Welcome to our Della Falls Trail Guide! This resource includes information and tips to help plan your adventure in Strathcona Provincial Park. To skip to a specific topic of interest, use the quick links below for easier navigation.
- Guide Book
- Della Falls Water Taxi
- Trip Reports
- Guided Trips
- Great Central Lake. The only way to access Della Falls is across Great Central Lake. At 35 km long, it is the second-deepest lake on Vancouver Island. Whether you paddle or ride the water taxi, getting to the trailhead is part of the adventure.
- Drinkwater Creek. Named after prospector Joe Drinkwater, your constant friend on the Della Falls Trail is Drinkwater Creek. You will cross it several times on your hike to the falls and hear it while you fall asleep.
- Margaret Creek. There is a camp at gorgeous Margaret Creek, but it is also a prime spot to have your lunch break. The noisy waters are clear and green. Views can be had from the BC Parks bridge, or surrounding bluffs.
- Waterfalls. The main objective of this trip is of course to see famous Della Falls! The Canadian Government recognizes Della Falls as the highest waterfall in Canada. However, the World Waterfall Database reports otherwise. There are also many other waterfalls tumbling down mountains to enjoy.
- Love Lake. If weather and time permits, a day-trip up to subalpine aquamarine Love Lake is a must. The hike can be a hot march, but the reward is the best swim of your life. Bring a picnic and enjoy views of Mount Septimus and Mount Rosseau.
- Location: Central Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada
- Park: Strathcona Provincial Park
- First Nations: Mowachaht and Muchalaht people of the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nation
- Distance: 29 km (longer with side trips)
- Duration: Typically hiked in three days, depending on fitness and route plan
- Difficulty: Rainforest, valley, and subalpine terrain (intermediate backpackers)
- Hiking Season: June – October. The Della Falls Trail is typically snow-covered from late October/November until at least June, and sometimes July.
- Permit: None required.
- Fees: There are no fees associated with the Della Falls Trail area.
- Reservations: Required for Della Falls Water Taxi.
- Pets: Pets/domestic animals must be on a leash and under control at all times.
- Trailhead: BC Parks dock (west end of Great Central Lake).
- Camping: Wilderness camping is allowed at designated back-country sites.
- Structures: Cable car, wood bridges, metal bridges
- Geologic features: Lakes, ponds, creeks, hills, mountains, summits, cliffs, gullies, scree, ridges, valleys, waterfalls
- Flora: Western red cedar, Douglas fir, grand fir, western hemlock, sub-alpine fir, mountain hemlock, creeping juniper, heather, lupine, monkey flowers, violets, Indian paintbrush, phlox, moss campion, tiger lily, bunchberry, columbine
- Mammals: Roosevelt elk, wolf, coastal black-tailed deer, cougars, black bears, Vancouver Island marmot
- Birds: Gray jays, Stellar’s jays, ravens, varied thrush, American robins, hummingbirds, eagles, blue grouse, ruffled grouse, white-tailed ptarmigan, chestnut-backed chickadee, red-breasted nuthatch, pacific wren
- Hazards: Topographical (rugged terrain, rockfalls, steep slopes, seasonal overgrowth, landslides, washouts, dangerous drops, exposure); weather (bad visibility, lightening, rain, wind, hypothermia, sun burn, heat exhaustion); human (inappropriate gear, missing equipment)
- Emergency help: Cell phone service is not reliable in Strathcona Provincial Park. We carry a satellite phone.
The standard maps for navigation are Natural Resources Canada topographic maps.
- 92-F05. Scale 1:50,000. Edition 05. Bedwell River. British Columbia. Published in 1994 by the Canada Centre for Mapping. Department of Energy, Mines, and Resources. Information current as of 1989.
- 92-F06. Scale 1:50,000. Edition 06. Great Central Lake. British Columbia. Published in 2011 by the Centre for Topographic Information, Natural Resources Canada.
We prefer GeoBC 1:20,000 maps. These maps are based on the most current Terrain Resource Information Mapping (TRIM) data available.
- MAP 092F033. Scale 1:20,000. Copyright 2016, Province of British Columbia.
- MAP 092F043. Scale 1:20,000. Copyright 2016, Province of British Columbia.
We use two guide books to plan hiking trips on the Della Falls Trail. We write pre-trip notes and carry guide books as digital e-books on our phones.
- Stone P. Island Alpine: A Guide to the Mountains of Strathcona Park and Vancouver Island. 1st ed. Wild Isle Publications. 2003. www.wildisle.ca
- Vancouver Island Trails Information Society (VITIS). Hiking Trails 3 – Northern Vancouver Island. 10th ed. Vancouver Island Trails Information Society. 2008.
