Holly Louwerse is a born and raised Clearwater local, self-proclaimed waterfall connoisseur, adventurer, and professional photographer specializing in adventure elopements. Check her out at www.Hollylouwerse.com
There is something about falling water that will forever soothe, amaze, and mesmerize me.
Born and raised in Clearwater at the heart of BCs waterfall mecca, I am a self-proclaimed waterfall connoisseur, an aficionado, a waterfall enthusiast, a chick so obsessed with falling water that it became a part of her photographic brand! Honestly, a mac and cheese obsession would have been easier and healthier for my camera gear. But alas, I shall continue searching, viewing, and loving every moment of falling water for many years yet!
With that said, I hope to share some of my favourite waterfalls in the Land of Hidden Waters and their photographic and interactive qualities.
Ideally, you have a lifetime living in the area, but if you must only visit, may I suggest these top sights to satisfy your waterfall needs.
Where to start?! How about Kamloops – Fly, drive, or maybe you were born there? However you got there, it’s a convenient and central place to start your waterfalling journey.
Beat the Kamloops heat with a trip to Jamieson Falls! Less than a kilometre hike, this nice swimming hole is a pretty solid start to the trip… or as a nice addition to your wedding day!
Continue north along the Westsyde Road for a scenic alternative to the highway. (Please note it will become a dirt road until McLure)
With a hop, skip, and jump, you will cross the North Thompson River on the McLure Ferry – A free cable ferry that feels a little like you step back in time just for a few moments. Bringing out the inner sea-faring captain in you? Check out the Little Fort Ferry later on in the itinerary for a similar experience!
Join back to Highway 5 and cruise through Barriere.
Local tip: Line this up for a Thursday to have the opportunity to check out the Barriere Farmers’ Market from 10 am till 1 pm; The Best Donuts in the world!! I cannot emphasize this enough; Backcountry Baker, the croissant style donut – a taste of heaven.
If you have some extra nights, and with a fresh batch of donuts, head to North and East Barriere Lake for some cottage life and fun in the sun!
On your way to or from Clearwater, take a turn up Highway 24! The Interlakes Highway and a fisherman’s paradise. If you have time for a couple of extra nights here, it is well worth the trip.
Stop at the Little Fort Tackle Shop for local fishing insights, and with your paddleboard in tow, pop into any of the lakes for a scenic cruise! Lac Des Roches, Sheridan Lake, Bridge Lake, Canim Lake, Mahood Lake – to name a few!
Canim & Mahood Falls. 500m down the trail you will find Mahood falls. The view is a bit overgrown these days, but it still acts as a nice appetizer for the main event. Continue along the trail to Canim Falls; 23m of falling water! Split into a couple of streams along with lush green foliage, Canim Falls gives you Africa vibes without having to fight off lions and rhinos – convenient? I think so! For an up-close and personal experience, hike to the base of the falls!
Photographers: Enjoy lake life while it’s hot, and photograph waterfalls in the low light
Fishers: Enjoy the waterfalls while it’s hot, fish the lakes in the afternoon/evenings.
Photographers: Enjoy lake life while it’s hot, and photograph waterfalls in the low light.
To round out your trip to the Interlakes, check out the Bridge Lake Ice caves and Mt. Begbie Lookout for some unique features and interesting history of the area.
There is a logging road (Road 2) you can take from Canim Falls to Clearwater that will save some time, give you a nice loop, and has many more fishing lakes along the way.
Look at the Back Road Map Books for more info, and check-in with local info centers for updated road maintenance reports.
You have now hit Clearwater and Wells Gray Park! The waterfall mecca of BC! With over 40 named waterfalls, this is a tricky list to write! While every waterfall has its time and activity, my top Wells Gray waterfalls are:
- Triple Decker Falls
Three layers of falling water – yes please! Close to town, this short (steep) walk will take you into a lush green canyon with Candle Creek cascading down three layers of lava rock. One of the best things about Triple Decker Falls is that it’s beautiful during every season and it photographs well at any time of the day.
May-June; high-water power with morning mist. August-October; low water long exposure heaven, and go splash in the pool!
Then there is winter, a different world again! The trickling water in the canyon creates an ice climber’s paradise!
Extend your hike, or bust out your personal theme song for an epic trail run, and continue down the River Trail past Candle Creek Falls ending at Dutch Lake subdivision. About 8km one way, best done as a shuttle.
Travel tip: Hop on a Whitewater Rafting Trip and see Candle Creek Falls via a raft!
2. Spahats Falls
Close to town and easy to access with a picnic basket in hand, watching Spahats Creek fall 75m into a lava canyon gets my geologist brother-in-law way to excited; a must-see on your Wells Gray waterfall journey!
Spahats Falls comes alive from the base! The feeling of the wind coming down the canyon from the straight shot of falling water will take your breath away. With the ancient lava stone walls towering above, the size of the canyon reminds you just how incredible this big, beautiful world is.
Please note hiking to the base is an advanced hike involving steep sections and some scrambling. Everything in Wells Gray is at your own risk but guided adventures are available.
Be sure to check out the Spahats Forest! Walk through the lush old growth forest with 1000-year-old trees with the crystal clear Spahats Creek rushing beside you. Only a short distance upstream from the parking lot.
