Capilano Suspension Bridge Park is what it says on the tin: a park built around the famous suspension bridge. And it recently got an addition to its set-up: the Capilano Cliffwalk.
Capilano Suspension Bridge sits just outside of Vancouver. The suspension bridge, which is one of Vancouver’s most famous and most visited attractions, has been around for a while: since 1889. Back then, George Grant Mackay constructed a footbridge, made of hemp rope and planks, to span the canyon and connect the two patches of the forest he had bought on either side of the Capilano River. Quite a feat at that time!
In 1904 the hemp was replaced by wire cables, and the bridge changed owners a few times over the decades, as did the cabin erected right at the edge off the cliff. One of the owners invited First Nations people to place totem poles in the park, and thanks to them the park now hosts one of the largest private collection of First Nations totem poles.
The Capilano Suspension Bridge Park consists of a few elements. Obviously, the bridge itself, but before you even get to it, you walk through the Story Center. Plenty of interpretive displays tell the history of the bridge and the story of the people who owned the land and the bridge and the involvement of the First Nations people. You can opt to take a tour with a guide who, dressed in a period costume, entertains your group with the story of the famous bridge and the people connected to it.
Capilano Suspension Bridge
And then, on to the bridge itself. Try walking straight and completely upright across the total 136 metres of wobbliness that is Capilano Suspension Bridge, and don’t forget to stop once in a while and enjoy the view of the canyon 70 metres below you. With the bridge being such a popular destination, it is likely you will be crossing it with a few others. There is quite a bit of movement up and down, which is especially noticeable if you don’t walk in the middle but on the sides and hold on to the steel cable.
A note for the nervous: there is a little security stand on either side of the bridge, where staff monitor what’s happening on the bridge, plus, the railing is really high, so there’s really nothing to worry about.
On the other side of the bridge awaits the park, with a lot more attractions than most people are aware of. The park features rainforest, beautifully landscaped gardens, ponds, nature trails, wildlife and Treetops Adventure.
Treetops Adventure is basically a boardwalk leading from tree to tree in up to 30m height. It’s an exhilarating and calm experience at the same time, venturing up and out among those old, tall Douglas firs and walking from platform to platform, admiring the sea of green beneath and above you.
Licking a banana slug…, and other creatures of the Pacific Northwest.
Say what?! Back on the ground, it is time to get to know some of the local forest inhabitants, such as the banana slug. Our tour guide kindly picked one up for us and held it out for everyone to admire. Little did we know that she had more in mind with that innocent little creature. Apparently, it is a rite of passage for kids in British Columbia to pick one up and lick it. Why? Because your tongue goes numb! Unfortunately, we didn’t have any takers in our group…
While the banana slug didn’t make any new friends that day, this little guy did for sure. Everyone was really taken with him. I have no idea what his keeper said, that’s how mesmerised I was. He was just so beautiful!
The end of our tour led us to another highlight of the park, which was only added in 2012 – the Capilano Cliffwalk. The cliff walk is built on the side of the cliffs over the Capilano River. A series of platforms, connected by cantilevered walkways, bridges and stairs, leads around the granite precipice. It can definitely get your heart pumping, walking along the narrow walkways and standing on the glass platforms, looking straight past your feet down to the bottom of the canyon!
I had a great few hours at the park, visiting the various attractions. And it has to be said, the gift shop at the entrance/exit is a great place to pick up a useful and stylish souvenir, among which there are many handcrafted items and First Nations art.
Would you do the Cliffwalk? Or rather lick the banana slug?
Disclosure: I visited Capilano Suspension Bridge Park as part of my #WhyYVR competition win. However, all opinions are my own. A big thank you to the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park and Tourism Vancouver for their fantastic hospitality.