Wilderness camping is allowed along the Della Falls Trail at designated back-country sites. There are no camping fees.
The Della Falls Trailhead is only accessible by water. The trip is an out-and-back hike to Della Falls with one trailhead: the BC Parks dock near the west end of Great Central Lake. If you are energetic, you can paddle 35 km to the trailhead…or hire the Della Falls Water Taxi like we do!
Della Falls Water Taxi
The Della Falls Water Taxi provides transportation service to hikers of the Della Falls Trail. The operator follows a daily schedule from May 15 to September 15. The boat trip takes about 55 minutes depending on weather and water conditions. The trip is scenic and educational!
- Groups of 2 people – $165.00 each
- Groups of 3-7 people – $140.00 each
- Kids 12 years old and under – $90.00 each
- Pets – $45.00 each
- Seniors 65 and older receive a 15% discount
- Add 5% GST to all above prices
- Prices are for the 2 way round trip
- 50% Deposit at time of booking, Balance due 7 days prior to departure
- Non-Refundable deposit, Unless notified at least 14 days prior to departure
Port Alberni is the staging area for the Della Falls Trail. Accommodations book up quickly in the high season. Reservations are recommended.
Port Alberni Accommodations
We study the weather before our trip using a few different resources. On trip we access weather updates with a satellite messenger. You will be hiking in an exposed mountain environment. Be prepared for all kinds of weather!
The Della Falls Trail is a scenic backpacking experience. We rate the hike as moderate because of the longish distance (16 km to Della Falls Base) and some route-finding.
The first 8 km of the Della Falls Trail is a shady, level, rail-grade, mostly gravel path. The second 8 km is more difficult due to increasing elevation and more rugged terrain: logs, thick seasonal overgrowth, washouts, flooding, blowdowns, ditches, roots, holes, rock beds, and creeks. BC Parks maintains wooden bridges, metal bridges, and a cable car. There are plenty of creeks and places to get water, but we recommend not passing any of them up. The Love Lake Trail intersection is located 130 m before the Della Falls Main campsite.
The side-trip up to Love Lake is more strenuous, especially if the day is hot. The elevation gain through the subalpine is just over 960 m. The trail switchbacks through the forest before breaking the ridge. Water is hard to find on this climb, so pack enough fluid to hydrate you all the way to the ridge. Some route finding is required to navigate the rocky bluffs to Love Lake.
Along the Della Falls Trail and Love Lake Trail there are historic 100-year-old mining artifacts to spot, including rusty buckets, saw blades, shovels, pipes, and the remains of an aerial tramway. These should be left alone, as they are now part of a “museum.” Big Interior Mountain, the most prominent mountain in the area, has a fascinating history.
BC Parks publishes an updated trail conditions report May through November.
The Della Falls Trail has designated back-country campsites.
Great Central Lake
A large, dark campsite looms just above the trailhead dock. There is a rack to store your canoe or kayak, half-picnic tables, pit toilets, and food cache. This isn’t a camp we like to hang around too long at. The better tent pad locations are the ones further up the creek, just beyond the BC Parks trailhead sign. Last time we were there, fishhooks poked up around the tables. It’s a gloomy place…best used ONLY if necessary.
The campsite at Margaret Creek is pleasant zone, located about 7 km from the trailhead. We’ve never stayed the night here, but we always stop at Margaret Creek for a snack break. There is a waterfall and deep-blue green water swirling in a canyon beneath the bridge. Amenities include a pit toilet and food cache.
Drinkwater Creek Gravel Bar
There is a wilderness camping area on the gravel bar of Drinkwater Creek. Leave-No-Trace principles must be practiced as there are no pit toilets or food caches. Unfortunately, we have noticed that some campers in this location do not follow those rules. This spot is scenic, with cool temperatures and gorgeous water. However, a potential risk of the gravel bar campsite is a sudden ride in creek level in the event of a rain storm.
Della Falls Main
The Della Falls Main Camp is about 870 m from the actual base of Della Falls. It’s the primary objective for Della Falls Trail backpackers. Sometimes the large camping area under the trees is called “Saw Camp” because of the huge logging saw artifact marking it. We prefer to camp a little further north along the creek. “Saw Camp” has lots of old trees surrounding that are potentially hazardous in wind or heavy rain. Della Falls Main Camp has a pit toilet and food cache. There is lots of good water in Drinkwater Creek.
Della Falls Base
On our last trip, we discovered a designated campsite closer to the base of the falls. This area is a little smaller and potentially more private than the main camping area.
Here are some tips to enhance your camping experience:
- Bring bug spray and apply it early.
