Note (January 2016): The Stanley Park Seawall between 3rd Beach & Lions Gate Bridge may be closed at times, especially during the winter and early spring seasons.
(The seawall has two gates. One is at Lion’s Gate Bridge, the other at Third Beach allowing the entire section between to be closed. Anytime it’s closed, you can return on the one-way path against traffic (being glared at), or you can take a shortcut back to the start via Pipeline Road (up the path before the bridge), or take gravel paths to the right, or up the road to Prospect Point, and then by road to the Tea House/Third Beach. The route to Prospect Point is steep and long. You can also cut through the forest to Third Beach part-way along Pipeline road, but be prepared to get lost!)
A park named Stan. Unfortunately nobody calls it “Stan.”
The Stanley Park seawall is a long ride at almost 9 kilometers, but it’s also very flat so it’s not too strenuous. There are many opportunities to stop and enjoy the view, sit in the sun, or do a little exploring, and if it does become too much, there are a few places where you can cut through the park to shorten your ride.
The Stanley Park seawall is a one-way-only separated path for cyclists, from Coal Harbour counter-clockwise to English Bay. The path is often raised relative to the pedestrian side, so you have to be careful not to drive off while you’re looking at the sights.
When we first rode on the Stanley Park seawall we went in the wrong direction and it wasn’t until we returned for another ride that we noticed the faded painted signs. Signage can be very poor and not everybody is aware of the one-way rule. Consequently, it’s a good idea to assume someone is coming around the corner from the wrong direction!
Stanley Park (8.9 km/5.5 mi):It’s crowded in the summer with the added disadvantage that a lot of the cyclists are tourists from countries where they drive on the other side of the road. That means that in an emergency – such as when they realize someone is trying to pass – they will suddenly cut to the left to let you by, in actuality cutting you off. Given a choice of cliff or water, we think “cliff” is your best bet, but neither’s very good. If you don’t go very fast, don’t worry about it – Stanley Park is a great ride. Brockton Point provides one of the best views of Vancouver Harbour and the North Shore mountains. Just before Brockton Point (and just after) you will see playing fields, a running track, and totem poles across the road. These playing fields were among the first built by residents of Vancouver, but were much too far out of town though forest trails or by boat to be first choice.
On weekends you may even see a cricket match, and you’re welcome to stop and watch. There are washrooms at the club house, the totem poles, and at the running track.
There are more washrooms at Lumberman’s Arch and also up the path at the Aquarium, but the next washrooms after that are some distance away at Third Beach.
There is a long middle stretch between Lion’s Gate Bridge and Third Beach where you can’t get off because of the cliffs and you can’t turn back because it’s one way – and so is Stanley Park Drive above. If you decide you don’t want to continue, there are a limited number of ways before Lion’s Gate to cut your circuit short:
- Before Brockton Point, retrace your steps or take trails.
- Before Lumberman’s Arch, continue forward to Lumberman’s Arch and cross the park there. It’s a little trickier to take the trails before Lumberman’s Arch back, but you can do that, too.
- At Lumberman’s Arch cut straight across past the Aquarium. There are washrooms here. You’ll probably end up walking your bike for a short stretch on the seawall.
- Past Lumberman’s Arch, either return or continue on until you hit Pipeline Road (just before Lions Gate Bridge) and take it back to the park entrance. You can also take forest trails or a road just before the creek to Beaver Lake over to Pipeline and back.
- At Pipeline Road (where it ends at Park Drive), you have the choices of taking the shortest route back via Pipeline Road or going up to Prospect Point either along Stanley Park Drive or along the steep paths that run just above the seawall and along the Drive. From Prospect Point you can “ride the Drive” around the rest of the park or dive into the forest (what’s left of it since the 2006 storm) and explore the trails. You could take the sidewalk (get on the correct side) beside the causeway, but the causeway curves, so don’t think it’s going to be shorter than Pipeline Road. You can also cross the bridge into North Vancouver.
Once you hit Third Beach there’s not much more seawall to ride before you hit civilization again, but if you really need to cut your ride short, get on Stanley Park Drive because it’s a little shorter and faster.
Well around the seawall to the south side, Third Beach has a concession stand up the stairs. You can get food and use the washrooms, or buy an ice cream from the cart at the beach.
Second Beach – almost at the exit from the park also has a concession with a larger range of items and also washrooms. Second Beach features a large outdoor salt water pool. The cycle path there takes you behind the concession toward Park Road. Follow the path around.
If you need more information about Stanley Park, check out www.StanleyParkVan.com.
Riding On: Adjoining Seaside Routes
Alternate: Behind the concession at Second Beach Stanley Park Road splits with one fork – North Lagoon Drive – going behind Lost Lagoon to return to the beginning of the park and Coal Harbour. While you can take this road to return to the city, you can pretty much take any upcoming road or path that goes in the right direction. There is a bike path to the right of North Lagoon Drive that you can follow across the little stone bridge and to the east side of the lagoon to go to Coal Harbour.
East: Following along the cycle path behind Second Beach, go right around Ceperley Park and follow the path’s rise above the shore and into the West End and English Bay (First) beach. If you duck under the road where the path turns in Ceperly Park you can alternatively connect with the path heading to Coal Harbour.
Local Weather StationsIn the winter season there may be ice and flowing runoff on the pathway between Lion’s Gate and Third Beach. It gets dark quickly and you do not want to be stuck on the unlit seawall on a moonless night. There is no shelter from rain.
The southern side of the park, on English Bay, is exposed to the weather coming from the west. Rain is bad enough, but high winds from fall to late spring can get you wet from sea spray and it can be difficult to control your bike or make headway in a strong wind. Your lower gears (smaller front ring, especially) will make it easier and give you more control.
North Van Weather (opposite Brockton Point):
There was a small native community (X̱wáýx̱way or “Whoi Whoi”) at Lumberman’s Arch, and dwellings at “Chaythoos” where the seawall meets Pipeline Road – just before the footings of Lion’s Gate Bridge.
There were native burial grounds on Deadman Island (HMCS Discovery) and in at least one case, near Prospect Point.
It was from the area of Stanley Park that the natives paddled out to greet and impress Captain Vancouver in the late eighteenth century as he came up the Inlet exploring.
The peninsula was designated as a naval reserve in the 1860s to provide protection for the city of New Westminster from attack from the USA. The city asked the federal government to lease the land to them for a park in 1886.
Deadman Island and the area above Brockton Point provided an unconsecrated burying place for foreigners who died far from home until a municipal cemetery was opened in 1887. Deadman Island was also a quarantine place for victims of a smallpox epidemic.Stanley the Park used to have residences – “squats” officials claimed – along the water, mostly before Brockton Point. If you look on the shore line there, you might see some faint remnants. The buildings belonged to pioneering settlers who settled along the shore long ago. They had their rights, but nevertheless, they were in the way of the development of the park. They were all strong-armed, bamboozled and finagled out of there.
Not all of them were strong-armed, bamboozled and finagled. The Hawaiian community which lived at the entrance to the park at the base of Denman Street sold their rights handsomely.