How embarrassing! I’ve grown up in the Lower Mainland and at the ripe old age of 39 I finally visited the Capilano Suspension Bridge. It is an iconic Vancouver-area attraction and it took me nearly 4 decades to visit. My knee-buckling fear of heights may have been a major factor in my giving the North Vancouver destination a miss, but don’t be like me and wait so long! Wow, just wow, is all I can say about the Capilano Suspension Bridge. I’ve driven by the entrance dozens of times as my in-laws used to live just up the hill. The conservative entrance hides an expansive wood filled with family-friendly activities and more than one soaring bridge. Seriously, whether guests are visiting from out of town, or it is just us locals, everyone should visit the Capilano Suspension Bridge…and more than just once!
Our boys (aged 5 & 7) were quick to spot the stamp-stations. Grab a Capilano Suspension Bridge map and collect all six embossing stamps around the park. We arrived around 9:30am and am I ever glad we did! The park actually opens at 8:30am (in the summer) and it is worth arriving early. By 10:30 there was a line to cross the main suspension bridge. As with any popular tourist destination, the earlier you arrive, the smaller the crowds.
We ventured across the main suspension bridge. I actually managed to, momentarily, overcoming my fear of heights and snap a photo of my family mid-span. The view from the bridge is spectacular. Not only do the trees soar to the sky, the Capilano River rushes over jagged rocks and fallen trunks. The geography is west coast BC at its best.
Once on the far side of the suspension bridge, there are a number of family-friendly activities to try out:
Treetops Adventure – Visitors venture from one magnificent Douglas fir tree to another on a series of elevated suspension bridges, some reaching as high as 100 feet (30m) above the forest floor. Before you commence the trek across the suspended bridges, get the kids to grab the Dr. Wood scavenger hunt booklet. There are clues hidden throughout the Treetops Adventure as well as on the ground.
The Living Forest – learn about the delicate temperate West Coast Rainforest ecosystem. Study the large panels explaining the forest floor, the rainforest canopy, geology at the edge, and the spirit of the rainforest. Our sons had great fun discovering the length of their wingspan (should they have miraculously transformed into a bird in front of our eyes). They also enjoyed learning how long it would take trees to grow to their height. While we were exploring the forest we stumbled into the Raptors area and listened to one of the trainers telling great tales about the birds. We said hello to both a Barred Owl and a hawk.
Cliffwalk – this heart-stopping cliffside journey takes you through rainforest vegetation on a series of unobtrusive cantilevered and suspended walkways jutting out from the granite cliff face above Capilano River to previously unexplored areas of the park. There is usually a line for the Cliffwalk merely because almost everyone stops mid-span to take a photo of their loved ones against the truly breath-taking backdrop. Don’t bother feeling irritated by the pause in the line, I guarantee you will want to take a photo when it is your turn. If stairs are at all difficult for members of your group, you may want to give this walk a pass. At the end there are a number of stairs to climb. There are rest stops along the way but there are a large number of stairs, nonetheless.
Kia’palano – In the 1930’s Mac MacEachran invited local First Nations to place their story poles in the park. The colourful poles are maintained in the exact condition in which they were received and are on display in the Totem Park. You are encouraged to explore the totem poles prior to heading across the main suspension bridge.
And of course, the suspension bridge itself – 450 feet (137m) long and 230 feet (70m) high over the Capilano River. It is truly breath-taking and the earlier you arrive the more likely your chance of having the bridge – and the view – all to yourself!
The cost of admission varies at different times of the year. In the winter Canyon Lights is a magical event not to be missed. BC residents enjoy unlimited admission to the Capilano Suspension Bridge for one full year from date of purchase of one day’s admission.
While you are welcome to pack a snack to enjoy, there are ample places to purchase food. We enjoyed the Beaver Balls (you have to visit the Capilano Suspension Bridge to find out what those tasty treats really are) and a hot drink the day we visited. Before you leave make sure the kids turn in their Dr Wood scavenger hunt form; a prize is given for successful completion.
Capilano Suspension Bridge:
When: open every day except December 25th
Time: 8:30am – 8pm (summer); 9am – 5pm (winter)
Address: 3735 Capilano Road, North Vancouver
Phone: (604) 985-7474