Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Trail Running the Forbidden Plateau Traverse

Making time for Joel and I to adventure together is just as important as our family adventures but those spare days are hard to come by. So when an opportunity presented itself, I quickly got all my ducks in order and planned a surprise adventure for just us. First I had to make sure camp Grandpa was available so the kids had somewhere to go. Then I had to weigh out my trail options based on distance, weather, travel time, logistics, and wow factor. Next was making sure Joel had no commitments on his upcoming days off that I was unaware of without giving away my true intentions. Happy to report it all worked out beautifully.

Our 24 hour adventure was trail running the Plateau Traverse, a 28km route from Paradise Meadows to Wood Mt. Check out Strathcona Prov. Parks Map to see route. With everything all set to go we hit the road Sunday evening and headed to Wood Mt. Ski hill where we spent the night "car" camping.

The biggest obstacle with trail running or hiking a traverse is shuttling either cars or people to the trailheads. Luckily, a friends Mom and her boyfriend were able to pick us up from Wood Mt. and drive us up to Mt. Washington early Monday morning. A big thanks to them for taking the time to help us out. [They ended up hiking the Circlet Lake loop so it was a win win for all!]

Quick trip report info:

We ran/trotted/hiked from Paradise Meadows (trailhead at Raven Lodge on Mt. Washington) to the parking lot of Wood Mt. (what used to be the Old Forbidden Plateau ski hill at the end of Forbidden Plateau Road near Courtenay)

The Plateau Traverse follows the route towards Kwai Lake. Trail and sign to Murray Meadows (just before reaching Kwai Lake) is where traverse begins. 

Strathcona Prov. Park signs state the trail is no longer maintained but old signs still exist along the route along with signs put up by the Comox District Mountaineering Club.

Trail is still evident, slightly overgrown in some parts, but easy to follow. We did research and informed ourselves about the route ahead of time. We did not use any GPS tracks to follow route but did use some navigating apps on our phones to track our route and collect data as we went. Also played around with a friends inReach device but that was just for fun. Surprisingly, there was cell coverage here and there along the route. 

Distance 28km with 730m of elevation. Our moving time (mostly running) was 4:08 and total time on the trail was about 6 hours. (started at 9:15am and ended at 3:30pm) Trail has a mix of dirt paths, small creek crossings, rock and rooty sections, creek bed trails, and wet muddy meadows to cross. 

Weather was ideal for trail running. High of 17C, cloudy and a chance of afternoon showers. A perfect trail to take on when the weather does not allow for scenic hikes on mountains. 

Adventure Report:

Before we even started the run I was experiencing some serious nerves. What is is about thru hikes and traverses that gets me all worked up? The feeling of being left at a trail and having to get myself back to the safety and security of the car completely overwhelms me. Within minutes of running it passes, thankfully. 

The run starts off on boardwalk and transitions to a dirt path as we made our way along Battleship Lake and past Lake Helen MacKenzie. The roots and rock begin to take over the path and soon we are trotting along, huffing and puffing our way to the Murray meadows connector trail. 

No trail run is complete without challenges. Joel spraining his ankle was our first challenge. Thankfully some meds and a quick taping of the ankle seemed to do the trick. Our pace slowed from here on out but we were in no hurry. Stopping was not really an option due to the bugs. Murray Meadows, as beautiful as it was, makes for a great bug breeding area.

The reprieve from bugs came as the trail took us through a forested area between Panther Lake and Johnson Lake. That gave us an opportunity to refuel and continue our run to McKenzie Meadow and McKenzie Lake. 

What are the odds of spraining your ankle again? Yip...seems Joel has bad luck. That little set back had us hiking for a bit but we were back running in no time. Not much stops my guy :)

Likely the best part of the run was making our way across McKenzie Meadow to check out the campsite at McKenzie Lake. At this point we were still avoiding water and puddles but once your feet get wet, it does not much matter anymore. Lots of laughs as we continued to slosh our way back out. 

From McKenzie Lake to Wood Mt. parking lot is 11km. Things went well for the next 4km as we passed Drabble Lakes and it was about here when things started to take a toll. I could tell Joel's ankle was bothering him based on the way he was running. Blisters were starting to cause me discomfort so a quick blister busting treatment was required. 

The afternoon rain that was in the forecast did indeed begin and things were suddenly not so fun anymore. We trotted along for about another 3km and on the final descent from the Mt. Becher connector trail to the parking lot we hiked because running was too painful. The rocky rough trail down was not well liked by Joel's ankle, our knees, or my blisters. But we made it and even through all the discomfort in the final km's we ended with smiles on our faces and had the most amazing time sharing it all with each other. 

