Many people think that, because we’re situated on the coast, all of Southern California is beautiful. And, don’t get me wrong—a lot of it is very pretty. But don’t let the palm trees and rolling blue waves fool you. We live in a coastal desert.
The year-round sunshine and warm temperatures might be a clue. But we don’t have a range of seasons in Orange County like most places in the United States do. Tall evergreen trees don’t surround us, and very few of our leaves change colors in the fall.
For that reason alone, a November getaway to Vancouver was insanely appealing. As we packed our bags and prepared to head up the coast, we were excited for the cold temperatures, autumn colors and the sheer nature that would soon be all around.
Up in the Trees
Ask anyone in Vancouver what you should see while you’re there and they’ll likely mention the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park. Located across the Burrard Inlet in Northern Vancouver, the park allows visitors to make their way up into the trees.
There are a few different areas that make this part special but focus your attention on three in particular. Upon arrival, we started with the Cliffwalk. Wandering along the sides of granite cliffs and over the canyon floor along narrow suspended walkways and glass paths, it’s definitely a thrill. You’ll find plenty of places for photo ops as you wander the unique passageways.
Next, circle back around to the main attraction: the 129-year-old suspension bridge. As you descend the few stairs leading to the bridge and step onto the wooden planks, you’ll start to feel it sway. The movement increases the further you venture, making for a fun escapade over the canyon floor.
We were there in the fall, not long before Christmastime. White twinkle lights covered the bridge. Views in both directions showcased endless green trees, a winding river and fish swimming in the water below.
After crossing the 450-foot bridge, you’ll find yourself in a whole new part of the park. While this side offers things like the Living Forest exhibit, a pond covered in glowing Christmas light-covered orbs and a snack bar, the true highlight is the Treetops Adventure exhibit.
Wander the rainforest from above as you traverse the platforms and seven shorter suspension bridges. The trek makes for the best photos in the whole park, and offers a glimpse into the history of the trees and the main suspension bridge along the way. Old-fashioned pulleys and ropes were used to build the exhibit by hand to ensure the trees weren’t harmed in the process.
If you’re looking to escape into nature closer to downtown Vancouver, you can’t do better than a visit to Stanley Park. Between the bay and the harbor, the park is nearly surrounded by water on every side, providing some incredible views along the edges.
Wander along the waterfront from the southernmost point of the park. You’ll first pass the local rowing club before wandering next to the harbor. With towering trees reflecting onto the water on one side, and the boats and Vancouver skyline mirrored on the other, the whole walk offered impressive, calming vistas.
Rounding a bend toward the park’s famed totem poles, a group of musicians filled the air with vibrant music. The leaves here were every color, from red and orange to green and yellow. We continued along the water, eventually finding stunning views of North Vancouver’s skyline as well, along with a small lighthouse and a running path.
As beautiful as it was by the water, we knew we were just edging the outskirts of the park and decided to move inland to wrap ourselves in even more of the great outdoors.
Get Lost in the Greenery
Once we veered away from the shoreline, we were quick to get lost, but we didn’t mind. We wandered trail after trail—every path we could find—to marvel at the beautiful greenery we don’t often see at home.
From the Mallard Trail to the Brockton Oval Trail, we crisscrossed the park’s grounds, watching the black squirrels running around and listening to the woodpeckers hammering above. We found small bridges, a small rose garden and plenty of those beautifully vibrant leaves.
What stood out the most during our trek was the tranquil peace and quiet within the park. We didn’t encounter many others on the trails, and couldn’t hear anything from the outside world while in the dense trees. It completely changed the vibe, making us feel as if we were far from the city and in our own little outdoor paradise.
While it surely doesn’t compare to the trails that traverse the mountains outside of Vancouver, it’s a special place for those wanting to stay close by. With the convergence of the water scenes and the tranquil trails, groups could easily spend the entire day in Stanley Park, which covers a whopping square mile and a half of land.
Though the outdoor adventure park is across the inlet and Stanley Park is as far north as you can get before that, there is a spot downtown that serves up a little bit of the outdoors on its own.
Right next to the convention center, a walkway offers spectacular views that will make you forget you’re in the midst of a big city. This spot has everything I always imagined Vancouver to contain: silhouettes of the towering mountains covered in evergreen trees in the distance, a small but lovely skyline in their shadow and smooth blue water out in front.
On the water, a Chevron gas station helps power up local boats while seaplanes take off and land on the glassy surface. The stunning landscape scenes reveal just how outdoor-oriented the region is, and showcases everything that makes it truly beautiful—right from the middle of the city.