- All fresh water should be treated before consumption.
- Rehydrate fully at camp. Water sources may be spread out during dry summers.
- Great Central Lake to Della Falls & Love Lake – July 11-13, 2020
- Great Central Lake to Della Falls & Love Lake – June 20-22, 2020
- Great Central Lake to Della Falls & Love Lake – June 13-15, 2015
Great Central Lake to Della Falls & Love Lake – July 11-13, 2020
Distance: 40.2 km
Duration: 3 days
Peak: 1286 m
Gain: 2064 m
I guided our first group of clients of the season on the Della Falls Trail in Strathcona Park. Our primary objective was to hike to Della Falls Camp for two nights. A secondary objective was to complete the side trip to Love Lake and explore the subalpine basin below Mount Septimus and Mount Rosseau. The steep Love Lake Trail offers the best views of the falls. We got hammered by wet weather on the hike in, dried out at camp, had some challenging hiking days, and sun-bathed on the boat ride home.
The forecast was for cool temperatures and a high probability of precipitation with a clearing and warming trend. As predicted, we started the trip off cool and wet on day one, dried out on day two, and enjoyed sunny conditions on day three.
- Day 1: 0900 h, Della Falls Trailhead. Elevation: 94 m, Sky: overcast, Precipitation: light rain, Temperature: 13.1ºC, Humidity: 94.4%, Wind: calm. 1600 h, Della Falls Main Camp. Elevation: 560 m, Sky: overcast, Precipitation: nil, Temperature: 11.7ºC, Humidity: 100.0%, Wind: calm.
- Day 2: 0630 h, Della Falls Main Camp. Elevation: 560 m, Sky: scattered clouds, Precipitation: nil, Temperature: 7.7ºC, Humidity: 100.0%, Wind: calm. 1000 h, 1st Viewpoint. Elevation: 974 m, Sky: broken clouds, Precipitation: nil, Temperature: 12.0°C, Humidity: 100.0%, Wind: calm. 1310 h, Love Lake. Elevation: 1235 m, Sky: broken clouds, Precipitation: nil, Temperature: 10.7ºC, Humidity: 76.6%, Wind: calm.
- Day 3: 0600 h, Della Falls Main Camp. Elevation: 560 m, Sky: few clouds, Precipitation: nil, Temperature: 5.9ºC, Humidity: 100.0%, Wind: calm. 1230 h, Della Falls Cable Car. Elevation: 388 m, Sky: few clouds, Precipitation: nil, Temperature: 12.9ºC, Humidity: 67.7%, Wind: calm. 1620 h, Della Falls Trailhead. Elevation: 94 m, Sky: scattered clouds, Precipitation: nil, Temperature: 22.3ºC, Humidity: 64.5%, Wind: calm.
Data logged with Kestrel Meters Drop D3
Captain Doug Moore ferried us up Great Central Lake on our own chartered Della Falls Water Taxi. We unloaded at the BC Parks dock and started the hike. The approach had been heavily travelled in the few weeks since my last trip and the path was muddy in places with all the precipitation. With a considerable amount of rain falling, all surfaces were slick. Be prepared for a good soaking if the overgrown bushy sections are still wet. The Love Lake Trail was mostly clear except for a couple of easily passed blowdowns. The snowpack above the main Della Falls Viewpoint had almost completely melted and the route was visible on dirt and rock all the way to the shore of Love Lake. We enjoyed spectacular views of Della Falls, Della Lake, and Love Lake. The summits of Nine Peaks, Big Interior, Septimus, and Rosseau were obscured by lingering clouds. The sunny hike up to the Della Falls Base and out on day three was a different experience, with dry trail and rock all the way back down to Great Central Lake. We even kicked up some dust.
- Day 1: Della Falls Trailhead to Della Falls Main Camp. Distance: 13.94 km, Duration: 6:26’29, Ascent 577 m, Ascent Time: 2:54’31, Descent: 145 m, Descent Time: 39’00.0. Map
- Day 2: Della Falls Main Camp to Love Lake. Distance: 8.46 km, Duration: 7:29’02, Ascent 813 m, Ascent Time: 2:52’12, Descent: 827 m, Descent Time: 2:10’44. Map
- Day 3: Della Falls Main Camp to Della Falls Base return. Distance: 1.69 km, Duration: 58’57.7, Ascent: 63 m, Ascent Time: 19’39.0, Descent: 59 m, Descent Time: 17’21.0. Map
- Della Falls Main Camp to Della Falls Trailhead. Distance: 14.75 km, Duration: 6:21’22, Ascent: 124 m, Ascent Time: 2:41’11, Descent: 562 m, Descent Time: 2:41’11. Map
Data logged with Suunto 9 Baro.