What we packed:

We each had our own 2L hydration bag and pack, raincoats, tech type long sleeve shirt and t-shirt, running shorts of our choice, hat or buff, emergency blanket, headlamp, cell phone, trail running shoes, and one of us had the proper kind of running socks. May explain why I got blisters...but mine looked cooler! ;)

In our packs - a life straw, water treatment tablets, battery charger, gopro, inReach device, spare batteries for headlamps, pocket knife, lighter, tylonel and ibuprofen, tensor band, medical tape, gauze, bandaids (but not enough. Always check and restock before hand. Whoops) some other basic first aid supplies and a whistle.

Food - cliff bars, shot bloks, chocolate bars, dried fruit, fruit bars, nut bars, peanut butter and honey wrap, and boiled mini potatoes drizzled in butter and salt. 

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Guest Post - Making the Transition from Backcountry Wanderers to Camping Parents - Matthew Lettington

I am so excited to be sharing my first ever guest blogger here at On The Beaten Path.  I have followed Matthew Lettington online for a few years now; finding inspiration in his solo adventuring pursuits and then to see his adventures continue as he entered into parenthood.  His images are simply amazing, his passion for exploring Vancouver Island is inspiring and he writes a pretty sweet blog that blends the two together.  Matthew and I speak regularly via social media and we have met over coffee where adventure and blogging were the topics of conversation. I look forward to many more chats over coffee and friendship. I know you will love his blog, his trip reports, his candid take on adventuring with kids, and his passion for bushwhacking. (I swear it is one of his passions)

You can find Matthew Lettington at explorington.com
On Instagram @explorington
On Twitter @explorington

I asked Matthew to share a bit about how he made the transition from adventuring without kids to adventuring with kids. He shares some great information. Enjoy the read!

I’m outdoorsy. There, I’ve said it! I frequently smell of pine needles and sodden earth, and I accept this as a result of my love for the outdoors. I’ve had an active outdoor lifestyle for a long time, and my body is permanently changed from my activities: I have scars from bushwhacking, knee pain from the time I dislocated my patella on the Juan de Fuca Trail, and various other marks from sticks and rocks hitting me. When my first child arrived, I was worried that my outdoorsy days were done - but I’m stubborn: I worked to find ways to include my growing family in my adventures. Below, I’ve collected a few of my strategies to share with you.

A Willing and Forgiving Partner
The single biggest secret to my backcountry success is my wife! She enjoys camping and backpacking, though not as much as I do. We work as a team, and we need each other more on the trail than we do at home. We rely on each other to help get backpacks on and off, give snacks to our son while he is in the carrier, and pick up dropped items. I can’t imagine heading into the backcountry without her support.

The Right Location
I enjoy my personal adventures, and I’m not averse to hiking 30 or 40 kilometres in a day to get the job done. However, this isn’t a realistic expectation when carrying a child. Instead, I seek backcountry routes that offer the out there experience, combined with a short approach.
There are numerous adventures on Vancouver Island that offer this; my two favourites are Keeha Bay and Tapaltos Beach. They are close together, and offer excellent beach adventures and opportunities to explore. Flores Island’s Wildside Trail is another great option: it’s mostly beach walking, so you can stop almost anywhere to camp!

Pick locations where you can have a fire. Not only is campfire time an awesome bonding experience, but it allows for fun traditions such as s’mores and cooking on a stick! Also, you’ll want the warmth of that fire when it comes time for changing diapers.

The Right Backpack
If you pride yourself on your sixty-five-pound backpack, the transition to camping with a child is going to be a big struggle. I gave up that nonsense a few years back; now I follow a pack-light philosophy. Even on my solo adventures, my kit weighs under 25 pounds for a seven-day coastal adventure.
With my son, we use a combination backpack carrier. I can pack for two nights and load him into the backpack, while keeping the weight under 55 pounds. I know that’s a lot, but we bring a few luxuries with us, and we plan our adventures around frequent stops, snack times, and the goal that Hemingway will walk some of the easy sections.

Tip: tie a toy to the backpack. It gives him or her something to play with or chew on. The string will be a blessing for you because you can just haul on the string to retrieve the toy when it is inevitably dropped.

Bring lots of fun snacks. We eat all kinds of foods on the trail that we would never eat at home; it becomes part of the tradition of camping. Heading out into the backcountry and eating chocolate-covered granola bars gives kids something to look forward to! Those processed snacks offer a real feature, too: the packaging! It may not be environmentally friendly, but having individually-wrapped snack bars means you don’t need to worry about water or dirt getting into your food. If you want something less processed, try nuts with yogurt chips. Hemingway loves them!

