You know that saying, the one about how a great trip is all about the journey rather than the destination? Going to Della Falls is one of those experiences where this would be almost true if it wasn’t for the destination being Canada’s highest waterfall. It’s hard to beat that, even with the awesome two part paddling/hiking journey we took to get there. The whole adventure, therefore, wraps up to be one of the coolest trips we’ve done in Canada so far.

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Canada’s highest waterfall

Hidden in the deep green valleys of Vancouver Island’s Strathcona Park is Della Falls, Canada’s highest waterfall. With a vertical drop of 444m, it is often cited as being in the world’s top 20. JR and I have been wanting to see Della Falls for a long time – it was originally going to be our last adventure on Vancouver Island after we left our Comox Valley home in 2014. The timing however did not work out due to the late and heavy snow pack that would have caused difficult early season trail conditions.

Two years later, we still had Della Falls on our minds despite now living in BC’s interior. Accompanied by two adventurous friends from the Island, we finally made it 19th-22nd June this year.

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A very long first day

The Della Falls trailhead is not one you can just drive to. Being located at the western end of Great Central Lake, it is only accessible by water. This means that anyone who wants to see Della Falls has to make a fair amount of effort to go and see it – either hop in a helicopter, hire a boat or paddle across the lake. Having more time than money (plus a huge sense of adventure), we chose to paddle our canoes the required 25km to the trailhead.

As lake paddles go, it was actually one of the most successful we have ever done. I am going to claim our friends to be good luck charms as usually we battle headwinds the whole time. It was nice to be able to appreciate the quiet of the lake, the early morning mist hanging about the hills and the steady approach through the valley. Turning the final corner and spotting the trailhead sign in the distance was exciting; the adventure was not over.

Starting the Della Falls hike

Arriving around lunchtime, it didn’t make sense not to start hiking. Most of the trail is treed, but there was still lots to look at, starting with a snake less than 500m from the trailhead campground. There was so much colour everywhere from the lush greens of the trees to the rich brown mushrooms, vibrant wildflowers and aquamarine river. Although the trail is not particularly challenging, getting up at 5am took its toll on all of us and we eventually stopped for the night at the cable car crossing 10km in.

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Arriving at the falls

The cable car crossing was one of the highlights of the hike. I’d never seen anything like this before on a hike. We all ended up using it four times due to failed scouting attempts to find a ‘proper’ campground the first night. The first time, I was honestly scared. The steel cable cable car itself is clearly quite solid, but there’s something about having to physically pull yourself across a narrow gorge with white water rushing through below….the best part though, was the distant view of Della Falls (the first time we saw it!) right in the middle of the crossing. Even though we were still 6km away, it was impressive.

The rest of the trail, minus a short section over and around some large boulders, was fairly straightforward. The sun was out, the ever closer views of Della Falls were enticing and the too-blue river looked more surreal than ever. It was very tempting to go for a swim, but luckily JR tested it for all of us and confirmed that the glacial water was cold enough to numb limbs within seconds.

Della Falls up close was an amazing experience. The noise was deafening, the turquoise water fast and wild, the mist thick and cool. Such power, seemingly falling from the sky. The bridge viewpoint provided a larger perspective to this magnificent sight. We came back for breakfast with a view the next morning before heading back down to Great Central Lake. Hiking down felt faster and was a little more eventful with the sighting of a black bear about 30m from the trail (the first one JR and I have ever seen outside of a vehicle). It was my birthday that day, so what a gift from Mother Nature I got that year!

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All the details

The Della Falls trailhead is found at the eastern side of Great Central Lake, Vancouver Island’s second largest lake. It is the southeastern access point to Strathcona Park, BC’s oldest provincial park. Click any of the headings below to find out more information about hiking and paddling to Della Falls.

How to get to Della Falls
Paddling advice
Trail conditions and difficulty
Della Falls hike camping
Wildlife on the trail
great central lake canoeing della falls
della falls dock vancouver island

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Hiking to Della Falls to see Canada's highest waterfall, Vancouver Island, BC - Off Track Travel

Gemma
Author

One half of a Canadian/British couple currently living in Penticton, British Columbia. Gemma is happiest with a paddle in her hand, on the trail or planning the next big adventure.

9 Comments

  1. Wow what an amazing hiking adventure! It reminds me so much of my time living in Montana! We used to go hiking all the time in Glacier National Park! #WeekendWanderlust

  2. What a great hike!! I love the cable car and that you have to paddle to get to the trail head. Bonus to get to camp too! I’d love to do this hike one day- added it to my Pinterest file on Canada!

  3. This is quite an adventure! I can see the paddling and the hiking but crossing using a cable car? That has to be unique. What a nice trip!

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