Looking for a family-friendly, all-weather, four-season hike in an old-growth forest? And with magnificent shoreline views? Look no further than West Vancouver’s Lighthouse Park.
Many people only visit the park to see the historic lighthouse. But it’s worth the time to explore the rest of the park.
Lighthouse Park has many options for hiking—with only a few steep uphill and downhill sections. Trails near the shorelines have some tricky rocks and roots that can be slippery on rainy days, so I recommend hiking shoes with good traction.
The original lighthouse was built in 1874 to guide mariners past the rocky peninsula of Point Atkinson. Sixty-five hectares of forest was protected by the Dominion of Canada in 1881 to provide a dark backdrop for the flashing beacon. The current lighthouse was constructed in 1912, and the trees fortunately stayed off-limits to logging crews which were clear-cutting the North Shore. The lighthouse is officially recognized as a national historic site.
To reach Lighthouse Park by car, take Marine Drive west to Beacon Lane (just after the fire hall) and turn left. One of the most important pieces of advice I can suggest is to arrive early--especially on weekends! The parking lot fills up quickly. Allow plenty of time (3-4 hours) to truly explore everything there is to see in the park. But shorter visits are also fun. There are nearly 20 different trails and close to a dozen fantastic shoreline viewpoints.
From the Parking Lot
Pick up the excellent park map at one of the information boards. Most tourists and sightseers walk directly south to the lighthouse area. But I would suggest heading west or east into the forest to see dozens of giant trees—some over 700 years old. The trails eventually reach rocky ocean lookouts, and wind back towards the iconic lighthouse.
Highlights (see map below)
Juniper Point has a perfect view of Bowen Island. Shore Pine Point is another great stop for a snack or drink while enjoying the fresh sea air. Starboat Cove (access via a short but steep trail) has a small natural beach and - secluded from the wind - is usually warmer than the rest of the park on a sunny day. Eagle Point (pictured left) has the best lookout of all back towards the city, not to mention spotting bald eagles if you’re fortunate.
I also have two favourite (non-shoreline) trails for spotting old-growth trees. In the centre of the park is the serene “Valley Trail” with its giant cedars. And in the eastern half of the park is the “Valley of the Giants Trail”, with numerous douglas firs close to two metres in diameter! Check the deep grooves in the bark of the fir trees.
Old growth tree on trail.
Back to the Lighthouse
There are probably a hundred spots to get a glimpse or photo of the lighthouse. And some days - if the gate is open - you can walk closer to the tower and pose near it. If the gate is closed, please respect the closure.
Two nearby buildings housed soldiers during World War II. The old dining hall now serves as Phyl Munday Nature House—operated by the Girl Guides. It is named after Phyllis Munday, one of B.C.’s greatest early mountaineers.
From the lighthouse, follow the well-marked Beacon Lane Trail approximately 600 metres back to the parking lot.
For more information, check out Vancouver Trails.
Enjoy your hike!
Mike Hanafin is an avid hiker and snowshoer with a passion for old-growth trees, and discovering hidden gems in the North Shore forests.