Tip: Have your snacks at the ready. Kids get hangry!

Goodnight to Bedtime
I give up on bedtime while we are camping. At first we tried to keep our at home routines, but this didn’t work. Now, we wait until dark and go to bed together. There’s less complaining, and no worrying about our son unzipping the tent and wandering off into the woods.

Camping is in tents
You’re going to need three tents, but not all at once. Buy a light three-person tent, first. Although it may only take one person to change a diaper, it’s a lot more challenging in a tent. Be a team, lend a hand! If you have two children, they may not co-sleep well. If this is the case, consider bringing two 2-person tents. Each parent can share a tent with one child; as the family matures, the kids can bunk together.

It’s all in the bag
There is an entire philosophy around sleep systems. When teaching my son to sleep in a tent, I use the philosophy I follow myself: don’t get inside your sleeping bag. Whatever you use for your cover-up, be it a blanket, a sleep sack, or a proper down bag, just lay it on top of yourself. The most important thing to know is that pee flows with gravity. Not only is a blanket underneath him or her doing nothing to keep them warm, it’ll get wet.
In the summer we don’t even need a sleeping bag, just a child’s fleece blanket. But when it comes to camping in the shoulder season, we bring a proper sleeping bag rated for zero-degree weather.

Tip: Leave the onesies at home; bring fleece pants and sweaters. When the temperature drops, you don’t want a naked baby when you’re changing a diaper.

A Crappy Topic
There’s no getting away from it: camping with children means diapers. We follow the “pack it in, pack it out” philosophy, but used diapers get heavy! Fortunately, we found a solution: compostable diapers. Look for ones that are made from natural products, as they burn better. Whatever you do, do not put the diapers into the pit toilet. They require mechanical agitation to decompose.

Tip: Free-willy! It’s okay for small children to go bottomless as they run in the sand. Just make sure to put sunscreen everywhere!

Feeding the Milk Monster
Our little guy needs his milk! Camping with an infant was easy, as Mom brought the milk. But now that breastfeeding is finished, we’ve switched to cow’s milk. At first we tried powdered milk, but it has a different taste; it took a few weeks of trying it at home to get him used to it. Although we still use powdered milk for our long trips, now we bring small cartons of milk and cut it with water to double or triple the volume. As a note, two 250ml containers works better than one 500ml container.
Tip: don’t forget to bring a nip-clip! We use a bulldog clip from home to clip the nipple. That way when the bottle falls over, the milk doesn’t leak everywhere.

Bring Some Toys
Bringing an assortment of toys and books gives little ones something to do if weather rolls in. Hemingway transitions between activities quickly, and he needs lots of options for play. He’s obsessed with toy cars, so we bring a few each time we go out. He always finds creative ways to use the toys at the campsite.
A good set of collected stories has saved our bacon more than once! It’s tiring work chasing our little guy down the beach, and the only time we get to sit is when we are reading stories. It’s definitely worth the effort!
There are certain times where we just need Hemingway to sit. It may be when we are lost and trying to navigate, working to help each other out of a mud pit, or dealing with a crisis. When we need him to just sit and focus on something, we have a complement of photographs for him to look at on our phones.

Have Patience
It’s going to get tough. You’ll be hot, tired, and thirsty – and so will the kids. Remember, be patient! A little love goes a long way. Work with your child’s strengths, and play with them. Every kid is different!

The Harsh Reality
It’s not going to be fun all the time. There is going to be crying, probably in your ear. Stuff is going to get wet, and maybe even pee-soaked. Get used to dirt, because everyone is going to get dirty. Lastly, remember: it’s a work in progress. Reflect on your successes, and improve in areas that gave you frustration.

If you don’t think backpacking is for you and your kids, consider kayaking or canoeing! My suggestions still apply on the water, but it’s a more relaxing environment. Kayaks offer amazing storage capacity, and there is no need to fit everything into a backpack and haul it around.

Matthew Lettington

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Rosseau Route to Mt. Cokely - Family hike to finish off 3rd summit in the Arrowsmith Biosphere Region

Hiking to the summit of Mt. Cokely as a family marked the third and last peak within the Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region to cross off our list.  It was way back in 2013 when we hiked up Mount Moriarity and then in 2014 to the summit of Mt. Arrowsmith via Judges Route. Each offer something different and are three Vancouver Island peaks that should be on your list of hikes to do!

