The Capilano Suspension Bridge is not for the timid.
On a recent solo visit to Vancouver, a feat of courage in itself, I hesitated, afraid to look down, as I stood 230 feet above the Capilano River on a narrow ribbon of planks held together by thin, mesh fencing.
In front of me, a woman clung to the rope rails, her knuckles white with fear. She looked ahead to where her husband strode forward, and glanced behind as if to ask if she could turn back now.
I tried to slow down to lessen the impact of my steps on 450 feet of wobbling planks, but there was no way to avoid the unsettling sway of the bridge. And I could only imagine how frightening this must have been in the late 1800s, when ladies in full skirts made this crossing on the original hemp rope bridge.
By the time I reached her, she had conquered her fears, at least enough to cross that bridge, but I wondered if she would brave Capilano’s latest addition – the Cliffwalk.
One of Vancouver’s most popular tourist destinations, the Capilano Suspension Bridge is located in a temperate rainforest, home to ancient Douglas firs and crystal clear waters. It’s well worth the (free!) short shuttle ride from downtown Vancouver if only to breathe in the clean, crisp air.
And while the natural beauty and fresh air are sufficient reason for a visit, the attraction features a number of things to do including local history exhibits, guided nature walks, native craft displays, and during the summer, a chance to meet birds of prey.
Before crossing the bridge, I passed through Totem Park where plaques tell the stories of the First Nations people that are powerfully captured on the poles. Better than the plaques, by far, was to hear the stories as told by Clarence, of the Haida people, who also shared local lore and answered our questions.
On the other side of the river, a Treetops Adventure beckoned. These treehouses are particularly impressive as the platforms hug massive trees – the Big One being a Douglas Fir with a 14 foot circumference that stands over 250 feet high. Connecting these treehouses is a series of elevated suspension bridges, some reaching as high as 100 feet above the forest floor.
Returning over the Capilano Suspension Bridge, I gathered my courage for a final test of bravery on the recently opened engineering marvel. Cliffwalk (pictured above) is a 20-inch wide, cantilevered traverse set 300 feet above ground level on a sheer vertical rock wall. And for the truly daring, there are glass-bottom vantage points that give you a bird’s eye view of snow-capped peaks, majestic trees, and endless sky.
As I headed to the gift shop, I spied that same woman who had seemed so afraid earlier on the Capilano Bridge. She was exiting the Cliffwalk, relief evident in her shoulders, but with a smile on her face. I like to think that she came to the same realization as I did.
It’s an incomparable view that is worth conquering any fear of heights.
Plan a Visit to Capilano Suspension Bridge
Open year-round, except Christmas Day; visitors can reach this attraction via free shuttle service from multiple points in Vancouver. For hours, rates, and shuttle locations, see www.capbridge.com.
Thank you to Tourism Vancouver for providing a Media Experience Pass granting free admission to a number of area attractions!
Sandra Foyt conquers her fear of heights and other dangerous pursuits in AlbanyKid.com. Based in Northeast New York, she is accompanied on family adventures across the US and Caribbean by a teen, tween, outdoorsy husband, and a well-indulged Chocolate Lab.