Capilano River Regional Park, Salmon Hatchery, and Cleveland Dam - North Vancouver

by Jenavieve


Have you ever seen a dam with millions of gallons of water cascading down it?  How about salmon struggling with all their might to get up a fish ladder so they can lay their eggs?  Or kayakers going topsy turvy down a crazy river?  You can see all these and more at the Capilano River Regional Park and the Cleveland Dam.

This is one thing Nathe and I can agree on, Capilano Park is Fun with a capital F.  One time we saw a kayaker turn upside down and get swept downstream by the current.  I thought maybe he died, but Dad said his friends would be waiting to help him a little further downstream.  Another time we saw a man catch a big salmon from the rocks.  And then there's a million things to explore in the forest--like the gigantic fir that keeps going all the way into the sky. 

There's lots of hikes you can take too.  I used to complain whenever I had to walk, so we never made it further than the  Coho Loop.  It takes about 30 minutes and goes up to the Cleveland Dam viewing deck and back through the Pipeline Bridge.  Now that I'm bigger and stronger we go all the way from the dam to the Salmon Hatchery and back.  It takes about one hour or more depending on how many times we get side-tracked.  I should warn you though, the stairs leading back to the dam are quite steep, and there's lots of them.  Mom puts Coleman in a back-pack, which works out good--until he starts pulling her hair.

Here's the route that we typically do:  we park at the Cleveland Dam parking lot, and view the spectacular site of the water spilling over the dam, Capilano lake, and the peaks called the Lions in the distance.  Cross the dam, and take the Capilano Pacific trail down the west side of the river in the direction of the hatchery.  After about 10 minutes you should see a sign for the Giant Fir trail on your left.  Take the Giant Fir trail to the site of the gigantic Grandpa Fir.  Continue along the Giant Fir trail until you come to a fork.  The left fork takes you to the Second Canyon Viewing Deck which provides a spectacular view of the Cleveland Dam from below the dam.  Take the right fork, and continue on the trail towards the hatchery.  After a couple of minutes you will get Cable Pool bridge.  At this point you can cross the bridge and head to the hatchery (short route), or not cross the bridge but continue on the Coho Loop trail, and cross the river at the Pipeline bridge, and loop back up the river to the hatchery (add about 30 minutes to the hike).  At the hatchery if it's spawning season (November - December) you'll see the fantastic site of salmon jumping over the fish ladders.  From the hatchery you'll see a trail directing you up the hill back to the Cleveland Dam.  This last part has some fairly steep stairs that eventually lead you close to the washrooms at the Cleveland Dam.  The hike should take you about 1 hour.

Age group:

We took our grandmother on the shortest hike at the Salmon Hatchery and she really enjoyed it.  It's flat, easy to walk, and takes only 20 minutes.  I think the park is good for people of all ages, even people in a wheelchair or stroller.

Expense rating:

Free, including parking.


You can never get bored at the Capilano Regional Park.  Nathe and I like exploring the forest.  You should see all the trees:  giant trees, dead trees, baby trees, some even growing out of dead trees.  There's lots of weird moss and fungi too, growing on the trees.  Nathe never leaves without building at least one dam in a small stream or puddle.  I haven't even mentioned the river, dam or salmon hatchery, because those are neat too.

Everytime we have visitors stay at our house, we take them to the Capilano Regional Park and they're always happy we did.


When you walk along the trail be sure you don't go too close to the edge, because it's a long way down and sometimes there's nothing to grab on to.  Also, don't forget to lock your car.  Mom says people sometimes get stuff stolen from their car while they're going for a walk.


To get there take Highway 1 and exit off the Capilano/Grouse Mountain exit 9 (exit 14) and drive north along Capilano Road about 1.5 km to the fish hatchery turnoff, or continue on Capilano Road for another kilometre to the Cleveland Dam parking lot.  For more information call (604) 432-6350.  Website:

Other activities closeby:  Capilano Suspension Bridge - North Vancouver, and Grouse Mountain - North Vancouver


North Vancouver


All seasons

Educational highlights:

When you go to the Capilano Regional Park you get to learn without knowing you're learning (I wish school was that easy).

In November you'll see salmon struggling up the fish ladder to lay their eggs.  I wouldn't have believed salmon could jump so high if I didn't see it with my own eyes.

The dam is cool too.  Nathe says it looks like Niagara Falls, but Dad said that's a slight exaggeration.  Nathe and I can never resist throwing at least one leaf over the dam.  First, we have to distract Mom and Dad by telling them there's an eagle in the tree, because you're not supposed to throw stuff in the water. 

Did you know the dam holds back water for the Capilano Water Reserve.  It looks like a plain old lake to me.  In fact, I once asked Dad if we could go swimming there.  He said it wasn't a bad idea, but the thousands of people who get their drinking water from there might not think so.

Fun for the adult?:

Mom says she likes going to the Capilano Regional Park because it's fun to get out of the house and talk about something other than our homework and her housework.  Not only that, it really is pretty there.  You should see it after it has rained and the sun is shining through the trees.  Dad says he feels "exhilarated" after he goes to Capilano Regional Park (whatever that means).  I have noticed he doesn't get mad at Nathe and I as much when we get back home.