Summit of Mount Moriarity with Mt. Arrowsmith (center) and Mt. Cokely (further back and right) far off in the distance.

Top of Mt. Arrowsmith with beautiful views of the Strait of Georgia and BC's Coastal Mountains in the far distance.

We chose to hike Mt. Cokely via the Rosseau Route but there are other ways of reaching the summit, which I will mention shortly. We found this route to be both challenging and fun.  It offers an up-close and personal view of Mt. Arrowsmith, has some scrambling with exposure, and panoramic views while hiking for that added wow factor.

The always stunning Mt. Arrowsmith seen from the summit of Mt. Cokley

Distance: 3.2km trailhead to summit (total distance approx. 6km)
Time: We made it to the summit in 2 hrs 50mins but that was with plenty of time spent playing in the snow fields, snowball fights, snack breaks, and just taking in the views.  It can easily be done faster but why rush the experience? Enjoy the rewards along the way.

Trail Use: The Rosseau Route is moderate hiking with some class 3 scramble.  What is Class 3? The Yosemite Decimal System rates difficulty of hikes and climbs. Class 3 is defined as scrambling with increased exposure. Handholds are necessary. A rope should be available for learning climbers, or if you just choose to use one that day, but is usually not required.

Ropes are not required but we took the opportunity to practice.

You can also hike up the Saddle between Mt. Cokely and Mt. Arrowsmith (trailhead just before Rosseau Route) and scramble up to the Cokely ridge and return via Rosseau Route.  Nice loop and about the same distance as in and out on the Rosseau Route.  Both routes are accessible year round (pending snow conditions and gate closures) and crampons, snowshoes, and ice axe may be required.  You can also access Mt. Cokely summit via the CPR trail at Cameron Lake up the north slope of Mt. Cokely.  For winter and early spring, ice axe, crampons/snowshoes would be required.  This route would be aprox. 20km round trip.

Trail Prepardness: In the past few years, access to Cameron Main and Pass Main logging roads have been closed due to dry conditions during the summer. Highly recommend hiking the Rosseau Route in early spring or in the fall. Check Island Timberlands blog for updated gate closures.

There is cell coverage along the entire route but that should never take away from being prepared with the 10 essentials in your pack. Check out North Shore Rescue on what to bring. Mountain weather can change faster than what usually happens at home. For this type of hike, both Joel and I carry packs with the 10 essentials plus more. Ben and Liv also carry their own packs with most of the essentials and know how to use what they have. If for some reason any of us were to become separated from the group, the items in our pack are there just in case.

On this hike I played around a bit with some videos and put together a short clip that really shows off the beauty of this hike. The music is a bit corny, work in progress. (click on video to open or play)


Trail Description: Gaining 675m elevation in just over 3km to summit.  Beginning of the trail is a single track dirt path up through trees and follows along the base of a cliff. Within about 1km you will begin scrambling up the ridge where full views of Mt. Arrowsmith, Alberni Valley, mainland mountains and the ocean surround you.  The route has three areas where the scramble has some exposure but has plenty of good hand and foot holds to get you through it. Once on the ridge, the trail is easy to follow with rock cairns or flagging tape to guide you. The route is pretty straight forward – keep to the middle of the ridge.

Route follows the ridge on the left, above the snow line, and to the far left peak.

One thing to note, when reaching the ridge after the first scramble (when you are scrambling out of the trees and into the open). Look around and pay attention where you are coming up from.  There may be a tree marked with blue flagging tape (was for us) and this is where you need to scramble back down in order to return via the forested trail. If you continue past and keep walking back along the ridge, you will find yourself either having to back track or negotiate some steep cliffs.

Trip Report: What else can I say about this hike? The hike had the added challenge with the scrambles, the weather was perfect - warm and clear. Conditions were ideal and being Mother's Day just made the day more special. I asked Joel and the kids to tell me what their favorite part of the hike was. Their take on the day goes as follows:

Ben was a big fan of the snowfields. Ever patch we came upon sparked yet another snowball fight.
Liv loves to climb so it was no surprise that she enjoyed the scrambling. Here she is motoring up the first scramble.
Open views early on and the added challenge of scrambles on the hike is what Joel liked best. He seems to like capturing our pain as well.
My favorite moment is capturing our usual family shot. I never know what kind of mood we will be in but always love the family shot. Memories I will cherish forever.

