With all there is to see and do in the Kootenays, hiking is often at the top of the list for most folk, residents and visitors alike.
Getting out into the vastness of our wilderness outdoors, where peaks loom and pristine, turquoise lakes beckon is an activity that promotes ecological consciousness, good health and welcome peace of mind. There are so many trails available in the East and West Kootenay, offering the best in hiking, or simply walking, recreation for all skill levels.
With water in such abundance, in addition to the lure of lakes and rivers, waterfalls are a natural wonder that can’t help but enthrall and are often at the top of the hiking destination list. The Kootenays offer no shortage of beautiful and accessible options.
Here’s a list of must-do waterfall hikes in the Kootenays:
1. Fletcher Falls
Fletcher Falls is often the first suggestion when asked about British Columbia waterfall experiences. It’s noted by many as one of Canada’s most spectacular falls, and the hike in takes less than five minutes on a smooth, but steep path.
Just south of Kaslo, these 15+ metre (49+ feet) falls drain the higher-altitude Fletcher Lake in Kokanee Creek Provincial Park. The trail to the falls leads you into a natural amphitheatre where the falls pour over. The trees hang from crevices in the cavern’s rock wall. It’s the perfect hike to beat the summer heat and if you follow the water’s flow you’ll find yourself on the beach of Kootenay Lake. Bring your camera, of course, but also your swimsuit and a picnic. You may even consider a tent as there’s camping right there.
2. Canyon Falls
Near Kokanee Creek Provincial Park, the Canyon Falls Trail, is a level and shaded path following a mountain creek. You will come across a fork in the road with the choice to either continue on the trail or head up a steep set of stairs.
Regardless the route, you’ll find yourself in full view of the falls. Carving through a shallow-walled, narrow canyon the water flows with tremendous force, falling over a ledge and churning through a bend before disappearing.
The trail overhangs the creek on the opposite side, and is completely safe (and suitable) for children.
3. Tulip Creek Falls
Tulip Creek Falls lies in Syringa Provincial Park, 19 km (11.8 mi) northwest of Castlegar.
As you head in from a the small turnout, you can sense the falls with the cooling of the air. A canyon seems to grow up around you and the falls lie just around the bend. A thundering rush of water pours from above, nourishing the Tulip Creek. Again, a wonderful amphitheatre, green with moss cover, surrounds you amplifying the impact of the endless gallons of water spilling from above.
4. Cottonwood Falls
If you’ve ever attended the farmers market in Nelson, you’ve found yourself at these falls. Residing within city limits, these short but dramatic falls project mist and cool relief from the summer heat….while you shop if you’re there on a Saturday in summertime!
Cottonwood Falls reside at one end of a park of the same name – Cottonwood Falls Park — where you access the feature by a scenic stroll through a peaceful Japanese-style garden. You can get surprisingly close and the impact is immediate as you wind your way along the short and pretty path. There’s also the chance, outside of the weekly market, that you’ll also experience a little of Nelson’s free-spirited culture in this unique space: drum circles, yoga groups, slackliners, etc. all use this tucked-away park to gather and celebrate their varied interests.
Given the ease of getting here, this one is really a must. Not only is it stunning for its size, but it’s truly a remarkable and peaceful spot begging to be enjoyed for a meditation or a picnic.
5. Glade Falls
Head toward Castlegar from Nelson, jump the Glade ferry crossing and park at the end of the main road running parallel to the river. The path follows the creek, which can be small and unimpressive, but upon reaching the falls you’re in for a pleasant and unexpected surprise. Humbling it’s a waterfall of tremendous proportion. Bring your camera as it begs of photo opportunities.
There are two ways up to the falls; one trail takes off on the left side of the creek and follows it up, the other starts on the right in the forest and joins up with the creek later along. The latter is recommended as it brings you directly under the falls unlike the first, which takes you to the top.