Do you find swimming to be a little dull? Does paddleboarding not really get your heart racing? Do you find yourself hunting for activities that push you out of your comfort zone and occasionally scare the crap out of you? Look no further, adrenalin junkies, we have just the thing for you! Lions Bay cliff jumping!
It’s got it all, really. A remote location away from the weekend family crowds. Sunny rock ledges to soak up some rays. Spectacular views over water to the mountains of the Sunshine Coast. Immediate access to the refreshing waters of Howe Sound. A series of tall but perfectly functional rocky cliffs which you may, for some reason, choose to hurl yourself from, plummeting in a 20-metre freefall ending in a loud and violent water landing. The usual, basically.
Cliff jumping at Lions Bay is inherently dangerous and we do not recommend it. There is no lifeguard, no safety infrastructure and even the trail to get there is pretty sketchy. Bad things can happen if you aren’t careful. Plus, the train tracks you follow to get there are private property patrolled by the very specific CN Rail Police Force and you can get a ticket just for walking on them. Although, in the scheme of “things that went wrong while cliff jumping”, a trespassing ticket is probably the least of your worries.
Despite all of this, though, people do it all the time so it seems worth discussing. This Vancouver cliff jumping spot is a popular local hangout and on nice days it can be full of people looking to have fun with friends, or for an exciting rush of adrenalin, or maybe just to impress the girl they just started dating who doesn’t seem to be as impressed by their souped-up Honda Civic as they hoped. But if you decide Lions Bay cliff jumping is right up your alley, well, don’t say you weren’t warned about the dangers.
Lions Bay Cliff Jumping Spot
This is not the easiest place to access, involving walking illegally along the railway tracks, then following a somewhat sketchy trail over and down some rocky bluffs to reach the cliff jumping area – specific instructions are below. The first part you arrive at is the highest spot (anywhere from 15-20 metres depending on the tide) but you can continue all the way down to water level. There are a number of other options along the way, offering different heights and different angles.
Some people just come to hang out on the smooth rocks, enjoy the views and hopefully watch some daredevils try their hand at the big jumps (a plan that worked out beautifully for us, since there was no way I was going to be flinging myself off that highest ledge). At low tide there are also some interesting tide pool areas further along. We saw a bright purple octopus that seemed somewhat stranded on a rock.
There is a rope swing that can be used to get as far out from the edge as possible, although we witnessed firsthand what can happen if you hang on a little too long, lose your centre of gravity and plummet 20 metres to land flat on your back. I can’t speak for the brave young guy in question, but it really sounded painful (and the awful so-white-it’s-really-taking-a-long-time-to-turn-red of his back seemed to confirm that suspicion). Plus, there was the fact he said, “Yeah, it hurt. It hurt so much”. So all signs to point to rule #1: Don’t land on your back. Of course, I assume landing on your front would also suck quite a bit. And definitely cross your legs since taking first impact in the groin can’t feel great, either. You know, maybe I should just get to the complete list of things to avoid.
Cliff Jumping in Lions Bay Dos and Don’ts
- Never go alone.
- Check out your landing area before jumping to make sure it is deep enough and know where you will need to go to get out of the water.
- Only consider jumping if you are a decent swimmer since most of the jumps will require you to swim around the exit spot.
- Start on one of the lower cliffs to get your technique down.
- Make sure you are fully committed before jumping – this is not the sort of thing you can do halfway.
- Jump as far out from the rock as possible and go in feet first.
- If you use the rope, make sure you let go at the furthest point (if you miss your moment and start swinging back just hang on and start again).
- Point your toes and cross your legs to save the bottom of your feet and your, you know, sensitive areas. Some people wear water shoes to protect their feet and make it easier to climb out. Along the same lines, a second (and maybe third) pair of swim trunks probably couldn’t hurt.
- Scream in terror the whole time. It helps get your nerve up (probably), releases toxins (possibly) and entertains the spectators (most definitely).
- Don’t linger in the water, just in case one of your friends is too eager and comes flying down soon after.
- Related rule: don’t jump until the person before you is well out of the way.
- Finally, if it didn’t happen involuntarily when you landed, feel free to pee in the water before exiting. You’ve earned it.
How Do I Get to Lions Bay Cliff Jump?
From Vancouver, follow the Sea to Sky Highway (Hwy 99) north through West Vancouver. After about 20 minutes take the Kelvin Grove exit (on the right) and follow it under the highway back toward the water. Most of the road parking down here is permit only but there is a pay parking lot at Tidewater Bay – open from 8 am to 10 pm ($3/hr).
It is also possible to visit via public transportation. TransLink bus routes 259 (Lions Bay/Horseshoe Bay) and 262 (Lions Bay/Caulfeild) both stop at all three Lions Bay beach areas.
From just below the parking lot, follow the tracks to the left (south) for roughly 500 metres (10 minutes, max) until you see a trail on your right that goes up onto some rocky bluffs. Follow that to a set of large boulders where you can start working your way down to the cliffs and lounging areas. We saw people do it in flip flops but it is much easier with decent shoes. We would also recommend carrying your stuff in a backpack or anything that leaves both of your hands free to help you scramble.
Other Things to Do Near Lions Bay Cliff Jumping
If you have time to check out more of the highlights along the Sea to Sky Highway, one of the most iconic drives in British Columbia, here are some of the other stops we’d recommend:
The Tunnel Bluffs hike starts from Lions Bay as well (north of the highway) and is a moderately strenuous hike to an amazing viewpoint over Howe Sound.
Porteau Cove Provincial Park day-use area and campground has a decent beach, nice short hike and fabulous views. Its the only campground in the area with ocean views and books up fast.
Browning Lake (day-use area and a variety of trails to viewpoints). The Murrin Loop is a short but steep hike with a great view over the Howe Sound for relatively little effort. You can find more detail on this hike and many others in our 22 Best Squamish Hikes.
Shannon Falls – there is both an easy lookout stroll and a 2.5-hr hike to the Upper Falls pools that is steep with multiple ropes and the rocks at the top are very slippery so caution is needed but the view is amazing.
The epic Stawamus Chief Hike features three different peaks, all with incredible views, and requires you to navigate steep rocks, metal ladders and safety chains.
Swim or just relax at Alice Lake, Cat Lake or Brohm Lake.
Cliff jumping at Brohm Lake – not nearly as high, but maybe that’s a good thing.
Lions Bay cliff jumping is undoubtedly and exhilarating adventure, perfect for Vancouver area thrill-seekers. Just understand that cliff jumping is always a dangerous activity that should only be attempted by experienced jumpers who are aware of all the risks and know how to minimize them.
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