Trailhead Directions: Access Loon Lake Main just before Port Alberni (travelling west) on Hwy 4. Follow Loon Lake Main to Cameron Main and turn left. Then turn left on to Pass Main. About 8km up Pass Main is where you want to park. There is an old "getting to be grown over" road on the right that is the trailhead. Note: The Saddle Route trailhead is just before the Rosseau Route trailhead. The logging roads are all well used and manageable with most cars. As with most logging roads, there are rough spots but steady as she goes will work just fine. 4x4 not required. We drove in a Hyundai Santa Fe. 

Trail Map: 

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Trail Spotlight - Explore Nanaimo's Colliery Dam and beyond

This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive commission if you make a purchase using a link.

A while back I had written a blog about 17 waterfalls along the East Coast of Central Vancouver Island and was blown away with the positive response from outdoor enthusiasts who found it to be a great resource for places to hike and explore. If you read that blog you will know that there were a few of the waterfalls on the list that I had not been to myself so I figured it was time to get out there and go see them firsthand.

I have lived in the Nanaimo area for over 9 years now and like so many other locals, have not been to Chase River Falls, just west of the official Colliery Dam Park trail system. So often I seek out areas to explore outside my own backyard to fulfil my desire for adventure and to immerse myself in the beauty of Vancouver Island but found this little afternoon stroll to be just as rewarding. Beyond the usual beaten paths are trails to explore and treasures to find. Worthy of a Trail Spotlight.

Trail Use: Easy Hiking and Trail Running

Description: The trails are a mix of paved, groomed gravel, boardwalk, bridges, and single track. Forested trails around two lakes and close to 3km of trail in the park. The trails within Colliery Dam Park are easy to travel. Past Chase River Falls the trail is more of a single track with roots and some elevation but overall is quite easy.

Directions: Parking lots off of Nanaimo Lakes Road and corner of Wakesiah Ave and 6th St. Can also park on the side of Harewood Mines Road.

Maps: Parts of Colliery Dam Park is an off leash dog area. Check out the Colliery Dam Map for trails and off leash areas within the park. Trail to Chase River Falls and beyond not part of map. To see more trails and how Colliery connects with Morrell Nature Sanctuary, Westwood Ridges, and the Abyss (Extension Ridge) try Trail Forks - Westwood Mountain Bike Trails map. Possibilities are endless.

Our Trip Report: I spent an afternoon exploring Chase River Falls and beyond, outside of the parks trail system, for a couple hours at a leisurely pace. Perfect for when time does not permit out of town day long hikes. What I found most appealing about exploring Colliery Dam Park was the fun factor for the kids. It is not a grand hike as far as elevation or a technically challenging trail but it does reward the kids with "cool to them" features along the way.

Kids love tunnels. To get to the Chase River waterfall you have to cross under highway 19.

Everyone loves waterfalls, even the kids.

Stunning landscape features.

Wild playground

Forest critters

Things to pack: For a leisurely city hike like this I suggest plenty of snacks or a lunch just to extend the experience a bit further, something I like to call fresh air feasting.  Trail side lunches are my favorite! Wondering about footwear? I recommend KEEN.

Check out a few of our favorite KEEN's over the years.

Disclosure: I am a Brand Ambassador for KEEN Canada and receive free shoes from them to try. I like the durability and function of their hiking shoes for both me and the kids. Opinions are my own.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

17 Waterfall Hikes along the Central East Coast of Vancouver Island

Everyone loves waterfalls. From a distance they sparkle, are magical and tranquil. Up close waterfalls are deafening, powerful and spectacular.  They captivate us, stimulate our senses and are a highlight of many hikes on Vancouver Island.  Here in the Pacific Northwest waterfalls are plentiful and winter is the best time for hiking to waterfalls.  My favorite waterfall encounters are the ones that I stumble upon by accident or are only there due to the endless winter rain. There are no maps or names for these waterfalls, they are the rewards of hiking and exploring.

Thankfully, there are plenty of waterfalls closer to home territory so I can get my fix of cascading water when time does not allow me to hunt for them on my own. Between Cowichan Valley north to Fanny Bay, a distance spanning 125km or so along the east coast of Vancouver Island, are 17 waterfalls that are worth exploring. Ranging from super easy to moderate/difficult. Short hike/long hike. Ropes/no ropes. There is something for everyone.

1. Millstone River Falls in Bowen Park
Boot level - Super Easy
Region - Nanaimo
Location - Access off of Bowen Road on Millstream Parkway

Probably the most accessible waterfall in Nanaimo.  Perfect for young families just getting into exploring the outdoors with their little ones. I loved taking my kids here when they were little. The trails gave me satisfaction of being in nature and the river, flora and outdoor setting provided great entertainment for my kids. One being the duck pond which is a fabulous way to encourage and experience wildlife encounters.  Recommend bringing some duck feed with you to enhance the experience. There are some trails to explore, interpretive signs, a fish ladder, and be sure to visit the rhododendron grove in the spring for a burst of color! Oh, and the waterfall is pretty cool too!

