The Coho Festival in West Vancouver’s Ambleside Park is one of the North Shore‘s main festivals, taking place every fall on the second Sunday in September.
The Coho Festival
In 2018 the Coho Festival takes place from 11 am to 6 pm on Sunday, September 9, which is also Grandparents’ Day, which makes it an especially great destination to take the multi-generational family.
It’s a nice festival honoring the Coho salmon as they make their way back from the ocean to spawn in the Capilano River.
The Coho Festival is an especially good time to visit Ambleside as the place is full of people, live music, community organization displays and hundreds of people lining up for barbecued salmon for lunch. What’s more – there is a beer garden on the sand at the beach, which makes this one of the few days of the year that you can drink alcohol legally at Ambleside, which, even on a regular day, is one of the Lower Mainland’s most beautiful beaches.
At the Coho Festival there is live music at the beach. In 2016 the headliner band was Chilliwack – the popular Lower Mainland group that produced numerous Canadian and international hits including “California Girl” “My Girl (gone gone gone)” and “Whatcha Gonna Do” in the 1970s and 1980s.
In 2017 highlights of the Coho Festival performance schedule included the following (and 2018 will be similar):
- 12 pm – Viper Central: a local Bluegrass and Oldtime Country band.
- 2 pm – Four on The Floor: performing Pop, Rock and Top 40’s tunes.
- 3 pm – Taylor James: playing Rock, Blues and Alternative Folk.
- 4 pm – Gary Comeau & Jerry Cook: entertaining with music as The Mardi Gras Minstrels.
- 4:30 pm – The ODDS: a Vancouver-based Power-Pop legend band.
The Coho Walk
IMPORTANT NOTE: The Coho Walk part of the Coho Salmon Festival did NOT take place in 2017. Hopefully it will take place again in 2018 but that is to be determined.
Another key part of the festival most years (but not in 2017) is the Coho Walk, which starts over in North Vancouver at the Cleveland Dam in the Capilano River Regional Park. There are two walks actually – an easy 4 km one down to the salmon hatchery and back up in a loop, which is great for young families, and a much longer one that goes all the way down to the ocean for people wanting a fairly serious, although mostly downhill hike.
For the easy route, from the lawns by Capilano Lake at the park, people walk over the Cleveland Dam and down the trails to the river, to the salmon hatchery, and then back up to the dam.
If you’ve ever wanted to explore the Capilano River Regional Park or visit the Capilano River Hatchery to see the salmon, this is a great time to do it. The trails are especially well marked at this time and there are lots of people to keep you company, water stations on the event route, and informational displays along the way.
For the more challenging Coho Walk route, instead of continuing on in a loop back up to the dam from the hatchery, serious walkers just keep heading down until they reach the ocean. It’s not a difficult hike, but it’s a fair distance (i.e., about 8.5 km).
You don’t have to join the Coho Walk to take part and enjoy the Coho Festival – the walk is just an added bonus.
TIP: Parking at the Cleveland Dam can be a challenge during the Coho Festival. If joining the Coho Walk consider taking public transit up from the Park Royal shopping mall in West Vancouver, especially if you plan to walk all the way down to the ocean.
The Coho Run
Another element of the Coho Festival is the annual Coho Run. It’s a 14 km running race starting at 9 am on the same Sunday after Labour Day as the festival. The run starts at Kitsilano in Vancouver and ends at the beach at Ambleside on the North Shore.
For more information on the race, check out the Coho Run‘s official web page.
The Coho Festival is a “near zero waste event,” where most materials used are recyclable, reusable or compostable, and participants are encouraged to walk, cycle or use public transit as much as possible (although many people still drive).
Funds raised from the Coho Festival every year go to the Coho Society to support salmon habitat rejuvenation projects in the area.
For more information, check out the Coho Festival Society website.