I live in Vancouver and it rains a lot here. If I waited for it to stop raining before going hiking, I wouldn’t hike much, so of course I hike in the rain. However, sometimes the forecast is so truly terrible and calls for so much rain that going for a long hike means being cold and wet all day. And that’s no fun at all.
A couple weeks ago we experienced the wonderful weather phenomenon known as the Pineapple Express. It brought buckets of rain down for days and the forecast for the weekend was epically awful. Instead of planning a long hike with hours out in the cold and wet, I decided that instead we’d go for a bunch of shorter hikes so we could warm up and hide from the rain in the car in between. And since rain means lots of water, it seemed fitting to plan a series of waterfall hikes to see them at their highest flow. I did some googling and looked at some maps and soon we had a rough itinerary for a one day mini-road trip with hikes to four different waterfalls in the Fraser Valley. Funnily enough, on the day we did this trip we ended up with some sunny weather on what was supposed to be a rainy day, but I think our plan would have still been awesome in the rain.
Bridal Veil Falls
The first falls we visited was Bridal Veil Falls in Chilliwack. You can see the top of this one from the Trans-Canada Highway and the exit towards it is prominently signed. Even so, I don’t think I had ever stopped here as an adult.
The hike to the falls is quite short, probably about 1km return, but it does gain about 100 meters of elevation so you can get your heart rate up if you hike fast enough. In the winter the gate is closed so you’ll need to walk the access road in to the falls which adds another half km or so (but it will be way less busy).
The official trail ends at a small viewing platform but base of the falls are further uphill. There is a huge sign warning you not to go further upslope as you could die or be fined. It seemed like a bit of overkill to me (and I did go part way up to quickly get a better view) but apparently in the winter the falls regularly drops chunks of rock, ice and trees, especially during heavy rains so it’s not a safe place to be.
Next we headed to Cascade Falls in Mission. This waterfall has been getting some buzz online lately since the regional district has upgraded the facilities in the area with a new suspension bridge that goes right in front of the falls. After seeing it pop up in my Instagram feed almost daily I knew I needed to go check it out. Seeing this falls was the inspiration for this whole waterfalls road trip.
Thankfully, Cascade Falls does not disappoint! The trail and stairs leading to the bridge aren’t completely finished yet or officially open, but the whole place is spectacular – a mini Lynn Canyon that I’d argue is even better since the bridge is so close to the falls. There are viewing platforms on both sides of the bridge and on the day we were there the mist being thrown up from the falls was incredible. The hike up to the falls is very short; it’s probably only a kilometre round trip to falls from the parking lot and only 50m or so of elevation gain.
After a short break for lunch we headed to Steelhead Falls, also in Mission. These falls are on the Reservoir Trail at Hayward Lake. There is a fair amount of info online on hiking the whole 10km length of the Reservoir trail (which includes the falls) but not that much about the most direct route to Steelhead Falls so let me help you out: You want to park at a small parking lot on Dewdney Trunk Road just east of the Blind Slough Dam (about 1.3km east of the dam, just after you go under the power lines). There’s a sign on the road for BC Hydro’s Hayward Lake Recreation Area so you should be able to find it.
From the parking lot its an easy hike down hill to join the Reservoir Trail. Head left (south) on the Reservoir Trail for about a kilometre to get to the signed spur trail for Steelhead Falls. The stairs and boardwalks down to the falls are a bit slippery and are showing their age but they still provide a couple great viewpoints of the falls. You have descended about 50m to get to the falls so your return trip will be all up hill.
Our last waterfall of the day was Rolley Falls at Rolley Lake Provincial Park in Mission. The Provincial Parks website says that Rolley Falls is the falls 10 minutes from the campground, but there is actually a much larger set of falls further downstream just outside the provincial park boundary.
Since the park gate is closed in winter, we walked in to the park on the service road, then walked through the campground to the far north end. Next to an outhouse is a trail heading north: this is the trail to the falls. Follow this trail for a few minutes to a junction where you go right and head downhill. At the bottom you’ll join a forest service road. Turn left and walk on the road across a small bridge. Just after the bridge the trail starts up again beside the creek. The trail climbs steeply for a few minutes with some peek-a-boo views of the falls before reaching two small viewing platforms that give the best view of the falls (although they are still a bit obscured).
After viewing the falls continue heading uphill on the trail. Soon you’ll cross a bridge in front of a short falls – this is what the Provincial Park calls Rolley Falls, but it is way smaller! Not long after the bridge you’ll reach the same junction you came through on your way to the falls. Turn right to head back to the campground and retrace your steps to your car. It’s about a 4km round trip hike from outside the park gate with about 150m of elevation loss and gain (the low point is the forest road bridge). If the park gate is open you can park in the day use area but that only saves you a few hundred meters of walking.
If you go:
The best times to view waterfalls are on the days following a rainstorm or during the spring run off, but be careful as these storms can also wash out trails or send debris over the falls. Don’t forget your rain jacket, some waterproof hiking boots and of course your camera (just be careful not to let it get too wet!)
You can find more information about these falls in the links I’ve provided above. As well, a great resource is the VancouverTrails.com waterfalls page that provides a list of local waterfalls with links to a dedicated hike directions and instructions page for each falls.
If you are looking for other things to do in the area, our trip also included stops at Harrison Hot Springs (for a quick stroll along the lakeshore) and Westminster Abbey in Mission (to check out the view from the bluff).
Have you been to any of these waterfalls? What other waterfalls should I visit in the Fraser Valley? I know I need to go back as there are lots more.
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