At a Glance
|distance: up to 8km||elevation gain: up to 300m||rating: easy||type: loop|
|dog-friendly: yes||road/parking: paved, free||public transport: yes||season: year-round|
Capilano River Regional Park AKA Capilano Canyon AKA Cleveland Dam AKA Capilano Fish Hatchery, this place has so many names, I don’t know why Vancouverites don’t have a cohesive name for this piece of land in North Vancouver, but if you mention all of these names when you are talking about it, you will get there eventually.
This is one of my favorite Vancouver year-round hikes/walks. The reservoir is tranquil and backed by mountains, the river flowing through high canyon walls is stunning, and the forest is serene and peaceful. There aren’t any summit views, and the forest makes for a good cover in the rain or the sun, so this is a great hike in any weather (find more rainy day hikes here). It is often quieter here than near-by Lynn Canyon Park and provides a similar terrain/difficulty level for walkers.
This park has many different options for trails, and it’s easy to just walk around and see what you find, but as there is cell service in the park, I would keep an eye on your phone to make sure you haven’t gone too far off track.
If you want to follow my usual walk park at the dam (about 6km), park at the upper dam parking lot, walk across the dam, keep to the right at the fork, then take Shinglebolt Trail (on your left) to Capilano Pacific Trail, and walk down it until you reach a big black fence that says private property, which is Capilano Suspension Bridge Park (this is a great spot to peek through the fence to see if the suspension bridge is worth the $55 entrance fee), you can keep going on past here but it isn’t as pretty, so I don’t recommend it. Turn around at this black fence and walk back up Capilano Pacific Trail, turn right on Shinglebolt and then cross the pipeline bridge. The area around the Pipeline Bridge has a lot of intersecting trails and it can get confusing so keep an eye out for a big blue/green colored bridge (pictures below), it will be on a hard right turn around the multi-trail junction. After crossing the bridge go left onto Coho Loop (going straight looks like it should be the right path, but it’s not) and follow Coho until you reach the fish hatchery, then follow the Palisades Trail to the parking lot.
If you want to make the trail shorter just cut off the walk down the Capilano Pacific Trail (which adds an extra 3km or so) and stay on Shinglebolt, cross the Pipeline Bridge, and continue on Coho.
It is fun to just explore around the Capilano River and see what you can find, it’s easy to get turned around so try to have a map accessible if needed.
The reservoir that you will see on your left as you are crossing the dam from the upper (dam) parking lot:
Head along the trail heading upwards (right), then left onto the Shinglebolt trail, where you will find lots of stairs heading down. For the short route stay on Shinglebolt trail that goes to the left, if you hit a series of bridges that look like the one below, you have ventured onto Capilano Pacific Trail and you need to turn around and go in the opposite direction, if you are taking the long detour, you are going to the right way.
If you are taking the long route, some various trails verge off into neighborhoods, but just stay straight and you should be fine. There is also a lookout about 1km into the Capilano Pacific Trail and then about .5 km after that you will hit a black fence with a “Privat Property” sign and I would suggest turning around when you hit that:
Once you have returned to the trail (or stayed on the short loop), continue on Shinglebolt trail and keep an eye out for a blue/green bridge with a large pipeline beneath it. Take the trail that veers strongly to the right when you hit the multi-trail junction to find it:
After the bridge, make sure you turn left onto Coho Loop and follow this to the fish hatchery, there are a lot of little lookouts to explore on the path to the hatchery, enjoy them!
At the hatchery look for this cute little mushroom bench and the bridge to the right of it will lead you towards the Palisades Trail/the dam parking lot
Trek up those stairs for a final leg burner before getting back to your car or the bus and enjoy the rest of your day after feeling refreshed by nature.
There are two main options to enter Capilano Park.
1. You can enter by driving (or bussing) to the Cleveland Dam parking lot (make sure you type Cleveland Dam into google maps NOT any of the other names). The advantage of parking at the dam lot is that there is more parking available, and the dam is accessible for all, if you just want to stop for a quick peek and leave.
2. Enter at the fish hatchery (also accessible by buses which stop on Capilano Road). The pros of parking at the hatchery are that you can stay on the lower trails and never have to climb the stairs to see the dam, or get the stairs out of the way first so that the rest of your hike is easy.
Either one is a fine option in my opinion.
At the Cleveland Dam parking lot there are picnic benches, flush toilets, a drinking fountain, and the dam is paved with access for wheelchairs. At the fish hatchery, there are pit toilets and a covered picnic area. Both parking areas are free, though the parking by the dam is larger.
It can get quite muddy and wet during/after rain so wear proper footwear. There have been accidents at the dam before when there has been an unannounced/accidental release of water so please do not go into the river.
For more year-round hiking near Vancouver, check out my favorites list here.
Welcome to Alpine Feeling! My name is Talon, and I am a Vancouver local who loves hiking and all things outdoors. I am here to do my best to provide you with outdoor guides to the Vancouver area and beyond.