Adventuring at Capilano Suspension Bridge Park
If you've ever looked up things to do in Vancouver, the Capilano Suspension Bridge was probably near the top of any recommendations. Instagram is filled with dreamy, captivating pictures of this famous suspension bridge and the surrounding area. What you might not know, though, is how to navigate not just the bridge but the park and other fantastic activities that surround it.
The price of admission just to cross a bridge might seem a little steep to some - $40 CAD for adults - there's a lot more included in the ticket than just a rickety wooden bridge. These days there's actually a whole little 'adventure' park on the other side of the bridge that makes it easy to spend quite a long time exploring the beautiful rain forest that makes up the terrain.
The first thing you have to do when visiting Capilano is learn the origins of the name. Through the artifacts and displays of the opening exhibit called Kia'Palano, you learn about the tradition from Canada's First Nations about placing totem poles on the land. The totem poles are pretty cool, and definitely provide for some great photo opportunities.
The actual bridge crossing is not too bad, but I also ended up being a lot more nervous than I thought I would be, despite the fact that it was pretty clear that it was stable and safe. It's long, which might have had something to do with it, and you can definitely feel it moving underneath you. When I went with my mom, she wasn't sure her fear of heights would let her cross, but she did great and even made me take a picture to prove she did it.
Once you're on the other side of the bridge, there's a lot more fun and exploration to be had. Capilano Suspension Bridge Park also offer the following activities(included with your ticket):
- Treetops Adventure
- Story Center
- Guided History and Nature Tours
- The Living Forest
....as well as activities for kids and their Holiday lights celebration called "Canyon Lights" - something I'd love to see one day!
I ended up doing the Treetops Adventure, Cliffwalk and exploring The Living Forest. As a nature and outdoor lover, all three were well suited to my taste, and I was even surprised not to feel queasy while doing the Cliffwalk!
In my opinion, the Treetops Adventure is great for everyone. Unlike the suspension bridge, the walkways and platforms are completely secure and sturdy. What's even better is that the unique system used to anchor the platforms and walkways causes zero damage to any of the gorgeous, ancient trees - so it's essentially a win-win. It's also not terribly high off the ground, so even if heights make your knees wobble, there's a pretty good chance you'll be just fine!
So...apparently I'm a failure and seem to have lost all photos from the Cliffwalk. Which is a realy shame because it was probably my favorite thing we did the whole day. They make it sound scary, but it's probably one of the least scary things I've done. I decided I was going to do it for the great photos, which is now really ironic since I can't find them.
However, walking the pathways and reading the information plaques from The Living Forest was a great way to end my time at the park. I loved learning about the history of the area and how the ecosystem in the rain forest works. It's peaceful, beautiful and a bit awe-inspiring.
Tips and Tricks
If you're planning on visiting CSBP, here's a few things I learned from my own experience (at the height of summer tourism) and from talking to a few of the employees:
- The earlier, the better.
The park is least busy first thing in the morning before lunch and the biggest wave of tourists come. It opens at 9, so if you're there right on time you shouldn't have any problem with wait times.
- Parking might seem like an issue, but don't worry.
I drove there on my visit only to find that the main parking lot was already totally full. The park has figured out that this happens a lot, though, and has provided not just a few overflow lots (that they'll give you a map and directions to), but also a quick and timely shuttle that will take you from the overflow lots right to the front entrance. And you don't have to pay any extra!
If you're going with a tour group, you'll most likely have your own shuttle so you don't have to worry about parking.
If you're visiting Vancouver without a car, there are buses that go to Capilano and have a stop right by the park!
- Take. Your. Time.
Planning on getting everything done as quickly as possible is sure to put a damper on your experience of this beautiful area. There's so much to see and take in, and rushing through it is not the way to go. Plan for a few hours to try and see everything the park has to offer! There are places to get drinks and treats, so no need to worry about having enough energy.
- Bring the right stuff
Along with taking your time, making sure that you're wearing the right stuff is a smart idea. Although there aren't any strenuous hikes or tons of bugs, make sure you're wearing comfortable shoes that have a good grip. Closed toe is also the best option if you don't want to get dirt, gravel, or wood chips in between your toes.
It also helps to have a backpack or secure bag to keep your camera, water bottle, sunglasses or whatever else you need. You don't want anything accidentally slipping or falling out. A simple day pack, like this one I use from Cotopaxi, is perfect.
Capilano might seem like one big tourist trap, but I don't believe that any popular place should be avoided just because a lot of people like it. There's usually a reason why these places are popular, and Capilano is a beautiful place with a rich history that deserves all the attention it gets. Hopefully you can enjoy it someday if you haven't already!