Chasing Waterfalls in Western Canada

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Picture this. You're hiking down a trail, surrounded by the green of the forest, the sunlight filtering through the leaves and branches above, and you start to hear it, the rumble of water. The temperature drops a few degrees and the sound gets louder, you can smell the wet earth. You turn the corner and you're met with an incredible the spray of water and a view of water spilling over an edge, crashing onto the ground below. The sounds, the sights, the smells; it all contribute to why so many love chasing waterfalls (sorry TLC)

When I’m planning a road trip, I will always plan a waterfall hike or two. Living in southern BC, there is no shortage of waterways, and there is always a waterfall to be found and enjoyed.

From Wells Grey Provincial Park (also known as Canada's Waterfall Park) to the Rockies, to Vancouver Island, there are waterfalls in abundance.

So how do you know where to start? Let's dive in!

Wells Grey Provincial Park

Can we really talk about waterfalls in BC without mentioning Wells Gray? Established in 1939, this park spans 5,250 square kilometres (1.3 million acres) and has 41 named waterfalls and still counting. Some of the most popular include Helmcken Falls, Spahats Creek Falls, Mushbowl Falls and Dawson Falls.

Past chasing waterfalls, this wilderness park is every backcountry enthusiasts dream, whether traveling by foot, boat or even horseback. 

Photo: Chance Breckenridge
Helmcken Falls, Wells Grey Provincial Park
Photo: Ashley Lawerence
Some of Wells Greys most popular waterfalls; Spahats Falls, Triple Decker Falls, Helmcken Falls

Wilson Creek Falls, New Denver, BC

Hidden away down a FSR, you'll find a 2.4km out and back trail that brings you into Goat Range Park and leads you to this 73m waterfall. A perfect shaded hike through the trees opens up as Wilson Creek has cut through the earth and rock creating these falls. 

Fletcher Falls, Kaslo BC

These falls are not far from the road and have viewpoints from the top and the bottom, accessed by quite a steep trail. These waters flow from the Selkirk Mountains into Kootenay Lake. Along the shores of Kootenay Lake at the base of these falls, you'll even find some hike in camp sites.

 


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Kakwa Falls, Grande Cache, AB

Are you looking for something more off the beaten path? Look no further than Kakwa Falls, the tallest waterfalls in Alberta, waiting to take your breath away.

These epic shots were captured by Darrel Comeau while out with Tyler Weber and Tyler Edey after having flown in with Travel Alberta.

While rappelling into a waterfall might be a bit extreme, we can't recommend visiting Kakwa Falls enough. Nestled southwest of Grande Prairie, this majestic spot demands a well-equipped 4x4 for the journey, but the spectacular views are absolutely worth it!

Photos taken by Darrel Comeau @darrelcomeau, orange jacket on rappel is Tyler Edey @tyleredey, green jacket is Tyler Weber @tylerwberphoto

Tyler Edey (@tyleredey) rappelling Kakwa Falls
Tyler Edey (@tyleredey) rappelling Kakwa Falls
Kakwa Falls, the tallest waterfall in Alberta
Kakwa Falls, the tallest waterfall in Alberta

Takakkaw Falls, Yoho National Park, Field, BC

“The hike from Takakkaw Falls to Twins Falls in Yoho National Park is awesome. Not only do you start at Takakkaw (the second tallest waterfall in Canada) and end at magnificent Twin Falls, but you also pass several other waterfalls including Angel Staircase, Point Lace, and Laughing Falls. Here's a pic of Takakkaw Falls.” - Tyler  Dixon (@tcdixon03)

Giant Steps Waterfall, Banff National Park

“The Giant Steps Waterfall in Paradise Valley in Banff National Park is also worth the trek.” - Tyler  Dixon (@tcdixon03)

The top of Giant Steps Waterfalls in Banff National Park, with a person on top for perspective
Giant Steps Waterfalls in Banff National Park

Waterfalls near Port Alberni

Looking for the perfect waterfall to take a swim under in the hot summer months? Enjoy a 3km round trip hike to China Creek Falls. 

Or if you're looking for a longer hike, for a truly remote and natural waterfall experience should put Della Falls on their list. Get the details for these 2 waterfalls, plus 2 more and feel the rush of of Port Alberni Waterfalls this summer 

China Falls near Port Alberni
Wiener Falls near Port Alberni
Stamp Falls near Port Alberni

Waterfall Photography Tips

So you chased the waterfall, you found the waterfall, now what?

How do you take a photo that captures the beauty of this landscape in front of you? You can't. A photo or video will capture some of the beauty, but there's nothing quite like sitting in front of the waterfall taking it all in. But you can try with these tips. 

What is in my backpack to take long exposure photos of a waterfall?
  • sturdy tripod. Non-slip feet are helpful too.
  • wide angle lens to capture as much as the landscape as possible. 
  • variable ND filter for that wide angle lens. This allows less light into the camera at a time, which allows much slower shutter speeds to get that smoothed out movement look.
  • lots of lens cloths to clean off water droplets (or leave them on the lens for a fun effect)
If you're shooting with a phone camera, try these tips
  • use the long exposure settings
  • get low and look up at the waterfall
  • take a video clip to capture the sights and sounds
  • include a person into the shot for some perspective of the size of the waterfall

Best season to chase waterfalls

You can chase waterfalls all year, but they are the fullest during spring melt which in lower elevations, peak flow is during April and May, while in higher elevations, including in the Rockies, this happens in June. 

Know Before you Go

  • Through May and June 2024, BC Parks will be replacing the Helmcken Falls viewing platform, improving accessibility on the nearby trails and upgrading supporting facilities. For safety reasons, the area will be closed to the public during this time.
  • Be cautious and safe around waterfalls. Stay behind guard rails and respect signage. Remember rocks may be slippery, especially near the base of waterfalls where the water sprays further than you may think.

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