An iconic part of West Vancouver’s coastline, Lighthouse Park is home to the picturesque (and essential) Point Atkinson lighthouse, which marks the point where Burrard Inlet meets Howe Sound. Here amongst 75 hectares (185 acres) of temperate rainforest, you’ll find hiking trails that lead to superlative views of downtown Vancouver, Point Grey/UBC, and Howe Sound.
Since the 1870s, the lighthouse has been protecting sailors from the rocky coastline where Burrard Inlet meets Howe Sound. In 1881, the area surrounding the park was set aside as a dark area behind the lighthouse, and since 1994, the Point Atkinson lighthouse has been designated a National Historic Site.
Point Atkinson was named by Captain George Vancouver in 1792 when he was surveying the southern coast of BC. There has been a lighthouse on the point since 1874, its first job being to protect Vancouver's lucrative shipping trade by making sure that all ships made safe harbor.
In 1912, the current structure, a six-sided tower with buttresses, was built with reinforced concrete to help protect it against potential invasion. During World War II, searchlights and gun emplacements were added to the lighthouse to further help protect the coastline.
What to See and Do There
Look out for West Vancouver’s last-standing first-growth Douglas Fir trees, as well as fragrant Western Red Cedar and Western Hemlock. These old trees are thought to be around 500 years old and can grow up to 200 feet (60 meters). Take the Valley of the Giants trail to Eagle Point to see these majestic beauties.
It’s only a 10-minute walk downhill along Beacon Lane to the Lighthouse Viewpoint, but it’s uphill on the return, so be sure to leave some energy for getting back up again. Most people come to hike through the trails or have a picnic on one of the beaches or rocky outcrops—just be careful of your footing and make sure you leave no trace of litter as it could attract wildlife or cause damage to the environment.
Trails lead to viewpoints that are situated on rocks that jut out into the ocean and while the views are outstanding, it can be a little slippery on a wet day or a bit crowded on a sunny day, so be aware when you're taking that selfie.
Dogs are allowed on some trails (and some are leash-optional) but check for restrictions before you take your four-legged friend on a hike. And look out for off-leash dogs dashing around as some parts of the trails are quite narrow and over-enthusiastic pups can appear around corners and take hikers by surprise.
Rock climbers also come to the granite bluffs in the summertime and climb some of the 12 climbing routes in the park. Although the cliffs are not exceptionally high, it’s advisable to only attempt climbing here if you’re experienced or are with a qualified guide.
Things to Know
Pit-style toilets can be found near the parking lot and fresh drinking water (for humans and pets) can be found near the lighthouse, but it’s still best to take water and wear appropriate footwear when hiking in the park. There is a direct trail to the lighthouse that is well maintained but many of the other trails cover rocky terrain with inclines, cliff faces, and downhill sections with uneven pathways through thick forest.
Lighthouse Park is free to enter and is open year-round. Gates close at dusk, and camping is not permitted within the park. Wildlife frequents the area so be sure to pack out any garbage that you create and obey any signs warning about conservation areas or bear sightings.
Drive along Marine Drive towards Horseshoe Bay, turn left on Beacon Lane and follow the signs for Lighthouse Park. There is a free parking lot at the trailhead that gets very busy in peak times between May and September. Head here off-season or mid-week if you’re hoping to easily find a space.
Transit users can take the #250 Horseshoe Bay bus (not the Express) to the Beacon Lane stop, and then it’s only a short stroll through a residential area to the parking lot and trailhead. Buses run regularly to Granville Station, Downtown Vancouver, and beyond. The ride itself is a scenic trip through the forests of Stanley Park, across Lions Gate Bridge, and along the picturesque Marine Drive, complete with sweeping views back to Vancouver and Howe Sound.