through the dense forest.
Before long, my feet were back on solid ground, but not for long. The next stop would be park’s namesake. The suspension bridge.
I love a good suspension bridge! The rocking and instability makes it feel like I’m on some kind of super easy version of Wipeout. Thankfully there are no flying projectiles to dodge, just hoards of other visitors.
450 feet across, the bridge can hold a 747 with 22 elephants stacked on top. Knowing that it would not snap and send us 230 feet to the river below helped ease any fears our group had of wading through the 150+ people making their way across on the bridge with us. While there are signs asking visitors not to intentionally swing the bridge, many of the kids and teens did just that which made the walking fun but the picture taking almost impossible. Five minutes later we were pulling ourselves to the platform on the other side of the river. On this side of the park, we headed for the Treetops Adventure. I imagined being an Ewok moving from tree to tree. After hanging in the air, it was time to explore the ground on the Nature’s Edge Boardwalk, but not before stopping to hear what the bird handlers had to say at Raptor’s Ridge. A falcon and red-tailed hawk were on display for visitors to get an upclose view. A Great Horned Owl rounded out the trio, but he was not on display when we walked by the handlers.
Along the boardwalk, views of the river greeted us and and we viewed the suspension bridge from a lower perspective. Closer to the river it was much easier to see just how high that suspension bridge really was. We walked among 500-year-old trees and marveled at their majesty. Their grandeur all the greater due to the foggy conditions.
Sadly, it was time to exit our treetop experience and with it the park. But before exiting we stopped by guest services to pick up our “I Made It” certificates verifying that we now inducted into the Capilano family. We had thoroughly enjoyed every moment spent suspended over the cliffwalk, swinging on the suspension bridge, and moving among the trees like squirrels. Vancouver truly has a jewel in Capilano Suspension Bridge Park, and I hope that it continues to shine for the next 125 years.
A special thanks to Samantha from the park’s Media Relations who came in on her day off to give me a quick tour of the park.