Vancouver Island has many of the best waterfalls in Canada thanks to its lush forests, hilly terrain and wet climate. Everywhere you go on this incredibly scenic island you are treated to outstanding natural landscapes, with wild, cascading waterfalls featuring around practically every corner. Of course, we saw far more waterfalls on Vancouver Island than the 9 on this list, and there are many more we haven’t made it to yet, but these stood out as our favourites.
In general, Vancouver Island waterfalls are all more dramatic in the rainier winter season or after a strong rain but they are all still worth a visit any time of year.
Vancouver Island Waterfalls Map
9 Best Waterfalls on Vancouver Island
First, to answer the obvious question: “Is this list in order of best to worst?”
Answer: Yeah, more or less. Meaning that, yes, this is exactly how we would rank them today. However, tomorrow is another day and they are all so unique and enjoyable in their own way that our opinions are continuously changing. I guess you’ll just have to visit all these terrific Vancouver Island waterfalls yourself to see if you agree…
1. Elk Falls
This massive waterfall near Campbell River crashes down from an impressive 25 metres and there are several different viewing angles. There is a 4-kilometre loop hike that takes you to all the different viewpoints, the most interesting of which is the Elk Falls Suspension Bridge crossing the steep canyon. The bridge is 60 metres across and stands 64 metres above the river, making it the highest pedestrian bridge on Vancouver Island.
The best view of the falls themselves, however, is from the lower viewing platform just left of the suspension bridge, which is closer and allows you to really get a feel for their impressive height. Following the loop trail around to the other side, it is also possible to make your way out onto the rocks to see the falls from above.
Take care, though, as the wet rocks can be slippery and there are no safety rails (and people have died after getting too close to the edge).
Unlike many of the waterfalls on Vancouver Island, Elk Falls is fairly steady throughout the year because some of the river water is diverted for hydroelectric power. Nonetheless, it is still usually a bit wilder in spring or after any big rain.
2. Mystic Beach Waterfall
Possibly the most unique of all the Vancouver Island waterfalls on the list, this gem on picturesque Mystic Beach tumbles off a sheer 10-metre cliff right into the ocean (at high tide) or onto the beach (at low tide). On sunny days you’ll be treated to some terrific rainbows.
It is probably best to visit at low tide so you can walk right up to the falls (or even into them, if that’s your sort of thing). At high tide the waves and rocky bottom make getting close a bit treacherous.
Of course, getting to Mystic Beach isn’t quite as straightforward as some of the others on this list. It is located about 75 kilometres from Victoria (1.5 hrs by car) and involves hiking 2 kilometres each way on a rough, rooty and muddy section of the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail.
The trail starts from the China Beach parking lot – wear good hiking shoes (or rubber boots), take your time and keep in mind it gets dark in the forest at least an hour before sunset.
3. Christie Falls
While the impressively diverse Christie Falls are located just off the main highway close to Ladysmith, south of Nanaimo, they also require a bit of a long hike to reach them. The beautiful Christie Falls Loop is 7-kilometres with 135 metres of elevation gain and will take around 2 hours. There a couple of short steep sections but nothing that should be hard for the average hiker.
The payoff is that there are actually three different falls, two of which are obvious right next to the trail, and a third across the creek and over a small hill, which is arguably the best of the three. The falls are at their best in the rainy season and other highlights along the loop are an old cabin and a photogenic train bridge.
4. Hole in the Wall
Close to Port Alberni, the Hole in the Wall is one of the more famous waterfalls on Vancouver Island. While it doesn’t have the most romantic origin story – prior to the 1960’s it was the opening for a pipeline providing water to the town – it is still fascinating to see.
If you are willing to get your feet wet you can even cross the creek and climb up next to the famous hole itself.
To get there, you park in the small gravel lot near Coombs Country Candy and Creamery Store, carefully cross the busy highway and follow a short, easy path for about 10 minutes slightly downhill to the falls. There are also some other nice spots along the river to explore in the area, including another small waterfall a little upstream.
The candy store would prefer you park in the public lot instead of theirs unless, of course, you are wisely choosing to stop in to sample some of their superb ice cream and homemade fudge. Mmm, fudge.
5. Little Qualicum Falls
Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park has been around since 1940 when it was created to protect the extraordinary old growth forest of the area. Yet another of the many great attractions around Nanaimo, these multi-tiered falls make for an easy day trip or just a stop on your way to Comox Valley or Tofino. There are actually several different falls rushing down to the Qualicum River through a captivating canyon that has been carved out over the ages.
The easy, 3-kilometre Little Qualicum Falls loop hike will take you past all the best spots but the upper falls are definitely the most spectacular, especially during the winter rainy season and early spring run-off. When you reach the upper falls you’ll see a large area on your left with several viewing platforms and you can cross the bridge to get a look at them from both sides.
6. “Hidden Waterfall” on Sombrio Beach
It is debateable whether the Sombrio Beach Hidden Waterfall still deserves that name when it shows up on Google Maps. Nonetheless, this little paradise tucked back into a narrow slot canyon just off one of the best surfing beaches on Vancouver Island is a definite must-see for waterfall lovers.
