Capilano Suspension Bridge is located in a vast park in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Technically, it is located on the north shore, in the city of North Vancouver, across the Burrard Inlet from the City of Vancouver. The suspension bridge crosses the expanse of the Capilano River and canyon, and can be a bit frightening to cross. It does offer some amazing views that you can photograph or videotape.
But this site isn’t just all about the suspension bridge. The bridge is also just one of the attractions that is within the park and that is included in your ticket price.
There is a lot to see and do at the Capilano Suspension Bridge. It is considered BC’s top tourist destination.
The Impressive Suspension Bridge
The word “Capilano” has been derived from a First Nation name, “Kia’palano”, which was not only the name of a Squamish chief, but also meant “beautiful river”. The chief lived in the region during the early part of the 1800s. The name was eventually shortened to “Capilano”, which includes the name of the river and surrounding regions.
In 1888, George Grant Mackay bought up 6000 acres of forest lands on either side of the Capilano River. He was a Scottish civil engineer and land developer. His first project was a cabin right near the canyon wall edge. He wanted a way to cross the canyon easily, so he built a footbridge made of hemp rope and cedar planks. His friends enjoyed visiting his cabin and crossing his bridge. After his death, the bridge was removed and replaced by a wire cable bridge in 1903.
Edward Mahon bought the bridge and surrounding properties in 1910. He hired his wife’s mother, Elizabeth, to manage the bridge property. He reinforced the bridge with additional cables in 1914. Elizabeth grew lonely despite her property duties, and eventually married a man, Mac MacEachran, who had a flare for promotion. He called the bridge, “The Eighth Wonder of the World”. The bridge didn’t bring in a whole lot of income, so Mac had to take other jobs.
Elizabeth passed away in 1934, so Mac purchased the bridge from Mahon in 1935. He invited the First Nations to install totem poles in the park. In 1945, the park passed to Henri Abueneau.
In 1953, Rae Mitchell purchased the lands. He tore the bridge down and rebuilt it, reinforcing the cables in 13 tons of concrete at each end. He also carved out some trails for the enjoyment of guests. The Trading Post Gift Store was established.
Nancy Stibbard, Rae Mitchell’s daughter, used to sell ice cream in the park as a child. In 1983, Nancy Stibbard purchased the bridge from her father. Her goal was to turn the park into a full-blown tourist attraction. She also owns many other resorts around BC. Her goal has been to advance tourism in BC.
Explore the Park
There is plenty to see and do in the park. It’s recommended that you allot about three hours to your time here, longer if you wish to have a picnic. You gain entry through the main entrance where you purchase your ticket. This gives you entry to all of the attractions.
You only have to walk a few feet to see the river. The Capilano Suspension Bridge crosses the river, with many lush green evergreens and cedar tress on each side. The air is a touch humid, and smells like rainforest air.
After you have fun crossing the bridge, there is also the Treetops Adventure, and the Cliffwalk. You can also visit the Capilano River and Dam which is a few miles up the road. Entry to here is free, where the city’s water reservoir is located. There is also the Story Centre, Kia’Palano, Guidded Trous, and walking and hiking at your own pace.
The Cliffwalk is up in the air and above the cliffs. You walk along a series of fenced-in platforms, from tree to tree. This is an adventure for people who aren’t afraid of heights. This new activity opened in 2011 and shows you previously unexplored parts of the park. Not only is it high in the air, it’s also quite narrow. Some sections even have glass floors so you can see the canyon far below.
The Treetops Adventure is similar to the Cliffwalk, but it’s in the forest, not the cliffs. Each tree has a platform wrapped around it, that connects you to the next tree by a long walkway. There are seven different suspension bridges here. Some of these platforms are over 33.5 metres in the air.
The platforms and viewing platforms are not permanently attached to the trees, so no trees were harmed here. They can be moved. This is how it differs from any other canopy walk in the world.
Yesteryears adventurers used to be called “Capilano Tramps”, because they’d tramp over to the bridge. The Story Centre will tell you the history of this region. There are also photomurals, and real artifacts and antiques from the past. If you have any questions, this is where you can have them answered.
Totem poles have been a part of the history of Capilano Suspension Bridge and Park dating back to the 19th century. Today, there are many totem poles on site that tell the history of the region. Here you can even learn how they are built.
Guided History and Nature Tours
The guided history and nature tours are included within the price of your ticket. These tours run on the hour. The hosts give you insight into the colourful past of the region, including the past owners, and the First Nations. You’ll get a highly interactive introduction to the ecology of the West Coast rainforest, and learn about the flora and fauna found here.
Capilano River and Dam
A few miles up the street from the Capilano Suspension Bridge Visitor Centre is the Capilano River and Dam. Here you can see the dam as it generates power for the region, and the water reservoir that holds the tanks for the city’s water system. It’s free to walk over the bridge, but the “no littering” policy is strictly enforced. There is a parking lot nearby.
Canyon Lights is a winter festival that happens from November to January of each year. The Capilano park is lit up with hundreds of thousands of lights and visual enchantment. You’ll also get to see the world’s tallest Christmas tree at over 153 feet tall! Other sites to see include the Snowy Owl Prowl and the Winter Pavilion. You can decorate your own gingerbread cookies and make your own Christmas cards. There is a band that offers entertainment.
Staying Safe in the Park
Since this is a natural park, not manmade, you’ll need to be aware of the rules to stay safe. Never jump up and down on the bridges or walkways. If you drop an item, don’t try to climb down for it. Notify staff who will retrieve it for you. Always stay on the allotted paths. Let friends or family know before you wander off. It’s helpful to carry your phone with you in case you fall and need help.
Sorry, the park is not handicap-enabled, so people must leave behind wheelchairs, crutches, or walkers. Strollers are not allowed either. Note: You can visit the Capilano River and Dam which is paved and flat.
There is absolutely no smoking in the park at any time. Smaller children must be carried or have their hand held at all times.
Book Your Adventure Now
If you haven’t visited Capilano Suspension bridge for a while, there is a lot that has changed. It’s no longer simply a park and a viewing platform, but it involves a wide range of fun experiences for the entire family. Be sure to allot plenty of time in your day so you don’t miss out on anything.
There is the Loggers Restaurant, the Bridge House Cafe, the Capilano Coffee Company, and Hikers’ Hot Chocolate and Treats on site, in case you get hungry or thirsty.
You can shop the Trading Post, where you can buy clothing, outerwear, jewellery, and Canadian-style gifts for everyone. Note that if you change your mind about something, you can email them and they’ll ship the items to anywhere in the world.
An adult ticket is $42.95 and $14.95 for a child. The tickets are good for one year, and also include the Canyon Lights yearly seasonal event.
If you’re visiting the Vancouver region, make your plans to visit Capilano Suspension Bridge and Park first, before you go anywhere else. It should take you about three hours, but you can spend an entire day here if you wish. You can also come back the next day, as the tickets are good for one full year.
Come and explore what Vancouver has to offer, and have fun with your once-in-a-lifetime Capilano Suspension Bridge experience!