A park named Stanley. 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 directional signs. Signage fades quickly 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, walk back, continue to Lumberman’s Arch or take trails.
- Before Lumberman’s Arch, continue forward to Lumberman’s Arch and cross the park there at the narrow neck of the peninsula to the right of the Aquarium. 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 will probably (should) end up walking your bike for a short stretch on the seawall.
- Past Lumberman’s Arch, continue on until you hit Pipeline Road (just before Lions Gate Bridge) and take it back to the park entrance. You can also take short 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 in summer.
Second Beach – almost at the exit of 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 information about Stanley Park, check out www.StanleyParkVan.com.
When the gates are closed:
The seawall closes at two gates. The entrance is at Lion’s Gate Bridge, the exit is at Siwash Rock (practically speaking, Third Beach) allowing the entire cliff section between to be closed. You will come to the gate at Lion’s Gate. If it’s closed and you just want to go home, you can timorously return on the one-way path against traffic (being rightly glared at), or you can take a shortcut back to the start via Pipeline Road (straight up the asphalt path before the bridge).
If you want to continue, and get back onto the seawall at the closest spot to the far gate, go to Third Beach. By road, head up the hill to the right to Prospect Point (where the bridge is). You can follow the road up, or take gravel paths in the forest to the right. Follow the road all the way down to the Tea House/Third Beach and then down to Third Beach where you get back on the seawall. The route up to Prospect Point is steep and long.
Avoiding the hill, you can take Pipeline Road to Beaver Lake and then cut through the forest to Third Beach, crossing the causeway. See posted maps. Be prepared to get lost for 5 or 10 minutes!
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.
In 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.