This Capilano Suspension Bridge Park is built around the Capilano suspension bridge, and while that is indeed an impressive structure, this park encompasses so much more. Located in North Vancouver, just a short drive from the city center, this park is my favorite activity in the area and a perfect attraction for locals and visitors alike. The park is split into three sections: the first is the namesake suspension bridge, the second is a sprawling and very cool tree house and the the third is a literal cliff walk around sheer granite walls. I suspect those with a fear of heights will be apprehensive, but the walking surfaces are wide, the hand rails sturdy and fine steel mesh covers everything to a height of 3 feet. I felt 100% safe at all times.
You begin by approaching the suspension bridge, 450 feet long and 230 feet above the Capilano River. The bridge was originally built in 1889 by George Grant Mackay, a Scottish civil engineer who purchased land on both sides of the river and wanted easy access back and forth. With the help of a local First Nations man and a team of horses, they pulled home made hemp rope across the chasm, put down some cedar planks and called it a day. If you think crossing today’s bridge is an adventure, just imagine what the original was like. The current bridge was built in 1953 using steel cables sunk in 13 tons of concrete at either end. This bridge had a true stress test in 2006 when a huge Douglas Fir tree snapped due to large amounts of snow and fell directly on the bridge. The weight of the tree was estimated at 17 tons yet did no damage to the bridge.
After braving the suspension bridge you arrive at Treetops Adventure. If you had a tree house as a kid, or envied those who did, you’ll love this section. Imagine how the elves in Lord of the Rings live among the trees and you get an idea of the scope of this tree house. It’s actually a number of platforms connected by seven suspension bridges, some of which are 100 feet off the ground. The structures are all built around massive Douglas Fir trees, many of which are 200 feet tall and 400 years old. You can’t help but ogle the view (below and above) as you traipse among these giants of the forest, seeing for a few precious minutes the jaw dropping scenes a squirrel must see from their precarious home in the sky.
The final section of the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park is called The Cliff Walk, which is aptly named as you walk under and around the side of a cliff on a series of cantilevered walkways. Somewhat similar to the Glacier Skywalk in Jasper National Park, except substitute a rain forest for glacier covered mountains, you peer downward through glass into nothingness. The semicircle bridge is suspended 300 feet above the the forest and banks of the river below, affording a top down view of hemlock and cedar that one rarely experiences.
There is also a pleasant walking path/nature trail on site that winds through and explains about the temperate rain forest and offers stunning views of the various high flying structures while remaining on terra firma. There is a great activity packet for kids. And yes, there are a number of gift shops, cafes and coffee joints that ply their respective goods. I was almost tempted to order hot chocolate on the cool, rainy day we visited, and probably should have, but the cheapskate in me could not pay $4 for Swiss Miss and hot water. Speaking of prices, the entry fee is fairly hefty at $40/adult + $5 for parking for 2-3 hours of fun. Given the unique opportunity to visit the treetops for a day, I’d say it’s a bargain.