Contrarians are exceptional people. When the majority opinion says we’re having a rainy spring, they affirm that it’s a great time to visit a waterfall. Hand these people a lemon and they don’t just make lemonade, they make margaritas. If this attitude resonates with you, here are three suggestions for waterfalls worth seeking out, either on a local day trip or when planning a summer vacation in southeastern B.C. One thing is for certain: when it comes to mindsets, waterfalls don’t play favourites.
Ever wonder why standing beside a waterfall is so soothing? Studies show that the negative ions generated by waterfalls have a positive effect on the human body—the more negative ions there are in the atmosphere, the better we feel. Bonus: analyses of air samples have proven that “wild” air—the air we breathe in the wilderness—contains thousands of times the number of negative ions recorded on city streets. What better excuse do you need to head outdoors and see for yourself?
Of all the cascades on the North Shore, the one that tumbles through West Vancouver’s Cypress Falls Park offers the greatest rewards, especially as it drops with a roar over two separate rims within a short distance of each other. A four-kilometre loop trail leads through a forest of Douglas fir and western red cedar that is easily covered over the course of an hour or two. Unlike on much of the North Shore, many of the trees that line this portion of Cypress Creek on the slopes of Black Mountain were never logged. Be sure to bring company along, as you’d be hard-pressed to stretch your arms around one of the ancient giants on your own. Although not wheelchair accessible, the path that passes beside the falls is gentle enough to negotiate even with preschoolers in tow.
One of the thrills of visiting a waterfall is getting as close to the base as possible, not just to feel the earth tremble beneath your feet but to witness the prismatic effect of rainbows being created when the spray is backlit by sunlight. At Shannon Falls Provincial Park in Squamish, a popular picnic site beside Highway 99, clouds of fine mist hang in the air as polished cliff shelves shred Shannon Creek into plumes of tumbling white water.
Two separate trails, one of which is wheelchair accessible, lead uphill to viewing platforms adjacent the tumult. The majority of visitors follow the lower path, which passes through a sheltering forest beside the clear, winding creek. Just before this hard-packed route reaches the main viewpoint, watch for a staircase on the left. Several minutes’ climb will bring you to a less-frequented spot closer to a boulder field, across which water from the falls percolates as the creek’s tranquil nature is restored before it flows into nearby Howe Sound.
A rough trail leads even closer to the base from the observation platform. Owing to the slipperiness of the rocks, this approach is hazardous, particularly when the volume of water in Shannon Creek, fed by both rain and snowmelt from peaks on Goat Ridge unseen above, is at its seasonal peak. Be content to savour the double-whammy jolt of the falls coupled with a close-up view of adjacent Stawamus Chief mountain.
You can’t go much further east than the railway hamlet of Field, headquarters for Yoho National Park, and still be in B.C. One of the Rocky Mountain park’s major attractions is Takakkaw Falls, the third highest in the province next to Hunlen in the Chilcotin region and Della on Vancouver Island. To stand before it is to stand convinced that you’re witnessing one of the world’s great natural wonders, not just because of its 384-metre drop but also due to its setting, one that rivals California’s Yosemite Valley, which was immortalized by photographer Ansel Adams.
Until last year, the narrow road that climbs to the falls was rough gravel. Now paved, the approach still presents a challenge to drivers, particularly at two tightly wound switchbacks. The upside is that traffic is restricted: no motor homes allowed and, bizarrely, RVs must ascend in reverse. At the falls, a wheelchair-accessible trail leads toward the thundering chiffon curtain that spews rooster tails of foam down into the placid Yoho River. Vantage points surround the base. All it takes to reach one and revel in the spray are sturdy limbs.
Unlike Cypress and Shannon, Takakkaw’s pulse quickens as the summer sun melts its source, the Daly Glacier. Spend the night at one of 35 walk-in campsites, each with a soothing view of the falls served up with a super-sized order of negative ions.
ACCESS: To reach Cypress Falls Park, take the Caulfeild-Woodgreen exit (#4) from the Upper Levels Highway. Once on Woodgreen, follow it to the third street on the right, Woodgreen Place. The park lies at the end of this street, and the trail to the falls begins here. You can also get there by taking West Vancouver Transit’s Caulfeild bus (#253), which leaves from Park Royal Shopping Centre. Shannon Falls Provincial Park lies at the southern entrance to Squamish, 60 kilometres north of Vancouver. For information, visit www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks. Field is located 830 kilometres east of Vancouver on Highway 1. To reach Takakkaw Falls, travel 17 kilometres east of Field on well-marked Takakkaw Falls Road. For information on Yoho National Park, including Takakkaw Falls, visit this Web site.