Cycling (and Walking) in Stanley Park

There are many things to love about Vancouver, but one of the top has to be Stanley Park. Founded in 1888 on Coast Squalish land, this enormous stretch of urban park at the tip of downtown boasts beaches and forests, lakes and flower gardens, tennis courts and walking paths, totem poles and even a tiny train. I visited twice during my week in British Columbia, and I happily would have gone back again. It’s a fantastic and quick way to get away from the city and out into nature.

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Most people will start their visit to Stanley Park with a stroll or ride along the Seawall, a 9 kilometer paved path that rings the park …

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… and offers panoramic views of boats…

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… the downtown cityscape …

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… Lions Gate Bridge …

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… and even a tiny lighthouse:

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One of my favorite parts of the park (I had many) was the collection of First Nations totem poles.

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There’s so much to see here!

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Most of these totem poles are replicas — the originals are now preserved in museums — but that doesn’t make them any less fascinating. This one would have been used by the Kwakwaka’wakw as a house post to support roof beams; on top you can see a thunderbird, and beneath that stands a grizzly bear holding a human:

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This Haida mortuary pole has entirely different stylings. It features a moon on top (the symbol of the chief); below that are a mountain goat, a grizzly bear, and a whale.

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I spent a long time studying the craft and artistry here.

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Turning inland just a bit from the totem poles, I stumbled on a cricket match:

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Further meandering landed me smack in the middle of a wedding (I had to stand off to the side to avoid becoming part of the bridal party) …

IMG_4767.jpg.. and then to a large flower garden!

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It was wonderful to see spring in full swing, from anemones ..

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… to daffodils …

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… to giant rhododendrons:IMG_4780

There are many reasons to leave the seawall and venture inland. You can explore the paths that wind through the rainforest …

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… look up at the tall trees …

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… and admire the works of art on the ground, both those made by nature …

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… and by man:

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You can also make your way over to the trail that rings Beaver Lake:IMG_4808

I didn’t see any beavers — they’re rarely out in the middle of the day — but I did see the beaver dam (it’s the pile of sticks and mud)…

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… and this beautiful wood duck:

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When I went to cross the causeway that runs through middle of the park, I came to this sign — something I’ve definitely never seen before:

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Walk further on through the woods, and you’ll come to a string of beaches.

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Cleverly named “Second Beach” and “Third Beach” (First Beach is just outside of the park), these strips of sand provide spaces for warm sunbathing and very chilly swimming.

IMG_5716.jpgIt’s easy to get around Stanley Park by foot or by bike (you can drive a car through parts of it, too, but you’ll miss a lot that way). I walked until my feet hurt and then rented a by-the-hour bike share cycle.

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I can’t recommend a Stanley Park adventure highly enough — it’s a lovely place to while away an afternoon.

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