There was no mega fauna viewing on this trip. However, we were treated to fresh elk tracks, including a set with big and little prints. I have never seen elk sign in the Drinkwater Valley before. Other animal sign included squirrel middens with owners guarding their stashes, and one fresh pile of black bear scat on the way out. Birds included the usual gamut of Strathcona locals: hermit thrushes, varied thrushes, Pacific wrens, a close encounter with a ruffed grouse, whiskey jacks, chickadees, and Swainson’s thrushes. The most abundant life identified on this trip included dozens of species of wildflowers including: red columbine, coral root, ghost pipe, gnome plant, twinflower, hellebore, lupines, tiger lily, arnica, wintergreen, valerian, single delight, queen’s cup, and many berries, ferns, mosses, and trees.
The greatest hazards were a swarm of mosquitos at the trailhead. They started attacking at the Drinkwater estuary and continued for several kilometres up the valley floor. Do not stop moving here unless absolutely necessary. I had a bug net and really appreciated it. Slippery roots and algae-covered rocks in the creek crossings plus slanted and slick bridge decks were all even more hazardous with the increasing precipitation. The cable car crossing with associated pinch points is always a spot to take extra care.
Great Central Lake to Della Falls & Love Lake – June 20-22, 2020
Distance: 38.4 km
Duration: 3 days
Peak: 1286 m
Gain: 1992 m
I enjoyed a three-day solo training and reconnaissance mission to Della Falls and Love Lake in Strathcona Park. My objective was to hike the entire route with side trips and capture a good-weather waterfall viewing. The long valley-bottom approach on day one was challenging for my untrained body. The weather on day two improved, with broken skies and clear views of Della Falls across the Drinkwater Valley. Day three offered damp conditions again.
The forecast called for a mixed bag of cloudy skies, cool temperatures, and light precipitation. I got what was expected and appreciated the refreshing cool mist for the hike in, broken skies on the hike up to the waterfall lookout and subalpine explorations around Love Lake, and another cool moist day on the way out.
- Day 1, 0900 h, Della Falls Trailhead. Elevation: 94 m, Sky: overcast, Precipitation: light rain, Temperature: 16.0ºC, Humidity: 97.3%, Wind: calm. 1900 h, Della Falls Main Camp. Elevation: 560 m, Sky: broken clouds, Precipitation: nil, Temperature: 13.2ºC, Humidity: 96.8%, Wind: calm.
- Day 2, 0800 h, Della Falls Main Camp. Elevation: 560 m, Sky: broken clouds, Precipitation: nil, Temperature: 10.5ºC, Humidity: 97.9%, Wind: calm. 1300 h, Love Lake. Elevation: 1218 m, Sky: broken clouds, Precipitation: nil, Temperature: 14.6°C, Humidity: 56.5%, Wind: calm. 1800 h, Della Falls Main Camp. Elevation: 560 m, Sky: scattered clouds, Precipitation: nil, Temperature: 15.0ºC, Humidity: 75.5%, Wind: light S.
- Day 3, 0800 h, Della Falls Main Camp. Elevation: 560 m, Sky; obscured, Precipitation: light rain, Temperature: 9.7ºC, Humidity: 99.1%, Wind: calm. 1600 h, Della Falls Trailhead. Elevation: 94 m, Sky: broken clouds, Precipitation: nil, Temperature: 13.8ºC, Humidity: 98.6%, Wind: calm.
Data logged with Kestrel Meters Drop D3
I joined a group of two other hikers on the Della Falls Water Taxi for a smooth 45 minute boat ride 35 km across Great Central Lake. After unloading at the BC Parks dock, the trip began. The approach was in decent shape with recent windfall clearings, a little muddy near the swamps, and a bushy few kilometres before Margaret Creek. The Love Lake Trail was mostly clear except for a couple of easily passed blowdowns. The snow line started at 1260 m above the Della Falls lookout. Snow travel was mostly on hard consolidated snowpack except around the big boulders, rock walls, and the edge of Love Lake. A sudden posthole could surprise, injure, or cold soak the unsuspecting hiker. With careful consideration, it was possible to navigate to a dry picnic rock beside Love Lake and enjoy fine views towards Mount Septimus and Mount Rosseau. The return route back to camp is always easier for me than the way up. I enjoyed more spectacular views of Della Falls, Della Lake, Nine Peaks, and Big Interior. The hike out the next day was a bit slicker then the way in, but trending downslope made for an easier egress.
