Heading into West Vancouver. Be sure to visit beautiful historic Lighthouse Park! When in the area, a trip to the only old-growth forest left in the Lower Mainland of Vancouver is a must! An awesome place to go for a leisurely stroll, or a swift paced hike or run, the park is easy to access by bus or car (entrance to the park and parking are free!). The forests of West Vancouver’s Lighthouse Park embrace you as you make your way through the varied scenic trails, and reward you at numerous points along the way with stunning ocean views!
When you live in Vancouver and you have house-guests, you cross your fingers hoping to wake up to the sunshine that shows this beautiful city off best. Therefore, when we had two sweet sixteen year old girls staying with us from Japan over Spring Break, we were thrilled to have a sunny day to show off our hometown and the surrounding areas! And we just knew that one of our stops of the day would be historical Lighthouse Park in West Vancouver. I grew up going to this magnificent park and it holds a special place in my heart, but anyone who visits here is likely to find themselves falling in love with this amazing spot too!
As we pull into the packed parking lot before noon on a sunny Saturday in March, we are lucky to find a parking spot right away; but do not worry — even on busy days, people are always coming and going. On foot, we take the main gravel road up and over from the parking lot, and after a few minutes on this easy Beacon Lane Trail we then take the second path on the left side called the Valley Trail. The south-heading path slopes gently downwards, but cautious stepping is advisable as the narrow uneven twisting surface has rocks and roots sticking up all over it. Yet at surprisingly quick speeds my 7 year old son and 10 year old daughter bound ahead of the rest of us with glee! With no cares in the world, they call out to one another and duck in and out of greenery as the visiting teenagers, my husband and I lag behind them. On this path, you feel like you have been immersed in a forest sanctuary. Peaceful shades of green surround us and majestic trees rise far above our heads. We are in the only old-growth forest left in the Lower Mainland of Vancouver.
After about 10 minutes the Starboat Cove Trail comes up on the left; it quickly forks out into two paths, and half of us go one way and half of us go the other way. But no matter, either way is a short stretch that leads you to the same place — a serenely magical West Coast beach. As I type this I realize that not everyone may find frolicking dogs serene, but we love to watch the joy of canines-at-play with the bonus of an outstanding background of sparkling deep blue water fed by the Pacific Ocean. Across this water, the University of British Columbia and the UBC endowment lands fill in the middle strip of the open horizon ahead. To the right of this bay are some craggy rocks that we climb, and the further out you go, the more of the Vancouver city-line can be seen rising up on the right. After some time spent in Starboat Cove, we are ready to climb the Valley Trail (after the short Starboat Cove Trail again) to the top of the Lighthouse Park cliffs and to many more spectacular views! We are still heading south, but the Valley Trail becomes a bit of an uphill climb from the beach level.
Eventually rejoining the main Beacon Lane Trail, we keep to the left and veer down past the old barracks built during World War II to house those enlisted by the Department of Defence that were stationed there to survey the Burrard Inlet for ‘enemy’ submarines and ships; these buildings are now used by the Girl Guides of Canada. If the gate is open, you may walk down a curved old driveway past an old red-roofed house and then you see the lighthouse rising up from the rocky outcrop it dwells upon. This current lighthouse was built in 1912 and makes me feel like I have travelled back in time when I look at its traditional white tower and bright red lantern room on top. Our teenage Japan guests take an interest in photographing the lighthouse and reading a commemorative plaque; our 7 year old and 10 year old have checked it all out in a few short minutes and are ready to keep moving!
We weave our way up to the main trail and head west past several large rocky cliffs on our left side and decide to climb one for another impressive view of the lighthouse and the surrounding natural area. It is a great spot to sit, to take it all in, to drink some water and munch on granola bars. It is the pinnacle of our outing. The moment of peace as we breathe deeply, and let our eyes wander and our ears fill with the sounds of forest birds and ocean waves meeting the rocks below.
Although we continue on the West Beach Trail to further jaw-dropping views, the steps of our kids have slowed. Time to head up the Beacon Lane Trail for the 20 minute uphill ‘meander’ back to the car.
A trip to Lighthouse Park is a refreshing local family outing and is a remarkable place for out-of-towners to visit as well!
Anita Pettersen, BECCEd, began studying and working in the field of Early Childhood Care and Education in 1992, and in 2014 she received her degree in Early Childhood Education from Capilano University, North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The daughter of European immigrants, she was raised in the Vancouver area by her metaphysically-minded mother. Anita is a perpetual student with an eclectic study and work resumé, but being a parent is her greatest experience. Her family adventures bring her such joy and the next escapade is always in the works! http://www.anitapettersen.com