Della Falls – hike to the highest waterfall in Canada

Della Falls is the highest waterfall in Canada and one of the top 10 highest in the world.  It’s 440m drop is hidden deep in the middle of Vancouver Island, in Strathcona Park and it is accessible only by boat.  Then there is a 16 km hike from the trailhead to the base of the falls.   It’s a lovely walk.

The trail follows the crystal clear Drinkwater Creek, named after a gold prospector who worked the area in 1899.  Della Falls is named after his wife. The first 10kms is a flat walk through a new deciduous forest.  There are some ups and down into creek beds, but all but one of the major creek crossings are done on bridges.  Water is all around you and sometimes the trail is boggy or flooded.  There are also quite a few tree falls requiring ducking under or climbing over.

After a cable car crossing the trail becomes a more rugged single-track and passes through mature west coast fir and cedar forest.  This part of the hike is a bit steeper, inclining gradually up towards the falls.  In general the route is flagged and the path is well worn and there are bridges over any significant creeks.

DSC_0550The hike should perhaps best be known for its number and variety of bridges.  There are dozens of creek crossings, each with its own unique bridging concept ranging from nice and sturdy, to railed on one side, to simple log crossings, to a metal bridge with wobbly wire handrails, and even a cable car.
DSC_0540 DSC_0481   DSC_0463  DSC_0507

We did this hike in October after a very, very low snow year and a very dry summer.  As a result the mighty falls left a little to the imagination.  But the area was so beautiful and the hike so nice that no one seemed to mind.

DSC_0578There is also an amazing day hike up to Love Lake.  It is a steep (700m over 3kms) ascent that puts you above both Della Lake and Della Falls and gives you views over both.

IMG_0462Love Lake itself is a glacial blue gem guarded by Mt. Septimus.

DSC_0643There are 5 campsites along the trail: one at the trailhead, one at Margaret Creek bridge (6.7 km), a wildness site (no amenities) on a beach beside Drinkwater creek (12.2 km).  And two right near Della Falls, Saw Camp (14.2 km) and Falls Camp (14.7 km).  Except for the wilderness site they all have pit toilets, tent sites, water access and bear caches.

DSC_0680Access:
Is from Port Alberni on Vancouver Island.  Drive west out of Port Alberni on Highway 4 and after about 12kms turn right onto Great Central Lake Road.  From there you take the road 8kms to the marina where you can take a pre-arranged water taxi ($120 return/1 hr each way to the dock at the trailhead / 45kms each way).  Ben at Della Falls water taxi is your man for that. Or continue on Ash Main to Scout Beach Rec Site where you can park and launch your canoe/kayak.  This beach access shaves about 15kms off the paddle.  A word of caution, the lake can get very windy, so plan your paddle accordingly.  There are nice camp sites all along the north shore of the lake, Clark Point makes a nice halfway stop.

Happy Trails!

 

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