Vancouver’s North Shore Canyons
One of the best ways to explore the North Shore wilderness without going far is to explore its four fantastic canyons, Cypress, Capilano, Lynn and Seymour. They will reward your efforts with beauty, serenity and spectacular views. Two of the canyons, Capilano and Lynn, have suspension bridges. Cypress Canyon, one of the hidden treasures of the North Shore, has a beautiful old wooden bridge. The canyons are listed in order from west to east.
Cypress Canyon is the narrowest and least developed of the North Shore canyons. Because it hasn’t been developed, it is, for some, the most enjoyable. You’ll find solitude and a peaceful sense of wilderness in Cypress Canyon that will make it hard to believe that you’re so close to a city.
To reach Cypress Canyon, take Highway 1 west to the Caulfeild exit. Once you exit the highway, turn right at the stop sign and follow the road as it curves up and to the left and into a neighborhood. You’ll be on Woodgreen Drive.
At Woodgreen Place, three short blocks along Woodgreen Drive, turn right and drive to the end of the road. Park in the small parking lot just above the baseball diamond.
Walk east from the parking lot and into the woods. Pick up the trail and go left, away from the baseball diamond. You’ll walk parallel to Cypress Canyon but you won’t be able to see it yet. Keep walking until the trail winds down to Cypress Creek. Cypress Falls is just to the right of the bridge.
You can either cross the bridge and follow the trail up to a utility road or go up the hill just before the bridge. Stay on the west side of the creek and follow the trail that parallels the creek and gives many spectacular views of more falls and pools.
Eventually you will come out on a wide-open trail. Go right up to a utility road, turn right again, cross the bridge and follow the road past a maintenance centre and power station. Past the Maintenance yard, on your right, you’ll see another trail and a sign that says “Trail.” Take that trail back down to the creek and across the bridge. Then retrace your steps back to the parking lot.
Most visitors to Vancouver are familiar with the Capilano Suspension Bridge because it’s BC’s most popular tourist attraction. It has a breath taking (literally) 450-foot long suspension bridge, well-maintained trails, totem poles, plant, animal and history displays, snack bar, a gift shop and a native carving centre. Visitors pay a fee to visit Capilano Suspension Bridge.
The Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge, though not as long as the Capilano Suspension Bridge, is definitely thrilling, and the canyon itself is magnificent. The Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge is free.
Lynn Canyon Bridge is east of Capilano Suspension Bridge. Take the Lynn Valley exit off Highway 1 and turn right at Lynn Valley Road. Stay on Lynn Valley Road for about 2 km to Peters Street, a small street that veers off to the right. Go right onto Peters and follow it until it dead ends at the Lynn Canyon Ecology Centre and Park parking lot.
Follow the signs to the suspension bridge that crosses Lynn Canyon. Once across the canyon, there’s an extensive network of trails that provide you with a short walk or a long hike. There is a cute cafe at Lynn Canyon that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.
If you want to cross Lynn Creek but get queasy on suspension bridges, a trail a couple of hundred metres to the right of the suspension bridge leads down a flight of stairs to the Twin Falls fixed bridge. From there, you can also hike Lynn Canyon’s network of trails to explore the park and surrounding wilderness.
Seymour Canyon is easy to find. It is located at the end of Riverside Drive. To get to Riverside Drive from downtown Vancouver, go east along Highway #1 and cross the Second Narrows bridge. Take the Mt Seymour Parkway exit. Go left at the first light and right at the second light which is Mt Seymour Parkway. Go along Mt Seymour Parkway to Riverside Drive, the second stop light, and turn left onto Riverside Drive, which parallels the Seymour River. Follow the road to the end.
If you visit in summer, you won’t be able to park at the end of the road, but you might want to drive to the end so you know where you’ll be going before backtracking to find a parking place.
Just at the beginning of the trail you can go either left or right. The canyon is off to the left. The best place to see it is from the middle of the bridge that spans it.
Once you’ve seen the canyon, you might want to go back to the beginning of the trail and follow the fork that goes to the right since that takes you immediately into the woods along a very pleasant trail that parallels the river and eventually makes its way to Deep Cove. Whatever you decide to do, you can congratulate yourself on seeing all four North Shore canyons, something most Vancouverites haven’t seen.
Dogs are permitted on all of these excursions with the exception of Capilano Suspension Bridge where they aren’t allowed. Clean up after them, and make sure they are always under control since there are steep cliffs in all the canyons.
Some Hiking Tips
The wilderness around Vancouver is misleading. It is so close to the city and so accessible that hikers sometimes don’t take it as seriously as they should. Treat it with the same care and respect you would any rugged wilderness terrain. Wear comfortable clothes and shoes, have protection against the weather, let someone know where you’re going, take water and pay attention.
Rocks and wood are very slippery when wet, wood especially. So, if you’re hiking in the rain or after the rain, tread carefully around rocks and wood, including tree roots.
That being said, Vancouver is one of the most benign places to hike in the world. There are no poisonous snakes and no poison oak, ivy, sumac or other unpleasant plants. There are no noxious insects, with the exception of an occasional summer mosquito. You might occasionally see a black bear during the summer. Just give him or her plenty of room and keep your dogs under control.