Della Falls – Canada’s Highest Waterfall

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Love Lake, Strathcona Park, British Columbia

Apparently there is some disagreement about which waterfall is Canada’s highest, but as far as I know, no other waterfall has taken the undisputed position of being higher so I’m going with Della Falls.  Why shouldn’t I? – After all, that’s where I went.

Della Falls is not the easiest place in the world to get to. Once you get to Vancouver Island, you drive approximately 20 kilometres past Port Alberni on the Pacific Rim highway to Central Lake Road.  From there it is a short drive to Central Lake where you need to take a water taxi 48 kilometres to the far end of the lake where the trail head starts. (The water taxi should be reserved well in advance)(doug@dellafallswatertaxi.com)

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Great Central Lake, Vancouver Island
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Great Central Lake, BC

Having arrived at the trailhead, you have hopefully given yourself at least three days for the trip so as not to be rushed. It is a full days hike to the campground near the base of the falls, but having come this far, it would be a shame to miss seeing the falls from above as only a small portion can be seen from below.  Most people set up camp and then hike up to Love Lake (minus the heavy backpack) the following day. It is straight up the mountain and then back down again on the same trail so it will naturally take longer than hiking on the level.  The third day is the hike out, keeping in mind that you might be limited in time if you need to catch your water taxi that same day.  We gave ourselves lots of time so as not to be rushed.  We took the late afternoon water taxi the first day and hiked two hours in to the first camp along the trail.  This made our following day’s hike to the base of the falls more leisurely as the second half of the trail is much rougher than the start, with plenty of rocks, overgrown brush and windfalls along the way.  It took us almost two hours to hike the last two kilometres in.

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Can you find the trail? It is important to look for the surveying tape along the way to keep from getting lost.
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The marking on the tree and the red tape indicate that one must squeeze past this rock to continue on the trail. There is actually a steep drop to a raging stream just beyond the large tree.
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Just a few more windfalls
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But finally the trail opens up for a few metres and we get our first glimpse of the falls.

Upon arrival at our campsite, we set up the tent and then hiked to the base of the falls to enjoy the spray and watch the evening light add lustre to the cascading showers of water.

We were grateful for our timing of the hike.  All the snow had disappeared from the trails yet there was still lots of water on the falls.  The weather was perfect and a refreshing dip in the stream made a nice end to the day.  The following day we hiked up to Love Lake. We also took a dip in that lake, but the glacial water limited my swim to less than a minute.  From the mountain above the valley, one can see directly across to Della Falls, providing the best viewing.

If you don’t want to hike in, it is possible to see the falls on a helicopter tour from Tofino.  We noticed that the helicopters would show up about once an hour to fly in front of the falls. (Atleo River Air Service – Helicopter Tours – A two hour tour this season was priced at $1200.00 CAD with capacity for four people)

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Waiting for the early morning fog to lift from Della Falls
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Soon the fog disappeared
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Della Falls

For our hike back out, we had given ourselves a full day, electing to spend a night at the trailhead at Great Central Lake.  We took the first water taxi out the next morning.

The trail is rough (only maintained by volunteers so maintenance is sporadic), but it is rewarding to be away from the crowds and the cities.  As more recreational areas become over-crowded, it is nice to find an escape.  This is a remote area with no cell phone service so you are far from stores, hotels or any other service.  We only met other people at the campsites or mid-day when groups going opposite directions would pass.  One night we were alone at our camp.

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