October’s Vancouver Hike of the Month: Capilano Canyon

Looking towards the Lions from Cleveland Dam in North Vancouver

Looking towards the Lions from Cleveland Dam above Capilano Canyon. Photo: Roy Wang/Unsplash

Fall is a great time to hike in the rainforest and enjoy rushing rivers. This easy loop hike in Capilano River Regional Park visits a giant old-growth tree, takes you along the banks of a spectacular canyon, and has spectacular views of the Lions and Cleveland Dam.

Safety First: AdventureSmart recommends bringing a backpack with essential safety and first aid gear on every hike. Check the forecast and pack extra clothing for the weather. Leave a trip plan so someone knows where you are going and when you will be back.

Trail Info: Easy, 3km loop, 90m elevation gain, 1 hour, dogs allowed on leash

Getting There: Take the Capilano Road exit from the Trans Canada Highway in North Vancouver. Follow Capilano Road north uphill for 2.5 km past the entrance to the Capilano Suspension Bridge. At Prospect Avenue, turn left into the Cleveland Dam parking lot in Capilano River Regional Park.

The Trail: There are lots of trails in this park, but thankfully there are great signs at every intersection, so it’s easy to stay on track. Bring a copy of the park map to help you find your way.

To start your hike, find the Palisades Trail behind the washroom building. This steep path heads down into the canyon using switchbacks and stairs. At the bottom, you’ll emerge from the forest in a small parking lot near the Capilano River Hatchery. Cross the parking lot and go left on the Coho Loop Trail. Ignore a right turn towards a bridge and continue on the Coho Loop trail as it heads downstream along the edge of the canyon. There are great views of the river in this section.

Capilano Canyon

Cable Pool Bridge. Photo: Janice Laing/All Trails

About 10 minutes later, arrive at a junction. Go straight to stay on the Coho Loop Trail and cross over the Capilano River on Pipeline Bridge. On the other side of the bridge, turn right to stay on Coho Loop as it heads back upstream beside the river. Take a break to enjoy the view from Cable Pool Bridge on your right, then continue walking upstream along the Second Canyon Viewpoint Trail. This trail ends at a spectacular viewpoint below the Cleveland Dam. You can watch the water thundering down the face of the dam into the granite canyon.

Second Canyon viewpoint in Capilano River Regional Park

Second Canyon Viewpoint. Photo: Capilano River Regional Park

When you’ve finished soaking up the scenery, retrace your steps for a few minutes, then turn right on the Grand Fir Trail. This trail climbs gently through the forest, passing by Grandpa Capilano, a douglas fir that measures 2.4 meters (8 feet) in diameter. Sadly wind and age have broken off its top, so it is no longer as tall as it once was.

At the end of the Grand Fir Trail, turn right on the gravel West Service Road and follow it uphill. This is the steepest climb of your hike, so take your time. At the top, turn right and follow the path over the top of the Cleveland Dam. Be sure to peer over the railing at the water dropping over the top of the dam.

Cleveland Dam in North Vancouver

Looking down the face of the Cleveland Dam. Photo: Adel Akbar/Unsplash

Finish your hike back at the parking lot on the far side of the dam. Be sure to climb up the small grassy hill for great views of Capilano Lake with the Lions peaks in the background.

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