There are plenty of family-friendly (and dog-friendly) walks in the forests of North Vancouver, but one of the most popular family hikes has been partially closed for over 3 years - due to a massive rock-slide along the Seymour River.
Fortunately, a new suspension bridge over the Seymour is now under construction, and is expected to be completed in December 2018 —meaning a re-opening of the entire Fisherman’s Trail. In the meantime, you can still do a great “loop” hike that runs next to the canyon, with a perfect view of the rock-slide.
December 2014 Rockslide
In the early morning hours of December 7, 2014, a massive chunk of the west bank of the Seymour River Canyon broke away, sending boulders and trees crashing over 80 metres down to the river below. An estimated 50,000 square metres of rock was dislodged, effectively damming the river and creating dangerous flooding upstream which overflowed the existing “Twin Bridges”. The bridge (concrete, with blue railings) was eventually removed completely, cutting off a key link for recreational trails in the Lower Seymour Conservation Reserve (LSCR).
The blockage also endangered a sensitive salmon run, and protecting the salmon habitat has been a key priority in all aspects of the design and construction of a replacement bridge. For the last three years conservation workers have been trapping and “lifting” salmon over the rock-slide to help them continue their journey upstream to spawning areas.
Seymour Suspension Bridge
After lengthy consultations with the public, and conservation authorities, a decision was made to construct a raised suspension bridge to replace the old bridge and re-connect the Fisherman’s Trail to both sides of the river. The new bridge will be 2.5 metres wide with a wooden floor, and elevated to avoid any possibility of future flooding. It is designed for pedestrian, bike, and equestrian uses--but not for motor vehicles.
Heidi Walsh, Metro Vancouver Director of Watershed & Environmental Management Water Services, says the construction site continues to be “active” and trail closures are in effect on both sides of the river (see map). Walsh says they are hoping the suspension bridge is completed by early/mid-December, as part of an overall LSCR repair project (including a new Riverside Drive access bridge). Look for media announcements about the opening and an update here on the blog.
The project also includes re-establishing trail connections with the “Bottle Top” mountain bike trail on the east side of the river, and the Twin Bridges Trail on the west side—all welcome news for hikers and mountain bikers wanting to explore both sides.
Suggested Hiking “Loop”
While we wait for the bridge to be completed, I suggest a hiking loop which includes a section of Fisherman’s Trail with a perfect view of the rock-slide. The most direct trailhead for Fisherman’s is at the north end of Riverside Drive. However, non-residents are not permitted to park on Riverside Drive near the trailhead from May to September, so during the summer it’s best to park at another access point on Hyannis Drive (accessed via Berkley Avenue—see map).
The Hyannis Drive spot is a popular hub for numerous well-marked trails heading west, north and east. It is also reachable via transit (214 bus). From Hyannis take the Baden Powell Trail west and downhill along a creek until you turn right (north) at the junction with Fisherman’s Trail.
See the Rock Slide
The Fisherman’s Trail is actually an old logging road running parallel to the Seymour River canyon (commercial logging in the LSCR finally ended in 1994). The trail is wide and relatively flat, with moss and fern-covered rock-faces to the right. After 10-15 minutes you’ll notice extra safety-fencing along the canyon wall, as you approach the rock-slide viewpoint near the junction with Bridle Trail.
Stop here for some photos, and prepare to be awed by the sheer magnitude of the boulders (some as big as homes) that plummeted to the river. Spring run-off means water levels are still relatively high, so look to the right of the biggest rocks for water backing up and creating a small lake behind the natural dam. Crews have been working each summer/fall (after water levels drop) to blast some of the rocks to open up the river, but the aptly-named “House Rock” remains.
Continuing north on Fisherman’s Trail, keep looking left into the forest to see the impact of the flooding—hundreds of dead, or dying trees. You quickly reach the Fisherman’s Trail closure--fencing at the junction with Mystery Creek Trail. Turn right for a steep, but relatively short uphill trek that will get the heart pounding. If this is too steep for your family, retrace your steps south on Fisherman’s to Baden Powell and back to your starting point.
You can also go uphill on Bridle Trail for a shorter loop, but beware of mountain-bikers coming downhill. Bikes are not permitted on Mystery Creek Trail, so I prefer that for the uphill.
Complete the Loop
At the top of the hill, turn right under the powerlines and follow the open-air trail until you reach a small bridge over Mystery Creek. Turn right after the bridge onto the Hyannis Trail, which winds back through the portions of old-growth forest and back to the trailheads.
Mike Hanafin is an avid hiker and snowshoer with a passion for old-growth trees, and discovering hidden gems in the North Shore forests.