2. Waterfall at Colliery Dam
Boot level - Super Easy
Region - Nanaimo
Location - Parking lots off of Nanaimo Lakes Road and corner of Wakesiah Ave and 6th St. Can also park on side of Harewood Mines Road.

Oddly enough, I have never actually seen the waterfall with my own eyes but have visited Colliery Dam many, many times. My usual time spent here is trail running with the kids as they prepare for the school cross country running events every fall. The trails are a mix of paved, groomed gravel, boardwalk, bridges, and single track. There are two lakes with trails around each which always seem to grab our attention. Usually our rock skipping championships take place here.  Next time I am passing thru the area I will be sure to stop and check out the waterfall. Perfect way to sneak in a daily dose of nature with the family. (photo coming soon)

3. Ammonite Falls
Boot level - Moderate
Trail: 5km total
Region - Nanaimo
Location - Jameson Road with parking lot on Creekside Pl.

Ammonite Falls are the best bang for your buck in the Nanaimo area. They are truly spectacular all year round. The hike in is a gentle descent along a mix of old gravel roads and trails thru treed and logged forests. I graded this hike as moderate because of the ropes required to use to get down to the falls. You don't have to go down but the ropes are handy and allow for more exploring along the creek.  The falls are named Ammonite for a reason, pick up a rock and there is sure to be a fossil. The slope to get down can be muddy with all the waterfall mist so don't be afraid to get a little dirty.  Trail signage has improved over the years but on a few occasions I have met people on the trail who were unsure as to how to get back or tried going back a different way but were a bit confused. I find following the signs in works great and taking the more steep trail back makes a nice 5km loop. Head back past the trail taken on the way in.  Trail will begin to go uphill, keep left at the first trail intersection (will be heading away from Benson Creek) and the trail pops out at the end of the gravel road that you came in on.

4. Waterfall on Mt. Benson 
Boot level - Moderate
Trail: Will map route and update
Region - Nanaimo
Location - Parking area at Witchcraft Lake on Mt. Benson Road

Before getting the kids up to the summit of Mt. Benson, way back when they were about 5 and 3 years old, we would play on the web of trails Mt. Benson has acquired. A favorite loop we would do was to hike up trail #1 to the waterfall, continue up to the logging road and then back down the more popular trail #2.  Add in stopping at the viewpoint and checking out the old cabin remains making this an adventurous day for families or those wanting to give Mt. Benson a try before going all the way to the top! I have always liked this loop because it is challenging, offers a view overlooking Nanaimo and the Strait of Georgia, a beautiful forest to hike thru with a waterfall thrown in for fun.  I think of this loop as a break from the usual grind up and down Mt. Benson. Best to check out the waterfall during the winter months. It does tend to dry up later in the summer.  I will get up there soon and track my loop for a more accurate distance and route. I graded this as moderate but keep in mind it is a challenge not only due to the fact it is steep climbing right from the get go, but also because you have to be willing to navigate yourself around the trails with some confidence and know how.

5. Little Qualicum Falls (Provincial Park)
Boot Level: Easy/Moderate
Trail: 6km of trails within the park
Region: Parksville/Qualicum
Location: 19 km north of Parksville on Hwy 4.

Another waterfall I have not yet checked out, mostly due to the fact we are en route to somewhere else when we pass the Provincial Park. That is not to say that the waterfalls are not worth your time. They most certainly are.  Now, because I have not been there, I am not sure if the trails are easy or moderate, but do know the trails to and around the falls are not long in distance. My task, should I choose to accept, is check out the falls myself and report back. (Happy to share a photo if you have.)

6. Englishmen River Falls (Provincial Park)
Boot Level: Easy/Moderate
Trail: 3km of maintained trail in park
Region: Parksville/Qualicum/Errington
Location: Errington Road off of Hwy 4. Directional Signage provided.

When its flowing the waterfall is impressive and powerful! Provincial Parks are great for  having well maintained trails and allowing access to view these beautiful waterfalls but if your looking for a full day hike or to escape people, this is not it. It is a beautiful canyon amidst an old growth forest, offering plenty of nature wow factor.  Great for families or as a side trip if in the area.

