Fall in Metro Vancouver signals the start of salmon spawning season for coho and chum, as well as pinks in odd numbered years like 2021. Here are some of our favourite public spots to view spawning salmon. We’ve included family friendly locations with clearly marked trails and viewing areas. If you have a favourite spot to share, email us!
Species: Chinook, coho and steelhead
Best Times: Adult coho, June to November; Chinook, October to November.
North Vancouver’s Capilano River Regional Park and Salmon Hatchery is a well-known area to view returning chinook and coho from June through November. Visitors to the park can learn about spawning salmon at the Capilano education centre and hike the local trail system to view spawning salmon from various lookout spots. Chinook return in October and November and can be viewed through the Capilano Hatchery underwater viewing windows or along the trails at various platforms.
Directions: 4500 Capilano Park Rd, North Vancouver. Heading north on Capilano Road (Capilano Road exit from Highway 1 or North Vancouver exit off Lions Gate Bridge, then left up Capilano Road) About half a kilometre past the Suspension Bridge, turn left on to Capilano Park Road (Look for the Capilano River Regional Park sign) and proceed one kilometre to end of the road. Capilano River Hatchery is located in Capilano River Regional Park, which is operated by Metro Vancouver. See more information on the park.
Species: Coho and chum
Best Times: November and December
From the Bowen Island ferry dock, walk towards the causeway that is the gateway to the Crippen Park trail system. At spawning times this causeway is one of the main “look outs” for both locals and tourists to view returning chum and coho. If you follow the trail further up the lagoon you can watch salmon spawn in the gravel beds nearby or under Bridal Veil Falls .
Species: Chinook, coho, pink in odd-numbered years
Best Times: Adult chinook, August-September; chum October-November; coho November-February.
The Tenderfoot Creek Hatchery just north of Squamish sees returning chinook, coho, and chum salmon each fall during spawning season. The hatchery offers a self-guided tour where you can read about the salmon life cycle on several interpretive signs. The area is also a great place to spot eagles.
Species: Coho, chum, pink in odd-numbered years
Best Times: Adult pink August-September; chum October-November; coho November-February.
The Mamquam river runs through Squamish, and thousands of returning salmon head there each fall. In the Mamquam River, you can see coho, chum and pink salmon spawning as early as August and through to the end of November. If you walk along the main trail head toward the river there are interpretive sign and spawning channels. Keep walking to where the Mamquam meets the Squamish River for the best salmon viewing opportunities. The trail system has several kilometers of flat gravel trails, making it a great place to combine a gentle hike with salmon spotting!
Species: Coho, chum
Best Times: Adult chum October-November; coho November
You can find spawning Coho and Chum salmon in Coquitlam at Hoy Creek Hatchery. Outside of Covid, the hatchery holds a salmon-come home event each October to celebrate the return of the spawning salmon. The City of Coquitlam has information and a handy map that shows you the best locations to view salmon in Hoy Creek Linear Park and nearby Scott Creek.
Species: Chum, coho, pink, steelhead and cutthroat
Best Times: Chum and coho spawners October- December at counting fence at 240th Street Bridge.
You can glimpse chum and coho in several spots along Kanaka Creek during spawning season, but the best place to view in October and November is at the counting fence on 24th Street. This counting fence holds salmon back while they are counted for conservation purposes, so they are easier to spot. After you check out the spawners you can continue on to Bell-Irving Hatchery in Kanaka Creek Regional Park. The park is a wonderful place to visit in the fall with many connected trails and an interpretive centre.
Species: Coho, steelhead, cutthroat, chinook
Best Times: Adults, October-January; juveniles in spring.
If you are in the Surrey area, head to south Surrey to visit the volunteer-run Little Campbell River Hatchery at Semiahmoo Fish and Game Club (1284-184th St., Surrey). A fish fence across the river funnels the fish into a live trap where volunteers count and identify the fish, then release them to spawn upriver. Little Cambell River has coho, chum, chinook, and steelhead at various times throughout the summer and fall. You can follow the river down to the Little Campbell River estuary on the border of White Rock and Surrey and follow the salmon up to the bridge at 160th and 8th avenue for more salmon viewing opportunities.
Species: Coho, chum, chinook and steelhead
Best Times: Adults, October-December
The Serpentine River runs through Tynehead Regional Park and has a Salmon Habitat Loop trail that offers good views of spawning salmon from late August to November from one of the many bridges in the park. The Serpentine Enhancement Society runs the volunteer-based Tynehead Hatchery in the park. To access the Salmon Habitat Loop, take 96th Ave and follow the signs to Tynehead Regional Park.