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Discover Vancouver's Capilano Suspension Bridge

Why Vancouver’s impressive Capilano Suspension Bridge and park remains one of Canada’s most favoured attractions. In this article, Shaney Hudson explores this iconic destination.

Ask any Vancouverite when the best time to visit Capilano Suspension Bridge Park is, and you’ll get a different answer. Some will suggest spring, when the Capilano River swells with meltwater, roaring down the canyon. Others will say summer, when the ponds fill with rainbow trout, or in autumn, when coloured leaves crunch underfoot. However, for many it’s winter that is the most enchanting time to visit. The fir trees are dusted with snow, the canyon fills with mist, and crossing the park’s 137-metre-long suspension bridge can almost feel like walking through the clouds.


Capilano Suspension Bridge Park offers a taste of the British Columbian wilderness and, for more than a century, has been one of Vancouver’s biggest attractions. The original suspension bridge was established in 1889 when a Scottish civil engineer named George Grant Mackay purchased 6,000 acres of forest by the Capilano River, built a slab hut, and constructed the bridge.
View of the Capilano Suspension Bridge amongst the trees, just outside Vancouver.
Using large cedar tree trunks buried underground as anchors, Mackay used a team of horses to swim the hemp ropes to the other side of the riverbank, finishing his bridge off with cedar planks. The idyllic spot was a hit with Mackay’s friends, who would travel by steamboat, hike up the canyon to visit their friend, and cross the remarkable bridge. Word spread among the public, and a year later, visitors started coming to experience the forest air and soaring views from the bridge, paying 10 cents admission to cross.

Present Day

A hundred-plus years later, the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park is considered a Canadian icon. Rebuilt and reinforced with steel cables, the 70-metre-high suspension bridge is the heart of a sprawling outdoor complex that embeds visitors in the middle of the temperate West Coast Rainforest. The park itself is filled with towering Douglas firs, some of which are estimated to be more than 1,500 years old, as well as red cedar and western hemlock trees. 
Restaurant on Cliffhouse Patio, Capilano Suspension Bridge Park, Canada
Along with the bridge, the park includes the Cliffwalk and Treetops Adventure attractions. The most recent addition to the park, the Cliffwalk takes visitors on a series of narrow suspended walkways that slink alongside the granite precipice of the Capilano Canyon. The highlight of the Cliffwalk is the cantilever bridge, which boomerangs out from the cliff edge, and parts of the walkway include sections made of reinforced see-through glass that are a favourite with daredevils. Luckily, those without a head for heights can opt for coffee with a view at the park’s restaurant instead.

The Treetops Adventure

The Treetops Adventure takes visitors up into the boughs of the Douglas firs through a series of seven suspension bridges criss-crossed through the forest, the highest of which is more than 30 metres from the ground. Using a unique collar system, the bridges are suspended on eight 27-tonne trees without the use of nuts and bolts, allowing the 250-year-old trees room to grow, unscathed, over the coming centuries.
View of Canyon Lights Treetops Adventure, Capilano Suspension Bridge
A series of viewing platforms around the trees connect the bridges, allowing what is often described as a squirrel’s-eye-view of the forest. And while there are plenty of squirrels in this forest, there’s also an abundance of other wildlife, from birds of prey and ponds filled with rainbow trout to the slow-moving, bright yellow banana slug.  

Wildlife and Heritage

British Columbia is home to many species of raptors and, during the warmer months, Capilano hosts a number of rehabilitated birds of prey including owls, osprey, falcon and eagles at the park as part of its education and conservation program. It’s one of a series of educational initiatives, which include hourly history and nature tours, as well as a story centre detailing the history of the bridge and an area dedicated to local First Nations people. 
Christmas lights adorning totems in Vancouver
Capilano’s name was derived from the First Nations name Kia’palano, a Squamish word that means “beautiful river”. Today, the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park contains North America’s largest collection of totem poles, including many dating back to the early 1900s, as well as poles carved onsite by First Nations artists.


And while the park is considered a great destination any time of year, come December, it’s transformed into the world’s biggest living Christmas tree for the Canyon Lights celebration, which runs from mid-November until the end of January.
Capilano Suspension Bridge over Vancouver

During this time, bridges and fir trees around the canyon are adorned with thousands of twinkling lights –a good reason to see if winter really is the most beautiful time to visit Capilano. Discover the magic of Capilano Bridge on the Twelve Days of Christmas Tour.

Images courtesy of 2018 Daniel Avram/Shutterstock and Capilano Suspension Bridge Park