7. Triple Falls
Boot Level: Easy
Trail: less than 1km
Region: Parksville/Qualicum/Errington
Location: Park at end of Sierra Road in Errington

For those looking to escape the manicured trails and tourists at Little Qualicum or Englishmen River, there is an out of the way spot nearby with three small waterfalls.  They are not as spectacular as their neighboring waterfalls but the effort to navigate to the trail head and then finding your way is the challenge. A few trails are evident but take the trail to the right and continue past the pumphouse,  then about 10 mins or so to the falls.

8. Rosewall Creek Falls
Boot Level: Easy/Moderate
Trail: Aprox. 8 km total
Region: Fanny Bay
Location: From Hwy 19, Cook Creek Road to Hwy 19A, north to Berray Road. Directional signage posted.

Rosewall Creek is a provincial park but the falls are not within the parks boundary. Trail to the falls follows along the south side of the creek and then over the creek via a bridge. Once on north side of creek, you will go under hwy 19A and then under Hwy19.  After that it is a beautiful single track trail through a dense forest and moss covered trees following the creek upstream. At the falls there are opportunities to explore further and check out the larger falls. For a more detailed account of the hike, check out my blog post Waterfalls and Sea Lions.
NOTE: Some readers have informed me that when water levels are high, the creek overflows and portion of the trail can be cut off, usually between late Nov to Early Feb (pending rainfall) Eventually the water resides and trail is accessible.

9. Nile Creek Falls
Boot Level - Moderate
Trail: 14km round trip or 5 km round trip (approximate distances)
Region: North of Qualicum
Location: From Hyw 19A, head west to the end of Charelton Road (14km trail) or park off hwy 19, north side, at the Nile Creek bridge (5km trail)

If you are looking for waterfalls, this is waterfall wonderland. The trail follows alongside Nile Creek the entire way. Trail is mostly single track and not much for elevation until you reach the waterfalls. Beautiful forest with a variety of trees, several cool bridges made from fallen trees, and waterfall after waterfall to reward you at the end. This trail is suitable all year round and makes for a great day hike. When I hiked here last, I was with a large group and was distracted from taking pictures so the photos I do have are not worthy of posting.  The likelihood of me returning here in the near future is slim so, if you have a photo of one of the falls you would like to share, let me know. Happy to showcase it here.

10. Bonnell Creek Falls
Boot Level - Moderate/Difficult
Trail: 3km
Region: Nanoose
Location: End of Sundew Place (off Sommerset Road and Sea Blush Drive)

Bonnell Creek Falls are another set of waterfalls I have not yet explored but hear it is an adventure to get to them. Those up for the adventure will be rewarded with a series of three waterfalls, the third one requires dropping down a 20' vertical bank, with ropes to help of course. In fact, a couple rope sections are required to see all three waterfalls.  My good friend over at Island Nature has been to the falls and has a great write up along with spectacular photos. Check out his post Bravery Needed at Bonnell Creek

11. Crystal Falls
Boot level: Easy/Moderate
Trail: 6km loop
Region: Ladysmith
Location: Parking access on Dogwood Drive, Mackie Road or Methuen/6th Ave entrance

Crystal Falls is just one of the features of the Holland Creek Trail in Ladysmith. I mostly love trail running here, always stopping to stretch at the falls, which are best viewed from the south side trail.  A mix of groomed trail and single track with various elevation thrown in. It is a great place to start hiking or get out with the family. Expand the hike by heading up to Heart Lake and/or hiking the Stocking Creek Lake trail.  So many options but most important, there is a waterfall to entice you there. (I have photos somewhere, will update when I find them.)

12. Stocking Creek Falls
Boot Level: Easy
Trail: 2-3km
Region: Ladysmith
Location: Parking access at end of Finch Place or Thicke Road

I love these falls. They are so close to civilization yet once you start getting close, hear the water running, and feel the waterfall spray, civilization seems to disappear. One of the best features of the waterfall here is you can get behind it! It is truly an amazing sound to stand behind and underneath the waterfall and feel the power. Ever stuck your head under a waterfall? Trails in the park are well maintained but you can find some single track trails to explore. Pack a lunch and enjoy an afternoon hanging out by the creek. (picnic tables near Thick Road entrance) This has always been a favorite and special place to go with my kids, letting them explore wild spaces in a safe environment.

13. Christie Falls
Boot level: Moderate
Trail: 8km total (to falls and back)
Region: Ladysmith
Location: From Hwy 19, take Grouhel Road exit, right on Christie Road, and then left on Arroyo Road. Just past yellow gate, on the right, is an old logging road to fish hatchery (gated) Park here and follow road to fish hatchery.