3. Silver Tip Falls
Ohh Silver Tip – personal favourite! Excellent for photographers but even more fun as a place to swim and scramble amongst the rocks. Chilling (literally) in the cool crisp pools at the base of water cascading down 168m feels pretty epic to me!!
Photographers: Bring a tripod; this is a gem for long exposures! It is a trickier waterfall during the high midday sun but a fantastic waterfall for rainy or overcast days.
A trip to Silver Tip Falls pairs well with an excursion into Caligata Lake, Ida Falls, and if you have more time, Trophy Mountain!
4. Moul Falls
One cannot mention Wells Gray waterfalls without noting Moul Falls! An interactive waterfall where you get a 360 view of the falls while walking behind the 35m curtain of falling water! A phenomenal experience that will, literally, take your breath away.
Bring a swimsuit and towel; it is worth the extra effort.
Photographic scale: It’s a gigantic waterfall, of course it’s excellent!
Interactive waterfall scale: 10/10 – the best of the best!
If you have time and energy, continue onto McDiarmid Falls, the less busy cousin of Moul!
If at this point you are feeling a need for a break from waterfalls (said nobody ever), pop into the Green Mountain lookout for mountain views and a lovely picnic area.
5. Dawson Falls
Mini Niagara Falls! The height is something, but the width is what will drop your jaw. Standing at 20m tall and 107m wide; A legitimate wall of water.
Growing up in Clearwater and with a father who loved bushwhacking along river edges instead of trails, I grew to appreciate the viewpoint at Dawson Falls later in life. The viewpoint on the southside is the best place for a big scale view and to get that wide-angle photograph. Plus, it is an excellent spot for sunset viewing. Continue along the trail until you are standing right beside the top of the waterfall, and with your toes just mere inches from a tremendous amount of power, it makes you question how so much water continues to flow day and night, zero shut off switch. Incredible.
Photo tip: Midday light is pretty harsh for lighting; I highly recommend this as a sunrise, sunset, or rainy-day excursion – get those lush green tones!
6. Helmcken Falls
The finale, the climax, the crowning glory, the ultimate act, the pièce de résistance; Ladies and Gentlemen, this is Helmcken Falls.
With the water falling 141m in a single drop, Helmcken is dubbed the 4th tallest waterfall in Canada. And you can get there by walking just 2 mins from your car! An excellent spot for a picnic and place to admire how the light changes on the falls and in the canyon. Catch the rainbow in the later afternoon or take advantage of zero light pollution for your astrophotography captures! Feel like pulling an early morning? Catch it with the sun coming up and the morning fog. Spring, summer, fall, and winter; jaw-dropping in every hour of every season.
Photographers: Bring all the camera gear you have! This gem is one for the portfolio!
There are multiple ways to see Helmcken; as I mentioned, access the main viewing platform within 2 minutes of your car, or hike the South Rim Trail! An 8km return trip that makes my feet itch!
A few years ago, I was standing at the Helmcken viewpoint as I had done since I was a child, still in awe, but with the urge to showcase just how enormous Helmcken Falls really is. So that autumn, myself and a team successfully held an elopement at the base of Helmcken Falls! Big waterfall, big dress, and a big adventure! A favorite wedding of mine, and a photoshoot I am baffled for ideas on how I will ever top!
If you are up for a big, serious, out-of-this-world adventure – the base is calling! A steep scramble down the canyon, paired with a Stairmaster 3000 on the way back up. If you are able to get to the basin of the falls, the sound goes weirdly quiet. As the water surges over the falls and drops 463 feet, the realization hits that you are in the lungs of one of nature’s biggest beasts.
7. Rainbow Falls / Azure Lake
I say Helmcken is the finale, but I couldn’t leave out Rainbow Falls!! If you have some extra days, or maybe it’s on your next trip since you are now a Wells Gray convert and are already checking out the real estate in the area, a trip to Azure Lake is a must!! It is a spectacular waterfall, with a high chance of a rainbow. But a visit to Rainbow Falls is as much about the trip as it is about the waterfall! With the mountains towering above, cruise along the blue waters of Azure Lake in one way or another; perhaps the muscle-powered canoe, or maybe a fuel-powered jet boat, or better yet, a guide-powered Clearwater Lake Tour. Either way, get there and be sure to check out the various waterfalls on your way up; one could say these are the “waterfall appetizers”.
Then, take a short walk through the lush old-growth cedar forest and arrive at the majestic Rainbow Falls! Take it in. It is exotic.
Hang out there for as long as one fancies hanging out at a waterfall, and then head back to the sandy beach for some fishing/bronzing/camping/marshmallow roasting/hammock hanging/book reading… you get the idea. However you go about it, it will be a great trip.
Because I may be a smidge bit extra, a few other waterfalls of note for their photogenic qualities and their interactive abilities: Mush Bowl, Falls Creek and Osprey Falls.
With so many freshwater secrets, it’s clear that a trip to BC’s Land of Hidden Water requires a few days or more, and a bit of planning. Use the Places to stay function on this website to pick from cozy cabins, lodges, camping, hotels and more in any part of the region and find adventures above, beside, and on the surface with the Things to do page.
Thanks for indulging with me! I hope it was helpful and it inspires your travels through this wonderful valley I have been proud to call home for many years.
Until next time friends,
Holly Louwerse – Clearwater local, adventure wedding photographer, waterfall enthusiast.