Capilano Suspension Bridge Park is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Vancouver BC. If you are visiting Vancouver Canada as a tourist or a traveler, visiting the amazing bridge is something you can not miss. It is a curious mix of a natural wonder that has been brilliantly designed by the man in a way that you enjoy nature without really damaging it.
The Suspension Bridge gets its name from Capilano River over which it stands. It is actually a steep and deep gorge through which the water rushes with great force. It is a bit scary to stand on the bridge looking the ferocious water below surrounded by tall old green trees, adding to the height of the gorge.
History of Capilano Suspension Bridge
The history of this gorgeous bridge goes back to 1889 when a Scottish engineer George Grant Mackay built it as part of his assignment as park engineer. The original bridge was built of ropes and planks of the cedar tree, that gave way to cables in the 1930s. However, the suspension bridge that you walk on today dates back to 1956 when it was completely rebuilt.
Nancy Stibbard, the current owner bought this park in 1983. Yes, it is a privately held park and has changed many hands in his 100+ years of existence.
Trivia – Nancy used to sell ice cream at the park before she bought it over.
Technically, the Capilano Suspension Bridge is 450 ft in length and stands 230 ft above the Capilano River.
Over the years, many attractions have been added to the park.
Come, let me take you for a walk around the park.
Visiting Capilano Suspension Bridge Park
I visited the park on my very first day in Vancouver. In fact, it was the first attraction I visited in the city. There is a shuttle that you can take from the city to the park across the Lion’s Gate Bridge. The park technically lies in North Vancouver which is a different city than Vancouver BC across the bridge.
Free shuttle service picks you up from the following four points in Vancouver downtown to go to the park. It drops you back at the same places too:
After the park, I wanted to go to the Vancouver Art Gallery and the driver of the shuttle was kind enough to drop me very close to it. She also gave me the exact directions to reach the art gallery.
I think this free shuttle service is a great help to the tourists who primarily stay in the city. Without this shuttle, many tourists may skip the park as it would cost a lot of money and time to visit the park.
You can view the shuttle schedule here.
Remember there is a different schedule at different times of the year.
My Visit on a Rainy Day
It was raining the day I visited the park in November. Along with the ticket I was handed a Poncho to protect me from the rain. I walked in with my cameras around my neck and a lot of excitement in my heart.
The story center documents the history and journey of the park with photographs and memorabilia. There are life-size black and white images and the stories associated with them.
Totem Poles and Kia’Palano
As you cross the story center, you meet a bunch of lovely totem poles. I gather that Capilano has the largest collection of Totem Poles in North America.
I was quite fascinated by the well-maintained Totem poles on display. An interpretation center tells you the story of cedar wood and its inherent relationship with first nations communities.
Read More – First Nations communities of British Columbia
It tells you about the role of Cedar Tree in the life of aboriginal communities and the contemporary role in art.
Walking the Capilano Suspension Bridge
Passing through the historical references, I reached the coveted suspension bridge. I stood for a few minutes observing it as people leisurely walked on it from one side to another. Some stood in the middle looking at the river beneath.
With my camera firmly in my hand, I started walking on the narrow long bridge. Initially, it was like a cake walk – easy and steady. As I got closer to the middle of the bridge, it started swaying, making me a bit of unsteady. In the middle, it sways the most. This is also where you see the river rushing below you. The narrow and deep gorge presents itself in full glory.
I wonder if the bridge was created for a practical purpose or just to enjoy the rainforest on the other side of the river. Maybe it was for the trees and their solid wood that it was built. I tried to think about how it would have felt with hemp ropes – did people feel scared.
There are a few freak accidents recorded in the history of the bridge but not too many to worry about.
It was fascinating to spend some time on the bridge and look at all the nature around, before crossing over to the other side.
It was November and there were not many tourists. Christmas lights were being installed all over the park. On a gloomy sunless day, the lights were shining even during the day.
I walked past many tall trees to the beginning of treetops adventure at the park. Climbed up a flight of stairs. Small boards explain the rainforests. A weatherboard informs you all about the weather of the day.
I walked from tree to tree, stopping at the viewing platforms built around the tree. It was cold and humid; the sun was there but not there. I admired the tall trees, the deep gorge on one side with the sound of the water playing the background music. It is very different to stretch your neck and see the tall trees from the ground, then walking at an eye level with them. You get a feeling of being a low flying bird and you wonder how they choose the tree and then the branch on which to sit.
Squirrel’s Eye View
Literature tells me that the treetops adventure has been designed to give you a Squirrel’s eye view of the west coast rainforest. You move from tree to tree and admire the jungle all around. 8 trees that are more than 250 years old have been tied together with a string of bridges and a sturdy platform around them. What is interesting is that no nails have been put in the trees. There is ample space left around trees to allow them to grow as they want.
Explore the Living Forests
After the treetops adventure, I was walking on another wooden walking path – this one closer to the surface. The long winding path takes you up and down, deep into the forest, sometimes quite close to the river. You pass through fallen trees, ponds and natural water bodies.
There are inspirational quotes about nature. There is an introduction to the trees around and there are statistics about how trees improve our environment. I loved the one that explained this rainforest in all four seasons – almost tempting you to visit the park again every season. It said if you have come during fall, it is probably raining. Yes, it was raining all the time I was in the park.
This is a narrow semi-circular walk that goes around next to the roaring river. This was something I dared not attempt for multiple reasons. By the time I reached the cliff walk after coming back from the suspension bridge, it was raining heavily. The steps going down to the cliff walk were narrow and slippery. And, I am scared of heights. Just look at the walk – would you not be scared? Although I know, if it open to the public without supervision – it must be safe.
I did not see any people on this cliff probably because of the heavy rain.
Finally, before you exit the park, there is a beautiful souvenir shop where you can buy gifts for people back home.
Read More – Best Canada Souvenirs to buy
Free Alternative to Capilano Suspension Bridge
Most locals would tell you that you do not have to pay to see the canyon. Not far is the Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge Park which also has a suspension bridge, but probably half the size of the Capilano bridge.
Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge Park is popular with the locals as well as hikers as it is home to many hiking trails. There are twin waterfalls as well, which is something missing in the better-known park. I am going to explore this one, as and when I am in Vancouver next.
Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge Park is also a 100+-year-old municipal park that now spreads across 617 acres. It is the second forest though with most of the trees not older than 80-100 years.
For more information, check out their website.
- You need 1-2 hours to go through the park. 1 hour if you walk quickly, 2-3 hours if you walk leisurely and soak in the place.
- Check the latest ticket prices here
- British Columbia residents get year-long access to the park when they purchase a single ticket. You need to have a BC Id to get this access.
- There are guided tours that I assume would be great, When I visited in November, guided tours were on a holiday.
- Follow the safety instructions like do not jump after fallen objects, especially mobile phones.