Where to See Big Trees in Vancouver

Looking up into a stand of huge trees on Vancouver's North Shore.

Huge trees on Vancouver’s North Shore. Photo credit: Tourism Vancouver / Capilano Suspension Bridge Park

Vancouver is a pretty green city, both environmentally and literally. We have a LOT of trees. Our mild and wet climate means that Vancouver sits in the middle of the world’s largest temperate rainforest, a zone that stretches from Alaska to Northern California. Logging has removed most of Vancouver’s ancient old growth trees, but there are still lots of towering giants to be found in the area. Here are eight places to see big trees in Vancouver.

Safety First

Just because these trees are close to the city doesn’t mean you aren’t going to the wilderness. North Shore Rescue recommends bringing a backpack with essential safety and first aid gear on every hike. Check the forecast and pack extra clothing for the weather. And leave a trip plan with a friend so someone knows where you are going and when you will be back.

 

Stanley Park

Although it has been logged and ravaged by historical fires, Stanley Park is still home to some giant trees. The most famous example is the Hollow Tree. This stump is 700-800 years old and has been attracting locals and tourists for over 100 years. The 2006 windstorms severely damaged the tree, but thanks to conservation efforts, it still stands.

A large group of people pose with car in front of the Hollow Tree in Stanley Park. Photo taken in 1909.

Visitors from Australia and New Zealand pose with Stanley Park’s hollow tree in 1909. Photo via City of Vancouver Archives.

Venture onto the trails in the forested heart of the park, to find quite a few exceptionally tall trees. Look for the big tree icon on the Stanley Park map and head off on a tree-finding scavenger hunt. The highlight is the 600-year-old douglas fir near the intersection of Bridle Path and Cathedral Trail.

A family looks up at a very tall tree in Vancouver's Stanley Park

Explore Stanley Park to discover some of its tall trees. Photo credit: Tourism Vancouver / Cycle City Tours

 

Capilano River Regional Park

Take a stroll through the rainforest in Capilano River Regional Park to spot some big douglas fir trees. The park is located just downstream of the Cleveland Dam in North Vancouver. The thick tree cover and swirling mist make it a great place for a rainy day walk. The stand-out tree is Grandpa Capilano, a douglas fir which measures 2.4 meters (8 feet) in diameter. Sadly wind and age have broken off its top, so it is no longer as tall as it once was. Find it on the aptly named Giant Fir trail. Bring a park map to orient yourself.

 

UBC Botanical Garden

One of the most unique ways to experience Vancouver’s temperate rainforest is to get up close and personal with it on UBC Botanical Garden’s Greenheart TreeWalk. Their trees are over 100 years old and reach high up into the sky. You’ll stroll along walkways up to 23 meters off the ground while learning about ecology and First Nations plant use.

People walking on an elevated walkway through the forest at the UBC Botanical Garden's Greenhart Treewalk.

Walking amongst the trees at the UBC Botanical Garden. Photo credit: Tourism Vancouver / Destination Canada (CTC) / Asymetric/Jason Van Bruggen

 

Hollyburn Fir

Although it’s located about 1 kilometer from the nearest paved road, many locals have no idea that the Hollyburn Fir hides in West Vancouver’s forests. This giant tree has a circumference of about 10 meters (33 feet) is 44 meters (144 feet) tall and is estimated to be over 1100 years old! To reach it, hike the Millstream and Brewis Trails in the British Properties neighbourhood. Take along a copy of West Vancouver’s Lawson Creek Forestry Walk brochure to find your way and learn more about local history.

 

Yew Lake Trail

The Yew Lake Trail in Cypress Provincial Park is a great 2-kilometer loop hike. Designed as a barrier-free trail, it is accessible to wheelchair users, people with mobility aids and families with strollers. Interpretive signs along the way help explain the local environment.  Find the biggest trees on the Old Growth Loop, a spur off the main trail. Use this park map to plan your trip.

 

Big Cedar Trail

If you’re up for a rugged hike, head to the Big Cedar Trail in North Vancouver. The rooty and muddy trail follows overgrown logging roads in the Lynn Creek Valley. After about 1.5 hours of hiking, you’ll reach the Big Cedar. It’s said to be over 600 years old with a diameter of about 4 meters (13 feet). The Big Cedar likely wasn’t logged with the rest of the forest since it has several gnarly upper trunks rather than one big straight one. You can also continue for another 30 minutes past the Big Cedar to view rushing Kennedy Falls.

A hiker gazes up at a giant old growth red cedar tree in North Vancouver

The Big Cedar lives up to its name. Photo credit: HappiestOutdoors.ca

 

Cypress Falls

You can combine rushing waterfalls with old growth tree spotting on West Vancouver’s Cypress Falls trail. The short, but steep trail leads through the forest to two different waterfall viewpoints high above raging Cypress Creek. On your hike, you will pass through stands of 300-year-old red cedar and douglas fir trees. The trails are rough and not very well marked so be prepared to do a bit of route finding. 

 

Capilano Suspension Bridge

The Treetops Adventure at the Capilano Suspension Bridge lets you walk high above the ground amongst 250-year-old douglas fir trees. You can appreciate the grandeur of these trees from 33.5 meters (110 feet) above the ground on a series of elevated walkways and suspension bridges. If you want to learn more about the trees and their ecosystem, sign up for one of the guided nature tours.

The elevated walkways at the Treetops Adventure. Photo Credit: Tourism Vancouver / Capilano Suspension Bridge Park

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