As you might expect from the name, the hidden waterfall is a bit tricky to find. First, you have to get to the beach itself, which is located about 100 kilometres west of Victoria (2 hrs), or 20 minutes east of the adventure town of Port Renfrew.
The actual turnoff is about half a kilometre west of the spot shown on Google Maps, then you follow a very rough dirt road for a couple kilometres to the parking lot. From there, you follow the trail on foot for about a kilometre down to the beach (stay left at the fork to get to East Sombrio).
Then, once you’ve made it to this popular wild camping beach, head left (east) and walk for about 10 minutes until you reach the second creek. Follow this up into the trees and you will almost immediately find a narrow green canyon featuring the hidden waterfall. Keep in mind, Sombrio Beach is located on First Nations land and the waterfall is considered a sacred site, so be respectful.
Then, since you’ve come this far and clearly are into waterfalls, you may as well continue on along the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail for another 10-15 minutes east to reach a second waterfall, this one emptying right into a scenic bay. And still nameless, as far as we know, unless “second waterfall” counts as an official name.
7. Niagara Falls
No, as you may have guessed, these aren’t the Niagara Falls, but they were named after their world-famous eastern counterpart. Mainly because they are also quite big – over 47 metres high and are the tallest waterfall on Vancouver Island.
Still, other similarities are pretty sparse, which makes the name feel a bit lazy. Nevertheless, BC’s Niagara Falls (also sometimes called Goldstream Falls) are still very much worth seeing, especially since it is possible to walk right up almost underneath them for a more unique view.
Another benefit is that they are located just 16 kilometres from Victoria in the extraordinary old growth forest of Goldstream Provincial Park. In dry season you can cross the highway via a dry tunnel but in winter you will probably have to cross the busy highway.
The Goldstream area experienced a frantic gold rush in the early 20th century (how’s that for some more naming trivia?), so there are abandoned mines, tunnels and trestles scattered throughout the park.
A short, fairly steep walk upriver above Niagara Falls will take you to Niagara Trestle (also called Goldstream Trestle), another fascinating historic site, just watch your step since there are no safety railings along this gigantic rail bridge. It is technically on private property but we’ve never heard of anyone getting in trouble for going there.
The river is also a traditional First Nations fishing ground and if you visit in the fall you might get a chance to see one of Vancouver Island’s better salmon runs.
8. Medicine Bowls
Located about a 20-minute drive outside Courtenay and not far from beautiful Comox Lake, the Medicine Bowls are an enthralling set of small, diverse waterfalls set among some fascinating rock formations, gorges and pools that have been carved out by millions of years of rushing water.
The pools are popular swimming spots in summer when the water is (slightly) warmer and the lower river levels reduce the danger. Either way, the ones just downstream are safer. For the record, many adrenalin junkies have died jumping from these rocks over the years and even if you’re not a daredevil yourself, the rocks themselves can get very slippery and the currents extreme, so be very careful while exploring.
The road to reach the trailhead is rough to start with and only gets worse the farther you go. Trucks or SUVs with good clearance can theoretically drive all the way to the falls or you can park before the start of the worst section and walk in (less than 2 km each way).
Although the trail is generally easy, some spots close to the river require you to navigate steep muddy sections with the aid of the ropes tied to trees.
9. Mary Vine Creek Falls
Near the pleasant little city of Sooke, just 45 minutes west of Victoria, you will find the Sooke Potholes. They are a well-known set of rapids that draw many visitors each year to enjoy the river, nearby trails and numerous picnic areas.
Not nearly as many people, however, tackle the relatively simple 2-kilometre round trip hike from the potholes to the Mary Vine Creek falls, maybe because this small set of falls virtually disappears in the dry summer season. In winter, spring or after a heavy rain, though, these falls are intense and boast an atmospheric, mossy location deep in the forest, which is why they deserve a place on this list of best waterfalls on Vancouver Island.
To get there you follow Peden Lake trail from Sooke Potholes parking lot 3, following the creek most of the way. It is pretty flat early on but does have a couple short, steep sections toward the end.
Vancouver Island Waterfalls – Honourable Mentions
As I said, there are just so many great waterfalls on Vancouver Island, British Columbia that everyone will have their own ideas for the list. Here are a few more excellent choices:
Sitting Lady Falls at Witty’s Lagoon, just outside Victoria.
Trent River Falls, near the awesome little town of Cumberland in the Comox Valley. The China Bowls in the Cumberland Community Forest are also a great choice in summer (in winter the high water completely submerges the pools).
Located between Sooke and the more celebrated beaches toward Port Renfrew (French, China, Mystic, Sombrio), Sandcut Beach has its own beach waterfall that may be small (a couple metres high) but features an undercut so you can climb right in behind.
Englishman River Falls, Myra Falls in Strathcona Provincial Park, Ammonite Falls and Stocking Creek Falls are also great choices. The list of waterfalls on Vancouver Island just goes on and on.
If you like waterfalls, then Vancouver Island is the place for you. As an added bonus, many of them are at their best outside of the busy (and relatively dry) summer season, making it easy to see them without the crowds.
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