There are too many out of amazing hiking areas on Vancouver’s North Shore to list, but here is a (completely subjective) list of three of the best. If your favourite spot isn’t listed, or I’ve missed something important about one of these three spots, let us know on the comments section below.
Capilano River Regional Park (Cleveland Dam)
The Capilano River Regional Park is a beautiful section of forest straddling the Capilano River. It extends North to Capilano Lake (an off-limits drinking water reservoir) and south to Marine Drive. You can walk the entire way, and you end up around Park Royal shopping Centre (if you start from the top, at the Lake).
There are numerous trails, and a huge number of options for a short day of hiking. There is an online map, and the trails are well signed, with small maps at many intersections, so you can never really get lost.
Unless you are hiking all the way into town, most hikes can be completed in about an hour. However, there are so many interlinking paths that you can always extend them by taking different turns. For a suggested hike, check out this one at Trail Peak.
The most interesting sections are at the north end, near the Cleveland Dam, where you can see the river from above (from the dam) and at river level (at the Second Canyon viewpoint). Make sure you take the Giant Fir trail and take a look at ‘Grandpa Capilano,’ an enormous old-growth fir.
Another must see is the Salmon Hatchery. From July to November (and especially in October), you can see Salmon jumping up fish ladders that simulate their traditional migration upstream. It is especially interesting after a rainfall, as the fish get an instinctive boost to jump more when the water is higher.
Even if you miss this season, the hatchery provides information on the role of Salmon Hatcheries and the history of Salmon on the Capilano River.
The best thing about Capilano River Regional Park, however, is the forest that you will be walking through. It is almost entirely made up of native species of plants, with a great diversity of trees and an enormous number of ferns lining the paths. In the summer there are berries to pick, and there are always birds and squirrels to be found.
Lighthouse Park is situated on the southwest most corner of West Vancouver, right at the intersection between English Bay and Howe Sound. Getting there can be a bit tricky (it is off Marine Drive, then through a residential area), so take a look here to get directions. The park is extremely popular on a nice day, and there isn’t much parking, so think about getting their early or taking the bus, to avoid the frustration of looking for a parking spot.
There are far too many paths and too many parts of Lighthouse Park to even try to discover in one way. The official map can be found here. Unless you are up for a very long hike, your best bet is probably to split up the park in half, and do either the eastern or western half, which gives you a chance to explore some side trails, rather than just going along the shortest distance path.
Vancouver trails has a route plan for a possible route along the eastern part of the park here, but don’t feel constrained to what they have recommended. Much of the fun of hiking Lighthouse Park is that there are so many trails going in so many directions that you can find your own way.
About the only trail that is busy is the main one down the middle of the park. Aside from that, you’re unlikely to see more than a couple of groups of people on any one trail, so you’ll never feel as if you’re overcrowded.
Lighthouse Park is all about the ocean meeting the forest. You’ll come across numerous spots where the path deviates off to a little nook where you get a private (or mostly private) spot on the rocks, right on the ocean. The views of the city and further out to the Strait of Georgia are amazing.
The diversity of trails is another major draw to Lighthouse Park. All the major trails have minor offshoots that either link to different trails, or lead to ocean views or just give you another option to get where you’re going. It would take dozens of visits to get used to the entire park.
The most significant point about Lighthouse Park, though, is the fact that it is a legitimate old growth forest. It is one of the few parts of south west British Columbia that hasn’t ever been logged. As such, you can see massive trees – some as much as 8.5 meters around, and over 500 years old. Seeing an old growth forest is a must – and there isn’t one as accessible in British Columbia as Lighthouse Park.
Lynn Canyon Park is undeniably a treasure of Vancouver. From walking over the suspension bridge (free, unlike the touristy Capilano Suspension Bridge), to swimming in the Lynn Canyon river to relaxing by Rice Lake, this park has an activity for everyone. And yes, there is tons of hiking.
The park is on the edge of North Vancouver. http://lynncanyon.ca/ has lots of information about the park.
The trails of Lynn Canyon are even more numerous than Lighthouse Park. The Lynn Valley Ecology puts out a decent map (much better, in fact than the one at lynncanyon.ca), but it still doesn’t encompass all the trails that are available.
Perhaps the most well-known section of trail is the Lynn Valley portion of the Baden-Baden trail…. But that’s really another story for another day. If you’re looking for a short hike, heading north once over the suspension bridge, to the 30 foot pools and over the pipeline bridge is very nice. The way back on the west side of the canyon is, unfortunately, partly on the road, but other than that, it is a very good trail.
Other good options are the Lynn Loop and heading to nearby Rice Lake. Once thing to note about hiking around Lynn Canyon is that the trails are not as well marked as other North Shore areas, so you need to have a somewhat of an idea of where you are going. However, you are likely to run into people, and fellow hikers are always happy to help out someone who is lost!
Where to start? Logically, the place to start would be the suspension bridge. At 50 meters high, it’s hard to say what takes your breath away more – the view, or the fear that the bridge is about to fall! Don’t worry, the swaying is normal. The one problem with the bridge is that it is crowded during the summer, and people often want to have the bridge to themselves, as they feel worried that it can’t handle too many people. As long as your patient, it’ll be well worth the wait.
The river itself is another draw. The view from the suspension bridge, or other parts of the trails, is one thing, but you can also lounge beside the river or even go swimming (it’s glacier fed though, so it’s cold all year round). A popular swimming spot is the 30 foot pool. You can also check out Twin Falls, to see the river rushing by.
The biggest draw is, of course, the trails that link all these features. The paths are well maintained and feature long and short trails for all hiking abilities. If you’re looking for a short walk to find a place for a picnic or a long strenuous hike, Lynn Canyon will have something for you.
What Have I Missed?
What parts of these three areas have I left out? What other areas are your favourites to go hiking? Leave your comments below!