Capilano River Regional Park in North Vancouver, British Columbia is just a short drive from my house. I go there to run or walk at least once a week. Easily accessible trails weave along the Capilano River and through lush coastal rainforest. Giant red cedar trees and Douglas fir abound. Ferns and fungi thrive. Eagles swoop through the steep-sided canyon and spawning salmon make their incredible journey up the raging river. Incredibly, this park is only 10 km (6 miles) from downtown Vancouver. As Mike and I were in the park, attempting to walk off several rounds of Thanksgiving dinner (Canadian), it occurred to me that I’ve never posted about this beautiful place that I feel very grateful to have in my backyard.
There was lots of activity in the park over Thanksgiving weekend, with walkers, runners, fisherfolk, and kayakers all enjoying the sunshine. Most of the photos were taken near the Capilano Fish Hatchery and along the Coho Loop (there’s a map at the end of the post).
The park is a locals’ favourite and also a great place for visitors to see a really lovely Pacific Northwest rainforest without much effort. The trails range from flat strolls (I took my 83-year old, cane-carrying mother on the Second Canyon Viewpoint Trail) to long, undulating trails with a few rough sections that are perfect for easy-going hikes or trail runs.
With limited time, it’s best to park at the fish hatchery and do the Coho Loop Trail (1.1 km), which offers some of the most breathtaking scenery in the park. Take a short side-trip to the Second Canyon Viewpoint for a dramatic look at the Cleveland Dam from below. The hatchery is well worth a visit—it’s free and open all year round. Depending on the season, it’s fascinating to watch the mature salmon make their way up the fish ladder.
With more time, include a short walk (uphill) to the Cleveland Dam to experience the thrill of looking down the spillway and to get nice views of Grouse Mountain and the coastal range. There’s also parking at Cleveland Dam.
If you have even more time and want more exercise, get on the Capilano Pacific Trail. It runs 7.5 km (one way) from Ambleside Park in West Vancouver to Cleveland Dam (or vice versa). Although it’s fairly long, it’s not a difficult trail. A portion of it makes up my favourite trail run —I access the Capilano Pacific Trail off Rabbit Lane (#10 on map) and run up to the Cleveland Dam, crossing over and returning via the fish hatchery, Coho Loop, and Pipeline Bridge (a nice 50ish minute run). Confused? The good news is that there are maps posted throughout the park, plenty of helpful locals, and no matter where you end up, it’s all beautiful and all free.