The Changing Seasons at Capilano Suspension Bridge

We have had annual memberships to Capilano Suspension Bridge since Aiden was a baby. Having gone every time of year, from the crazy busy Summer season to the serene moments of Autumn, I have to say that Halloween and Christmas are my favourite times to visit. 

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Weekdays in Autumn, the Capilano Suspension Bridge highlights the peace of the season. Without the crazy bustle of large crowds, you can truly take in the breathtaking views and the changing colours of the season. It’s breathtaking. 

They have filled every nook of the park with pumpkins, scarecrows and autumn leaves. It’s a great time to come and take some photos!

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Exploring the Hatchery in North Vancouver

We have made two visits to the Capilano River Hatchery this summer, which I somehow had not made a visit to in 4 years (since Aiden was teeny weeny!). I don’t know why we never thought to go earlier! It’s a great family outing that you can easily build on in many ways – take a hike, have a picnic, go exploring! 

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From the Capilano River Hatchery, you can hike up to the Cleveland Dam, or you can make your walk shorter and just check out part of the trails close by. There are many great hikes within the Capilano River Regional Park that begin at the hatchery, which you can explore here. I recommend printing this trail map or picking up a map from the information booth outside the hatchery.

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In our visits this summer, we have been crossing the bridge and exploring the West side of the River. Our first walk led us along part of the Coho loop (which we didn’t know at the time was a loop, so we just doubled back), and our second walk we took part of the Second Canyon trail. The Coho loop takes you to some great fishing spots, so that is fun for the kids to watch, and the Second Canyon trail goes past an amazing hollow log that the kids had a blast playing inside. 

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Since our kids are young, and we had no destination in mind, some of our hikes are more like meandering walks. We find cool things to look at, Damien drums, we snack, we walk back. Lately Aiden has been putting up a fuss against hiking, so that’s made our progress slower than usual as well.

If you are looking for beautiful hikes with something ‘extra’ to do, I highly recommend a visit to the Hatchery! 

Exploring the Creepy Crawlies Outside

I’m trying really hard not to pass on my dislike of spiders to my children. As a child, I had one-too-many incidents where spiders got up close and personal with me. It’s not fun to be creeped out by the creepy crawlies of the world. I try to bottle up my aversions to spiders, and I definitely ‘deal’ with more spider issues than I used to be able to. When faced with a spider, or any other bug (which I’m ok with), I try to talk about them. Read about them. Focusing on facts helps.

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Thankfully, neither of my boys seems to have an aversion to dealing with bugs or spiders. Damien is currently fascinated with spider webs, though I pity any bug that comes his way as he really likes to squish them. Aiden this summer has discovered a fascination for finding pill bugs (woodlice). Today the boys attempted to capture a spider, but did not grab its web from the right corners and it fell into a bush. 

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To explore your own back yard, all you need is a magnifying glass or bug viewer (or heck, a jar will do). Turn over rocks, peek into trees, and see what you can find!

Maplewood Flats Walk and Bird Watching

Today we paid a visit to Maplewood Flats, which is a conservation area overseen by the Wild Bird Trust. The habitat is home to over 200 kinds of birds and a variety of other wildlife (see their checklist). The Maplewood Flats Conservation Area is in its 20th year of operations with a new Nature House (with washrooms!) soon to be completed. The Trust runs a number of guided walks and festivals, but you’re also welcome to visit anytime.

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I got my directions for the walk from Vancouver Trails, as there are no official maps or guides or even signs for the walk. I checked my phone a few times during the walk, but even then found myself a little confused about which path to take (particularly as I wanted to make it shorter than 2.5km for the kids). In the end, we had to rush the latter part of our walk to get back for an appointment later in the day. It didn’t help that I took the wrong path once either ;)

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Intermediate Hikes for Kids in Vancouver

This post comes to us from Jen Closs, a super Active Mama who recently completed a 3 day 80.5k trail run and who makes it a priority to #getoutside with her family. Building on our Hiking for Kids in North Vancouver, Jen shares some Intermediate Hikes for Kids in this post. You can see more of Jen’s adventures @jencloss or on Instagram

Hello! I’m Jen and I am mom to Jackson, 4 and Lucy, 2. We spend our days playing, hiking, conducting experiments, making art, doing the odd downward dog and taking in all that Vancouver has to offer. All thanks to coffee!

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I love being out in the mountains and so sharing and encouraging my kids to embrace an outdoor lifestyle has always been important to me. Over the years we have discovered some great hikes for little ones and we’ve branched out and gone on some really great adventures with our kids. 

If I’m taking my kids (2 and 4) without any other adults, I usually stick to trips that are only a few kilometers without much climbing. Interesting stopping points and distractions along the way make it more fun for everyone. We talk about the plants we see, the animals we might see and why our forests are so special. I always pack plenty of snacks and drinks and generally try to focus on the experience rather than the destination. We’ve also discovered geo-caching and my 4 year old LOVES it so there’s another way to add some excitement to pretty much any stretch of trail!

