Walking on air, almost: Taking on the Capilano Suspension Bridge

Dec 19 2017, 1:40 pm

Photos: R. Jones

On my current quest to take on city adventures, I knew there would be obstacles. And while walking on hanging suspension bridges maybe a breeze for some, this week’s obstacle for me is overcoming my fear of heights.

It was an overcast Saturday morning when I headed to North Vancouver to experience the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park and the new CLIFFWALK. Being fairly new to Vancouver, I had never been to the park and the thought of the heights had kept me at bay… Not anymore.

Built in 1889, the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park is the oldest visitor attraction in Vancouver. The park has since expanded, adding new adventures for visitors.

“We are more than just a bridge. Guests can also enjoy Treetops Adventure and our newest attraction CLIFFWALK. Most visitors spend 2.5 to 3 hours in the park,” said Capilano Suspension Bridge’s communications manager Stacy Chala.

Upon my arrival, I wanted to get over the scariest part of my visit: the CLIFFWALK. At its height point, the walk is 300 feet above the Capilano River- meaning it is higher than the suspension bridge. Yikes.

“CLIFFWALK is the newest, and scariest, adventure at Capilano Suspension Bridge, launched on June 3, 2011,” said Chala. “After rappelling down the east face of Capilano Canyon into jungle-like ferns and mosses, John Stibbard, Capilano Suspension Bridge’s Vice President of Operations (and the owner’s son), conceived his plan to give guests a new super thrilling ecological experience. His plan took 4 years from conception to reality.”

And there I was. The afraid-of-heights-city-girl on my thrilling ecological experience.

I felt my heart racing as I grabbed on the handrails tightly and began my journey across the CLIFFWALK. The narrow walkway is only 20 inches wide (yikes!), and although it was not the suspension bridge, I did feel it wiggle lightly once in a while. The walk includes landings and platforms that allow visitors to see previously unexplored areas in the park.

The most terrifying part for me was the glass floor sections, where I could barely stand for an entire minute. My knees felt weak as I looked beyond my beautiful Sanuks to see the canyon below.

At one point, two kids ran by me on the walk, and I thought, “hey if they can do it…”. But, I kept on grabbing the handrails until my last step on the CLIFFWALK.

The park has a beautiful layout that is easy to follow and educational. Along the walk from one adventure to the next, educational signage along the way shares environmental information provided by the David Suzuki Foundation.

“Fog is one reason the trees in our forest have grown so tall,” read one of the signs. “Trees can absorb up to 40 percent of their water directly from the fog and mist, and move the water from their roots all the way to their top.”

I did not know that!

My knees got that weak feeling again when I first laid eyes on what seemed like a very long suspension bridge. But, I thought, if CLIFFWALK was higher, this should be a walk in the park. Literally.

Stepping foot on the Capilano Suspension Bridge, I automatically, without any thought, grabbed on the handrails. Crossing the bridge was took longer than I expected, as I stopped in the middle (yikes!) to admire the views of the canyon and the rainforest surrounding the bridge. I gained encouragement as I watched people of all ages cross the bridge with big smiles planted on their faces. I planted one on my face, let go of the railing for a moment, but didn’t make it too far from the halfway point. So I grabbed the railing again, and sped through the rest of the bridge to reach the other side. I looked back at the bridge behind me to think of my accomplishment when I realized, I have to cross it again to get back across. Yikes.

I kept my feet on the ground for a little while and explored the Treetops Adventure, which offers a “squirrel’s eye view” of the coastal forest. A series of smaller elevated suspension bridges, some reaching 100 feet above the forest floor, connects Douglas-fir trees to others… I series of bridges I throughly enjoyed and walked through without any fear!

I noticed staff members answering guests questions all around the park. Chala said the park employs roughly 225 employees in the summer months, many of whom are young people experiencing their first summer jobs.

Walking back across the bridge, I felt comfortable enough to pose for a few photos. The mix of the stunning views, the sounds of the canyon, combined with the thrill of being on a hanging walkway, I can see why the Capilano Suspension Bridge is a huge hit with the tourists.

“Come and be a tourist in your own town,” Chala said. “Residents of British Columbia can get a membership pass for the same price as a one-day admissions pass.”

Things I learned at the park: I am still afraid of heights, trying to tweet while on a suspension bridge is not a great idea, children love to run on bridges, eagles are massive, and there are definitely places to escape the rush of the city here in Vancouver.

As the afternoon rolled in, the sun peaked through the clouds and I made my way back to the city. After an early morning walk on the edge, I knew exactly what my preferred drink of choice would be: coffee.

Have an adVANture you think I should try? Let me know! @MissAdVANture or [email protected]

DH Vancouver StaffDH Vancouver Staff

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