Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Pretend you are in Costa Rica for the afternoon!

The falls at Stocking Creek Park

Costa Rica is full of gorgeous scenery and lush tropical forests.  Within these forests you can find La Fortuna Waterfall, a 70 meter ribbon of water that falls creating a greenish blue swimming hole.  Sounds beautiful and an area we will someday visit but with two small children, those travel plans are a few years away.  So… where can you find a waterfall that will impress us, the kids, doesn’t require two weeks holidays or the price tag to go with it?  Stocking Creek Park will do just that.  In early May 2009 the park officially opened with a new bridge, picnic areas, and freshly groomed trails.  New signs have been added along the trails, identifying fauna in the area.  Add the creek, some single-track hiking trails and of course, the waterfall to create an afternoon vacation for the whole family.  

Our outdoor adventure began at the trailhead on Thicke Road. (located four hundred metres south of Byron’s Store, on Chemainus Road). The other trailhead is on Finch Pl. (take Gait Rd off of Chemainus Road).  We headed down the path and quickly came upon the new bridge.  Immediately we spotted some signs that identified western trillium and bracket fungi.  The kids were excited about finding signs and learning more about the plants.  On the east side of the bridge there is a narrow trail that heads into the bush.  Being outdoor adventurers, we decided to try that one.  We stayed on trails that kept us close to the creek.  Some trails have rocks, roots, and thick bush covering parts of it, but our 2 year old managed.  We came across a few forks on the path.  Keep left.  If you come to the creek, turn back and try another one.  Trails heading right and uphill will take you into private property.  Not long after we set out we reached the top of the waterfall.  The trail runs along the edge of a steep cliff, so do remind kids to be careful.  This is a perfect time to talk about why we do not run on trails…seeing the steep cliff helps them understand why.    After peering over the cliff to view the waterfall, we decided to continue on.  Taking the second trail to the left proved to be worth it.  It is a bit steep but holding the kids hands was enough to get them down.  There it was…Stocking Creek Falls, 20’ high with lush foliage and rocky cliffs.  Instantly I felt like we were on vacation taking in beautiful scenery.  Our trip was in early June when the temps were 30C, so being at the falls was very refreshing.  The creek is not fast moving or very deep.  Hiking sandals are perfect for this location…makes crossing the creek easy.  Once across you can get up close to the waterfall, behind it in fact.  Who needs to go to Costa Rica to stick your head under a waterfall when you can do it here.  The kids did not get quite that close, but had fun watching dad get wet.   

Further down the creek there are tiny pools and smaller water falls.  Made for some fantastic pictures and exploring.  After spending some time taking in the falls and dangling our feet in the creek, it was time to head back.  Rather than take the same trail back, we took the trail on the west side of the creek.  It is a steep single track trail that goes up.  Older kids can manage it easily; younger ones should go in front of you so you can help them up.  About 40 yards up, “Middle Trail” heads left.  It was a fun and scenic trek through the bush that leads back to the main trail.  The kids again spotted more informative signs.  We read about the Tall Oregon grapes and Indian Hellebore, a poisonous plant that if eaten, you would die.  Nice to know.

At the end of every outdoor adventure, a feast is required.  We were home in 20 minutes, packed a picnic supper, and spent the rest of the evening relaxing on the beach.  Costa Rica will have to wait.  We are too busy enjoying our “made in west coast” adventures.

This article was first published in the July 2009 issue of Take 5 Magazine.  
If you live in the central Vancouver Island, BC area take note:  Are you interested in exploring this park with your children but overwhelmed thinking about how to go about doing it?  I am offering a "Get Started" hike for parents/caregivers and their children (aged 0-5) or those new to hiking at Stocking Creek Park every Wednesday from 10am-noon now until June 27, 2012.  
For more information contact: onthebeatenpath@gmail.com  Room for 8 people each week so book now!


  1. Gorgeous pictures! You guys inspire me, there is no question.

  2. I was up Island and saw your blog post and checked out Stocking creek today! Costa Rica-like for sure. I will be trying out some of your other trips too! You guys rock!