It’s no doubt that every tourist in Vancouver hears about the Capilano Suspension Bridge across the river. Guests at the hotel I worked in would constantly ask whether it was worth it – “is it too touristy though?” were the words on their lips.
Now I’m not sure about anyone else, but when you’re visiting a new country or city there needs to be a mix of obvious tourist delights and local authentic haunts. Travellers are getting bored of crowded sights and are seeking more “off the beaten track” destinations.
In my first month at work, guests at the hotel would tell me that they took a trip to Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge instead of Capilano. I’d heard of Capilano from the tourist information centre and various guides to Vancouver, but Lynn Canyon was a mystery to me. I was intrigued. Could it really be as good as the famous Capilano that prided itself in being one of Vancouver’s original tourist attractions?
Leo and I visited Capilano Suspension Bridge Park within two weeks of being in Vancouver; last month we finally got to Lynn Canyon Park.
Capilano Suspension Bridge hangs over the Capilano River and stretches 137m across and 70m above. This is quite a feat. You don’t quite understand how long it is until you are standing on the bridge, realizing how far you still have to go. There is a constant dilemma between loving the experience of walking across a bridge that is “suspended” in the air, and being scared that you might drop something into the river below or lose a hat as you battle the swarms of people migrating across.
The bridge does have a lovely backdrop but it’s not particularly dramatic. The river seems reasonably calm down below whilst there is a degree of peacefulness to the trees as they continue in all directions. Admist all this wonderful nature, I could not help but look around and feel disgusted at the family next to me, taking a selfie with their selfie stick every two metres.
The bridge is not the only attraction at Capilano – they have developed the area to include a Cliff Walk and a Treetops Adventure. These secondary attractions are less populated than the bridge and offer a quieter experience. The treetops adventure is especially attractive for children due to its ‘explorer’ (there is a kids’ rainforest explorer program) feel as well as it basically resembling mini-treehouse structures. Any kid would love it. It is a canopy walk that claims to offer a ‘squirrel’s view’ of the forest, with seven mini-suspension bridges. You travel from one Douglas fir to another and can really engage with the rainforest flora and fauna. This is particularly pretty when the afternoon turns to evening and the fairy lights are turned on.
Whilst the Treetops Adventure takes you on a deeper journey into the trees, the Cliff Walk draws you out into the canyon. These narrow walkways protrude out of the cliffside and leave you suspended over the beautiful scenery. This experience is described as ‘not for the faint-hearted’ since there are points of the walk where you are standing on clear glass. This glass is the only material separating you from the drop below!
Other highlights include optional guided tours, historical placards, and cute log-style cabins that serve snacks and coffee. You can spend a good few hours here. It is as a pleasant day out for all ages.
On the other end of the spectrum, you have Lynn Canyon Park & Suspension Bridge – more of a locals favourite. The suspension bridge here is only a small part of the attraction, rather than the main feature. It is much smaller than the one at Capilano yet still hangs 50m over the forest and river below. The view from the bridge feature waterfalls, rushing waters and deep pools. It is a thrilling experience over rough terrain. I didn’t dare take my camera or phone out of my pocket on this bridge – it sways a lot and I didn’t trust my hands to be steady.
We walked across this bridge twice – once at the beginning of our hike and once nearer the end. Best to come here in the morning or when the sun’s hiding because on our second time across, when the sun had started shining, it felt like every vancouverite had decided to appear. It was too busy to enjoy the view on this second crossing.
When you venture away from the bridge, there are several trails to choose from. After crossing the bridge the first time, we took the trail down to Twin Falls Bridge. This offers another spectacular view of the pools and waterfalls below. Because Vancouver has had a lot of rain recently, these waters were gushing. People cliff jump here and I can’t think of anything that would be more dangerous! There are several signs that highlight the amount of injuries and fatalities throughout the park; it’s just so incomprehensible as to why people think that would be a good idea.
We crossed back over to the other river bank at Twin Falls Bridge and continued our walk up to the Lynn Canyon Cafe. Before we knew it, we were back at the start of the Suspension Bridge. We deliberated going back home but I persuaded Leo that there was still some hiking left in us. This is when we crossed the suspension bridge again. Instead of going east as we had previously, we went north and climbed higher, following the river as it wound up to 30 foot pool. There were some awesome photo opportunities along the way. This was a more popular spot than Twin Falls, as it becomes a swimming hole in the summer.
After we had finished gazing at this alluring “30 foot” pool, it was time to battle the stairs. This is the only way forward, unless you fancy turning back to the suspension bridge. This very large stairway leads to the pipeline bridge (an interesting juxtaposition of the urban and the natural). Next to the bridge is the exit out of the park. This is where we finished our exploring but you don’t have to! Lynn Canyon Park leads into Lynn Headwaters and Rice Lake – other areas that we have yet to see.
Our experience at Lynn Canyon was brilliant, we ended the day with muddy boots, sweaty backs and hot faces. Where Capilano offers tourists a relaxing wander, Lynn Canyon offers a rugged journey through the moss-ridden trees. Unfortunately we were too busy enjoying the scenery to get many photos!
My preference would lie with Lynn Canyon, but it really depends on what type of experience you are after. If you like donning a pair of hiking boots, being at one with nature and saving money, then Lynn Canyon would be the way forward. You can almost see everything here that you can see at Capilano. However if you aren’t a fan of stomping through the woods and getting dirty, or if you want to learn some of BC’s history then Capilano’s modern guided walks can offer you a similar, albeit more restrained, journey through this spectacular natural landscape.