Level: Easy; A Variety of Short Trails

Elevation: Negligible

Season: Year Round

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Access:Take the #250 Horseshoe Bay bus as far as aptly named Beacon Lane. [Click for details on Getting to Horseshoe Bay] Outbound buses from Vancouver, should pass a fire station and small shopping plaza on the right side of the road just before the Lighthouse Park site. If new to the area ask the driver to call out the stop. Do not take the #257 Horseshoe Bay Express bus. Lighthouse Park is not a hike in the strictest sense. Rather it is a network of short, interconnected forest paths that provide enough hiking to last for hours. Getting there is easy and takes just 40 minutes on a good day. After getting off the bus carefully cross busy Marine Drive and follow the lane down to the end. Before plunging into the forest on one of the many trails grab a brochure entitled "Self-Guiding Trail" at the information signboard. Produced by the District of West Vancouver, this unpretentious pamphlet provides an excellent introduction to coastal rainforest flora. The trail it documents starts just beyond the gate and leads down to Starboat Cove. Included are seven points of interest for would-be naturalists.

The centerpiece of the park is, of course, the Point Atkinson Lighthouse. This structure was built in 1912 though the park dates to 1881 when the Government of Canada set aside 73 hectares of forest to act as a dark backdrop to the original tower. The light and foghorn are still important navigational aids for mariners plying the coastal waters around Vancouver.

Point Atkinson Lighthouse overlooking the Strait of Georgia           

Out of the practical concerns for illumination the government inadvertently set aside the lower mainland's largest single collection of ancient trees. While the entire North Shore was being systematically denuded at the beginning of the 20th century, the lofty ancients of Lighthouse Park continued to thrive relatively unmolested as they had for century upon century. Randy Stoltmann, in his definitive Hiking Guide to the Big Trees of Southwestern British Columbia, has identified a dozen notable groves or single trees, primarily Douglas fir, in the park. Most extend well over 60 metres high and some boast bark that is more than 30 cm thick.

Near the water's edge look for bald eagles and their nests in the 400-year-old Douglas fir and cedar trees. These ancient evergreens provide the perfect vantage for bald eagles with an eye for salmon supper.

While exploring this tiny rain forest jewel you'll encounter high rocky bluffs overlooking the sea. On one of these basalt outcroppings you'll notice a large cement bunker with rusty doors. This former gun emplacement was built during World War II in preparation for the Japanese attack which never came. Though of little strategic importance now, the bluffs of Lighthouse Park provide a panorama extending from Lion's Gate Bridge and Stanley Park to the east through Spanish Banks and Point Grey to the south and on to Bowen Island in the west.

Just one fifth the size of Vancouver's world-renowned Stanley Park, Lighthouse Park is an ideal place for a picnic, a stroll or just a quiet moment to breathe in the salt air.

Return to Vancouver by retracing your steps in the opposite direction.

The End

Oregon Grape

Oregon Grape

Looking much like tiny concord grapes on a holly bush, the intensely sour fruit of the Oregon grape is loaded with Vitamin C. Munch them directly from the bush for a surefire pucker or render them into sugar-loaded jelly for a more palatable treat. Traditionally Oregon grape berries were mashed with other, sweeter berries to enhance their flavour. The inner bark of both stems and roots was a source of brilliant yellow dye during pre-European times. The source of the colour, an alkaloid called berberine, is known to possess antibiotic properties that are still used to combat both internal and external infections. An extract concocted from the roots is used by modern-day herbalists to correct a wide range of liver, kidney and urinary tract problems.

Illustration by Manami Kimura