Christie Falls are amazing. They sort of come out of nowhere and take your breath away, especially in the winter when the water flow is powerful. The hike to the falls involves walking 2.5km on a logging road, then a 500m or so hike up to the falls. We usually bring our bikes and ride to the fish hatchery and stash the bikes in the bush.  From here, the trail leads up Bush Creek and is easy to follow.    Biking the road leaves more time to explore the falls. Trail is a single track with plenty of roots, elevation, and some ropes to help get you up above the large falls. Some other options while here is to hike/bike Cammus Ridge and/or check out Thistle Mine (14km total for this route) A section of the Trans Canada Trail connects Bush Creek to Haslam Creek and can be a great all day bike trip for the whole family. Cross the creek and let the adventures begin. So many options.

14. Skutz Falls
Boot Level: Moderate (with hike)
Trail: 7k Skutz Falls to Mile 66 Trestle Loop
Region: Cowichan Valley
Location: West on Hwy 18, left at Skutz Falls Road and right on Mayo Road. Parking at river.

Skutz Falls would be better described as steep rapids. An interesting feature is the man made fish ladders that help get the fish up the Cowichan River. May be fun to check that out at the right time. Viewing the falls takes no time so why not add in an afternoon hike along the banks of the Cowichan River. Hikes are best when combined with waterfalls. 

15. Maple Mountain Falls
Boot Level: Moderate
Trail: 6km total (short version) or 11km loop (Blue/Yellow Trail Loop)
Region: Cowichan Valley
Location: Near Crofton, park at end of Chilco Road

This may not be an actual waterfall but everytime I run past, I stop and admire it. When I first starting exploring Maple Mountain, it was summer and never saw a speck of water dripping. So, when I set off one day mid winter and came upon the bridge, I was pleasantly surprised at the new view that was before me. There are likely many, many trails on Vancouver Island very similar to this but I like this trail and I like the waterfall so I am putting it on the list. Don't go looking for it mid to late summer though. Go while the water is flowing! Maple Mountain has a few hiking trail options and all are spectacular. When I go with the kids we start at Chilco Road and head down Blue to the Yellow Trail, pass the waterfall and end at about the 3km mark which is a nice flat spot along the Sansum Narrows. We never have time to do the full Yellow/Blue Loop due to exploring, eating, and just being lazy so back out the way we came it is. Hiking or trail running the entire loop is well worth the effort, one I have enjoyed doing many times, always stopping to admire the flowing water.

16. Knarston Falls
Boot Level: Moderate
Trail: Variety of distances
Region: Lantzville
Location: See map for parking trail access, one being at the end of Normarel Drive.

Just so happens that I learned about these waterfalls as I was writing this blog so this is a brand new one for me too! If you want to hike the trails and see the falls located in the Copely Ridge Forest, I suggest taking a quick moment and read some info the Save Lanztville Forest has put together.  Then, grab your family and friends and go check out the trails and waterfall yourself. Knarston Falls are not the ones labelled on map.  They are accessible via a new trail (P&R Railroad) off of Wildebeest.

17. Banon Creek Falls (Chemainus River)
Boot Level: Easy
Trail: 5 mins to river on well used path. 
Region: Chemainus
Location: From Hwy 19 turn west on Sticker Mt Road. Then North onto Grace Road. Follow for 4km to parking area with locked gate.

Pack a picnic lunch and head on down to the river for the day.  Banon Creek Falls are perfect for those sunny spring days with family or friends. There are some trails to check out or just walk along the creeks edge exploring on your own. The waterfall makes a great backdrop.

With any outdoor adventure, be prepared and be safe around rivers, creeks, steep banks and waterfalls. Heavy rain can cause loose soil and erosion, wet rocks plus cooler temps equals slippery surface, and use common sense when attempting to use ropes or navigating steep sections.

Boot Levels:
Super Easy - Short distance, easy access, well groomed paths, and elevation change minimal.
Easy - Short distance, easy access, groomed paths and some elevation change.
Easy/Moderate - Variety of trails (groomed and single track) with moderate elevation change.
Moderate - At least 5km, mostly single track trail, mixed elevation changes, steep banks with possible ropes to aid in access to falls.
Moderate/Difficult - More effort required to access trail, technical single track trails, greater distance with moderate elevation change.
Difficult - Less accessible, technical trail and moderate to high elevation change.


Hiking to waterfalls almost always involve taking photos. We use the Canon EOS Rebel. Check it out on Amazon.