Here are some of our favourite local hikes. Enjoy!

Intermediate Hikes for Kids in North & West Vancouver

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  1. Yew Lake, Cypress Mountain (North Vancouver)  2.5km, 1-2hrs, 20m elevation gain. The Yew Lake Interpretive trail starts near the main lodge at the Cypress alpine base. It is a short loop on a nice gravel path with several benches and picnic tables. I love being able to bring my kids up to the sub-alpine in the summer and this loop is great. It is stroller friendly and great for kids on strider and pedal bikes. An added bonus is the chairlift at the end of the loop. It isn’t operational in the summer but there is always a chair on the platform and the kids love to sit on it!
  2. Capilano Canyon (North Vancouver) is a bit of a “choose your own adventure” location. I like to start at the fish hatchery and in the fall it’s great to watch the salmon jumping over the ladders. From the hatchery we go across the bridge over the canyon and over to the Cleveland dam lookout. This section is very short and is also stroller friendly. Capilano canyon is stunning and this is a great spot for a quick and easy nature fix. You could also start at Cleveland Dam and walk down to the fish hatchery and over to the lookout, but there are several sets of stairs so be ready!
  3. Whyte Lake (West Vancouver) – 5.8km, 2-3hrs, 240m elevation gain. The parking lot for Whyte lake is just off of exit #4 in West Vancouver. The trail starts out by going underneath the highway and climbs steeply for the first few minutes before entering the forest. It is a nice, rolling trail through typical west coast forest to Whyte Lake – a small, treed lake with a little dock perfect for snacks. 
  4. Quarry Rock (North Vancouver) – 3km, 1-2hrs, 100m elevation gain. This is a very popular hike and finding parking can sometimes be the most challenging part of a trip to Quarry Rock! Panorama park in Deep Cove, where you’ll start your trip, is a beautiful spot as well and Deep Cove is a great spot to explore after your hike! The trail to Quarry Rock starts steeply over braided roots so watch your footing! It soon evens out and goes up and down through several gullies with bridges over small creeks before finally coming out at the rocky bluff overlooking Deep Cove. 
  5. Hollyburn Fir (West Vancouver)  4.7km, 3hrs, 320m elevation gain. The Lawson Creek Heritage Walk takes you back in time to when the forests of West Vancouver were being logged for cedar. You’ll pass an old dam and other historic markers describing the logging operations. Giant stumps will give you an idea of the size of the cedars that were logged. Very impressive to imagine how it was all done! The Hollyburn Fir stands about ¾ of the way through your hike. The 1100 year old fir is nearly 3 metres in diameter and is wonderful to see; we try to visit every year! This year my 4 year old managed the whole trip without being carried!

Intermediate Hikes for Kids Close to Vancouver

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These next four hikes involve a bit more travel, but that’s just part of the adventure!

  1. Gold Creek Falls (Maple Ridge) – 5.5km, 2-3hrs, minimal elevation gain. This is a great hike if you’re ever near Golden Ears Provincial Park. From the parking lot the trail is wide and great for kids. Soon you come to Gold Creek with great mountain views and several spots where you can access the creek for picnics and toe-dipping. Keep following the trail and continue up to the viewpoint to get a refreshing spray of mist from the falls.
  2. Othello Tunnels (Hope) – 3.5k, 1hr, no elevation gain. The Othello tunnels are accessed just east of Hope in Coquihalla Provincial Park. This series of tunnels follows the Coquihalla River as it winds through steep canyons. The tunnels were built in the 1900’s for the railway and are incredibly impressive to see and to imagine the work involved in creating them is quite mind-boggling! Bring a flashlight! Kids love hearing their voices echo in the tunnels!
  3. Brohm Lake (Squamish) – 5km, 2-3hrs. Brohm Lake is located north of Squamish on the Sea to Sky Highway. This rolling trail circumnavigates Brohm Lake and offers several viewpoints and snack stops. This was our first big outing after our daughter was born and my son (2.5yrs) ran nearly the whole way before falling fast asleep in the car before we even left the parking lot!
  4. Joffre Lakes (Pemberton) – 11km, 5hrs, 370m elevation gain. I’m putting this hike on the list because it is amazing! Located north of Pemberton on the Duffey Lake Road, you can access the first lake in just 5 minutes. The 2nd lake is about 1-2hrs away and the 3rd lake is less than an hour from there, so there are plenty of stopping point for breaks and snacks. BC Parks has recently redone the trail, making it much easier for hikers of all abilities. Part of the trail has also been rerouted past a beautiful waterfall that was previously inaccessible. We have not yet done this one as a family – I was pregnant the last time we hiked up here, but this trip truly showcases our stunning Canadian wilderness. Turquoise lakes, majestic peaks and shimmering glaciers, all within reach! I’m hoping to get up here with the kids before the snow falls this year. 

The most important thing is to have fun. If you are well prepared in terms of safety, food, water and clothing, the destination doesn’t really matter! Slow down and share the experience of being outside in nature with your kids; often they are our best teachers when it comes to finding joy where we least expect it!