Have you ever wondered what the forests around Vancouver must have looked like when Europeans first arrived? Massive, 500 year old trees would dominate the canopy and younger trees would crowd the undercanopy, waiting for the giants to fall and make space for them.
Vancouver’s Old-Growth Forest
Although most the old-growth forests have been cut down, there is at least one place you can still see these massive trees that were born long before Europeans even came close to Vancouver: Lighthouse Park.
It wasn’t Forest Wasn’t Saved to Make a Park
Some might think that the park was saved from being logged to residents of wealthy West Vancouver with a recreation area. Not so. The only reason the old-growth forest was saved was to provide a back drop for the lighthouse that was built in 1874 (replace in 1912 with the current structure). To make sure it stood out and could easily be seen, the forest was left behind it.
During World War II, it was used as a military establishment. Sometime after that, someone finally realized that we’d cut down pretty much all the other accessible old-growth forests, and maybe this was somewhere special, and it was turned into a park. One of the best decisions made in Vancouver.
Yes, Those Really Are Fire Hydrants
If you’re wondering around the park and see funny looking pipes coming from the ground, you’ve just seen the park’s firefighting system. Lighthouse Park is actually quite dry (although, you may not believe me if you visit in February!) and the potential for man-made blazes is very high due to its popularity.
Some Damn Big Trees
Some of the enormous Douglas Firs are as much as 8 and a half meters around (28 ft) and over 500 years old. They are truly impressive to see and to remember that they were here for hundreds of years before Europeans even knew that this area existed…. And yet, nearly all the old growth forests in the area have been cut down.
Things To Do (Aside from Admiring the Trees)
Hiking, walking and picnicking are the main activities of Lighthouse Park. The park is big enough, with an extensive enough network of trails that you can comfortably spend a day there.
The park is cut down the middle by the main trail (the Beacon Lane trail) towards the picnic and swimming area. Either side of the park has great trails; you can either take the coastal trails all around the park (it is a long hike, but you can stop halfway, when you meet the main trail), or explore some of the interior trails.
Some of the more interesting hikes include the Valley of the Giants trail and the Shore Pine trail. Check out the trail map before heading out. If you’re indecisive due to the number of choices, try going down the Beacon Lane trail (main path heading to the lighthouse), then cut across and head back along the Seven Sisters trail.
This path takes you by some of the oldest trees in the park and gives you a view of the lighthouse. It should take about 1-1.5 hours. For a longer hike, just veer off on any of the side trails – they are all worth a look.
The major picnicking area is straight down the main path from the parking lot. At the waterfront, in the shadow of the lighthouse, is the most popular area of the park. Sitting on the rocks, admiring the ocean (and Vancouver itself, if you please), you can enjoy one of the best setting to enjoy your lunch in the city – and you don’t have to pay for the privilege.
Getting To Lighthouse Park
If you are looking across English Bay from Vancouver, you can see Lighthouse Park – it is the farthest part of West Vancouver that you can see, right where English Bay and Howe Sound meet. If you look carefully, you can see the Lighthouse.
Find the park on land is, however, much tougher. It is off Marine Drive, and there is only a small sign for your turn off – it is then through a narrow residential road to the parking lot – take a look here to get directions. During the summer, finding parking is almost impossible; so arrive early, or think about taking the bus.