Capilano River Regional Park

This large nature park envelopes Capilano River between Park Royal in West Vancouver and Capilano Dam in the north, and features lush rainforest, impressive old growth trees, Capilano Dam viewpoints, the steep Capilano River canyon, and a hatchery.  Can it get any better than that?

 

ACCESS AND FACILITIES

To access the main body of the park, you can park either at Capilano River Hatchery (about 1km from Capilano Road) or at Capilano Dam, right off of Capilano Road.  Both parking areas have washrooms and picnic tables.  If driving and pushing the day light on either end of the day, check the park website prior to coming for gate closures, as they change seasonally.  If coming by transit, there are a couple of bus routes running along Capilano Road.  Except for short sections, the trail system is not stroller friendly.  Note that except for the commuter cycling route near Capilano Dam, bicycling on trails is not allowed in Capilano River Regional Park.  Find the link to park map here here.

 

THE PARK

This large park is a fantastic place to bring the kids for a short or long outing in nature, even if you are not a seasoned hiker yourself.  The trails are well signed, the lush forest immediately transports you into wilderness, and the crowds thin out considerably even on the sunniest of weekends once you leave the parking lots, especially in upper areas of the park.  No matter which way you go, you’ll have options for views of Capilano River deep in its canyon bed, discovering giant Douglas fir and red cedar trees, or gawking at the almost 100 meters high Capilano Dam.  We have a suggested hike for you below, but feel free to refer to the park’s map and build your own itinerary.  If you are looking for a longer jaunt, consider Capilano Pacific Trail that connects Park Royal with Cleveland Dam (around 6km one way), or hook up with Baden Powell trail heading west towards Brothers Creek and Cypress.

 

COHO LOOP

This one could be your young tot’s first independent hike, or simply a stroll for older kids if feeling mellow or pressed for time.  The ~1km loop is a peaceful walk in the lush forest, with views of the steep canyon walls and Capilano River down below.  Park at the hatchery, and find the well signed entrance to Coho loop right at the Cable Pool Bridge.  Go left, and follow the pleasant flat-ish trail to another bridge - Pipeline Bridge.

 

As you find your way back to Cable Pool Bridge on the other side of the river, consider adding an out-and-back walk on flat and mellow Second Canyon Viewpoint Trail to a viewpoint ~0.3km away from the bridge, overlooking the Capilano Dam spillway, the steep canyon, and hatchery across the river.

  

Although the Coho loop has only a few short climbs and stairs and the drop-offs at the edge of the trail are usually fenced, do keep young tots close or hold their hands if they are prone to wild running. 

COHO LOOP AND HIKE TO CAPILANO DAM

If you are hiking with more driven hikers (or are sporting a carrier yourself) and are ready for more elevation and distance, consider adding a trip up to Capilano Dam with a stop at Grandpa Capilano.

 

This route will measure in at around 3.5km, with options to add more mileage.  Park again at the hatchery, but instead of starting the Coho loop, find Palisades Trail (signed) on the opposite side of the parking lot.  A long series of stairs (you may have a Grouse Grind flashback) will bring you up to a gravel road crossing.  Don't take the stairs up, but follow signs to the dam, keeping left at the fork.  You'll soon pass by Capilano Pump Station, and then come upon another lower view point of Capilano Dam to your left.  Turning right, a set of stairs will get you up to the dam.  As you cross it, marvel at the views of Capilano Lake, Grouse Mountain and gondolas, and of course the dramatic presentation of The Lions. 

 

On the other side of the dam, stay left walking downhill on the gravel road in the next two forks.  In less than a kilometer, a set of wooden stairs leading down to your left marks the start of the Giant Fir Trail (signed).  Follow the pleasant trail downhill, ignoring the gravel Pipeline Trail, and take a sharp left turn.   You'll come upon the giant Grandpa Capilano - an 800 year old douglas fir, and several more impressive giant firs.  The trail will soon descend with a couple of switchbacks, and meet up with Second Canyon Viewpoint Trail.  Hang left to get to the viewpoint. 

 

After soaking in the view, use the Second Canyon Viewpoint Trail to get to Cable Pool Bridge (follow signs to hatchery), and head out to circle the Coho loop from the description above.