It has been more than 40 years since I visited Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park on central Vancouver Island. In those days things were pretty rudimentary – rough trails, outhouses, and flat rocks along the riverbank used as picnic sites. I am happy to report that things have changed for the better, making this spectacular park more accessible to visitors.
Little Qualicum Falls park was designated in 1940. It encompasses almost 1,100 acres (440 hectares), reaching all the way to massive Cameron Lake. Our recent foray to the park on a lovely early spring day reminded me of why this place has stuck in my mind all these years, even though I have not been a frequent visitor. It is, quite simply, magnificent.
The park offers 3.75 miles (6 kilometres) of hiking trails. We opted for the loop walk that commences from the beautiful picnic area in the day use portion of the park. Trails for both the upper and lower falls meander off in to the woods from there, so we decided to head for the upper falls first.
The trails, while well-maintained, do have some rough spots. Good footwear and a keen eye are necessary to ensure that you stay upright on your adventure. There are several well-built sets of stairs on this route, and the Middle Bridge, across the upper falls, is a picture. There are several viewpoints on the way up to the bridge – it helps if you are a bit of a mountain goat to get to some of them, but they are worth the effort.
Views from the sturdily-built bridge are pretty spectacular, but the best view of the massive upper falls is from a viewpoint a ways down the trail on the other side. There is so much water crashing through the Little Qualicum River right now that the spray from the falls can be felt at this viewpoint, which is many feet above the river. Things are quieter in the summer of course, but the spectacle and roar of hundreds of thousands of gallons of crystal clear water tumbling over sheer rock face is breathtaking.
From the upper falls we headed down the trail to the lower falls, where another sturdy bridge offered a crossing as well as great views up-river. While the lower falls aren’t as impressive as their larger cousin they are certainly worth the effort to view.
Back across the river we hiked uphill and back to the parking area. All-told our adventure took about 1 ½ hours. This walk can most certainly be done in much less time but as usual, we stopped a lot to enjoy the scenery, take photos, and marvel at the power of the natural world. For us, that’s what it’s all about.
Dogs are welcome at Little Qualicum Falls park, but must be kept on leash due to the risk of interaction with wildlife. The loop hike is ‘do-able’ for anyone who is reasonably fit.
Further information on Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park can be found at the website:
GPS co-ordinates are:
Lat. 49.29339899999999 Long. -124.598672
N 49 17.604 W 124 35.920