I had the opportunity to visit Vancouver for the first time last year to attend the 2019 EcoCity World Summit. The conference ran from a Monday to Friday, so of course I flew out the prior Friday to spend a weekend exploring the city and surrounding areas. I quickly learned that two days is not enough time; I really needed a full week!
Since I flew in at night, I didn’t get a chance to see much from the plane, and was too tired to go exploring. I took the SkyTrain from the Vancouver International Airport and walked from a station to my hotel.
I had flown from Ontario, so waking up early was not a problem. After a quick breakfast in the hotel cafe, I set off to see Stanley Park. One of the things that struck me was just how walkable Vancouver can be: trails are divided for cyclists and pedestrians and the sidewalks are extra wide along streets. There is ample tree coverage along boardwalks.
I hadn’t even made it to the park yet, and I was already impressed. I decided to walk the Sea Wall on my first morning, and leave the interior until the next day, once I’d had a chance to study a map closely. I started on the western end of the trail, passing under the Burrard Street Bridge.
From there was a view of the opposing shore and the Vancouver Maritime Museum.
The weather was overcast and misty to start the day, so adding texture to photos was a challenge. I tried to focus on unique views and focal points rather than basic horizon landscapes.
The sea wall curves around the shore, with divided bike and walking trails, bordering Stanley Park. Most trail users obeyed the rules of the trail, and there was lots of space to step aside to take a few shots. As it was early October, only some of the trees had started to change, rather than the cacophony of colours that was starting in Ontario.
Some areas of the trail edge sheer rock cliffs, leaving no way off of the trail for long stretches. Many of the cliffs are single smooth boulders, rather than jagged piles of rock, showing the slow eroding nature of the elements.
The Lion’s Gate Bridge stretches to North Vancouver as charter planes pass over it, into and out of Vancouver Harbour. I like this perspective of the bridge as it underlines the engineering feats necessary to connect the two areas of the city.
The Brockton Point Lighthouse overlooks North Vancouver and is the most eastern point of the Sea Wall.
As I came around the point, I was greeted with a view of Deadman’s Island and Coal Harbour. The sky was starting to clear, allowing for a bit more colour and texture.
Having finished my walk around Stanley Park, I caught the Sea Bus and headed over to North Vancouver. The public transit system in Vancouver is fantastic and reasonably priced: at the time of posting, it was $10.50 for a one-day, all access pass. Once on the north shore, I caught a bus and made my way up to the Capilano Suspension Bridge.
The bridge is 140 metres long and is suspended 70 metres above the river. Full length cables, as thick as my forearm, provide the only means of support for millions of visitors every year. On this particular day, the nice weather had brought a lot of people out and the bridge was at capacity, so staff were controlling the number of people crossing.
Regular announcements over loudspeakers reminded visitors not to swing or jump on the bridge. The bridge didn’t sway that much, but there was some considerable up and down movement due to the large number of people on it at that time. The narrow gorge is lined with tall cedar and spruce trees.
Once across the bridge, the “tree top” trekking bridges gave me a unique perspective of the forest, with trees that are several centuries old. The bridges are approximately 50 feet in the air, with some higher than others, but far from the tops of the trees.
Back across the suspension bridge there is a trail along the rock wall of the gorge. The unimpeded view of the gorge was a nice change, but the narrow bridge and number of people behind me made stopping for a photo challenging.
One section of this trail is not for the faint of heart. The trail curves away from the rock face by more than 30 feet and is held in place by several guyed wires from a single point in the rock wall. I’m not scared of heights, but this made me a little nervous.
After a quick lunch at the Bridge House Cafe, I caught the bus and rode it to the end of the line, Grouse Mountain. From here, I took the SkyRide gondola for a short, but steep climb. Unfortunately, the clouds had just started to roll in, obscuring the view of North and West Vancouver.
The Grouse Mountain Wildlife Refuge is home to two grizzly bears that can be viewed from a distance. Coola and Grinder were both orphaned and found wandering on logging roads in British Columbia. Grinder was the least shy and was happy to sit around for a few photos, while Coola was more interested in a snack in the grass.
A short hike led me to the top of ski trails and the tree-top zip line starting point. While I would have enjoyed the trip, the fog had settled in and the view would have been very limited, so I returned to my hotel.
This rounded out my first day in Vancouver. I squeezed a lot into a short time and would have enjoyed a bit more time to explore the local mountain range. I hope to one day go back and visit these three sites again.