There’s something mesmerizing about waterfalls: watching the water cascade down, listening to the roar and feeling the spray on our skin when we get closer. There are lots of waterfalls hiding in the North Shore’s forested slopes. You just have to go for a hike to find them.
Here are three of my favourite waterfall hikes on the North Shore.
While the spillway from the Cleveland Dam may be a human-made waterfall, it’s still really spectacular! Water plunges 90 meters into the Capilano River. Below the dam, the river twists and turns in a tight canyon. Go for a short and easy hike that lets you see the dam spillway from both above and below, and explores a bit of the river canyon.
Directions: Park at the salmon hatchery in Capilano Regional Park just off Capilano Road. Start by climbing the stairs on the Palisades Trail to the top of the dam. Walk over the dam and stop to peer over the edge Then descend the service road down to the Pipeline bridge.
Turn left and follow the Coho Trail and Second Canyon trails past another bridge to the lower dam viewpoint. To finish, retrace your steps along Second Canyon trail back to the bridge. Cross it to get back to your car at the hatchery.
There are lots of trail intersections to confuse you, so bring the Capilano Regional Park map to stay on the right track.
Trail Stats: Easy, 3km loop, 100m elevation gain, 1.5 hours.
Hidden away in the upper reaches of Lynn Valley, Norvan Falls is a popular destination for hikers. The entire trail is in the forest, so it makes a great hike for days when you want a bit of shade. The waterfall is in a tight little side canyon. When the water levels drop in late summer you can scramble down into the creek bed to get closer to the falls.
Directions: Follow Lynn Valley road to its end at a parking lot in Lynn Headwaters Regional Park. From your car, walk across the bridge, then turn left onto the Lynn Loop Trail. Follow the trail beside the river for about 4km to a gravelling clearing.
At the far side of the clearing turn left onto the Headwaters Trail. Follow this trail, a former road, for 3 more kilometers to Norvan Creek. Head uphill on a short side trail to see Norvan Falls. To get back to your car, turn around and retrace your steps. The Lynn Headwaters Regional Park map will help you find your way.
Trail Stats: Moderate, 14km return, 195m elevation gain, 5 hours.
Until a few years ago, the trail to Kennedy Falls was almost unknown. These days a steady stream of hikers follow a rugged trail to reach the thundering falls. The trail doesn’t have any big climbs, but it has lots of tough terrain and can be difficult to follow. Give yourself plenty of time for this one, as the destination is definitely worth it.
Directions: Park in the lot at the end of Mountain Highway or on surrounding streets. Be sure to respect the resident-only parking areas. To start the hike, walk up the gravel road. When the road turns left, turn right on to the Cedar Trail. Ignore a junction to the left with the Kirkford mountain bike trail and stay on the Cedar Trail.
It follows an old road bed and dips down into some washed out creek beds. Watch carefully at each one to stay on the main trail. After about 4 kilometers you’ll arrive at the Big Cedar, which is said to be over 600 years old!
Go past the Big Cedar and slightly left to continue on the trail to Kennedy Falls. The trail gets a bit rough past the Big Cedar. Navigate carefully through logging remains and old landslide debris. Eventually, you’ll hear the crashing waters of Kennedy Falls and descend to the creek. The falls are in a tight canyon, but you can walk along the side of the creek to get a better view. When you’re ready to head back, retrace your steps to your car.
Trail stats: Moderate/Difficult, 10km round trip, 150m elevation gain, 5 hours
Taryn Eyton is a Vancouver-based hiker, adventure traveller and blogger. You can find her on the trails of Vancouver’s North Shore on weeknights and camping in the backcountry of Southwestern B.C. on weekends. Follow Taryn’s adventures at HappiestOutdoors.ca.