- Day 1, Della Falls Trailhead to Della Falls Main Camp. Distance: 14.85 km, Duration: 4:57’28, Ascent 574 m, Ascent Time: 2:29’34, Descent: 115 m, Descent Time: 33’48.0. Map
- Della Falls Main Camp to Della Falls Base return. Distance: 1.94 km, Duration: 1:05’46, Ascent: 53 m, Ascent Time: 20’50.0, Descent: 62 m, Descent Time: 22’17.0. Map
- Day 2, Della Falls Main Camp to Love Lake return. Distance: 8.31 km, Duration: 6:28’53, Ascent 788 m, Ascent Time: 2:02’16, Descent: 797 m, Descent Time: 1:59’22. Map
- Day 3, Della Falls Main Camp to Della Falls Trailhead. Distance: 14.80 km, Duration: 5:04:30, Ascent: 118 m, Ascent Time: 20’36.0, Descent: 580 m, Descent Time: 2:15’24. Map (incomplete)
Data logged with Suunto 9 Baro.
There was not much in the way of mega fauna on this trip. Some black bear sign included a few piles of scat between 0 km and 4 km on the approach. Bird viewing included bald eagles, Copper’s hawks, woodpeckers (sapsuckers, maybe a downy), Pacific wrens, varied thrushes, hermit thrushes, and many robins. The most abundant wildlife besides the lush temperate rainforest flora was the heavy ambush of mosquitos between 0 km and 5 km. The attack was an intense feeding frenzy and some unprepared hikers were not too happy. Cover yourselves right up and bring bug spray and/or a head net.
Hazards were typical for a river valley trip. Features to watch for included slippery roots and algae covered rocks in the creek crossings, slanted and slippery bridge decks, the cable car crossing and associated pinch points, a short but tricky boulder hop right along the edge of a rushing Drinkwater Creek, and the potential to posthole through the rapidly melting snowpack above 1260 m, around and maybe even into a partially frozen Love Lake.
Great Central Lake to Della Falls & Love Lake – June 13-15, 2015
Distance: 37 km
Duration: 3 days
Peak: 1282 m
Gain: 1841 m
- Day 1: Trailhead to Della Falls Camp
- Day 2: Della Falls Camp to Love Lake
- Day 3: Della Falls Camp to Trailhead
Day 1: Trailhead to Della Falls Camp
We zoomed out of Victoria at our usual 1500 h on Friday afternoon and drove straight to Port Alberni for a pre-trip meeting with our guests. Afterwards, we enjoyed a picnic supper at the Sproat Lake Provincial Park Upper Campground while organizing gear under the curious eye of a hermit thrush. At 0800h Saturday morning, our group met Ben Potter at the Great Central Lake RV Resort and Marina. The Della Falls trailhead is only accessible by water; folks can paddle the 33 km from the marina, or ride the Della Falls Water Taxi with knowledgable Ben. Our hike from the trailhead dock to Della Falls was a cool, relaxed 14.5 km. The first half was a wide, “cruisy,” rail-grade trail with stones and soil. The second half after Margaret Creek was more difficult due to increasing elevation, a cable-car crossing, landslide areas, blow downs, washouts, bushy growth, boulder fields, and muddy creeks. The ladies really enjoyed the scenery, photographing wildflowers and plants along the way. Located on the banks of Drinkwater Creek, Della Falls Camp provided a fine rest spot. We secured the famous “Saw Campsite,” with its crazy collection of rusty logging and mining artifacts. Mike played Masterchef “Backcountry Edition” and cooked delicious cashew-mango curry for supper. Over chocolate, we planned our trip to Love Lake the next day. The final adventure was a short hike to the actual base of Della Falls, through tiger lilies and berry bushes. Back at camp, I fell asleep to the lingering notes of varied thrushes, loud and strong over the rush of Drinkwater Creek. Nothing feels better than a body weary from physical exertion, listening to songbirds in the grey dusk.
Day 2: Della Falls Camp to Love Lake
The team woke and got hiking at a reasonable hour. Sunday was warm as we climbed through the montane forest to the subalpine jewel of Love Lake. Along the switchbacks, we heard the deep drumming of blue grouse, and even startled a few from their hiding places as we hiked by. More wildflowers, especially tiger lilies, decorated our trail. Gardens are everywhere in nature, if we take the time to notice them. Just before breaking the ridge, a viewpoint gave us epic views of all three tiers of Della Falls, Della Lake, Beauty Falls, Nine Peaks, and Big Interior Mountain. Climbing a little further revealed gorgeous Love Lake, situated at the base of Mount Septimus and Mount Rosseau. Last year, Mike and I explored two different shorelines. We took our guests to the nicer of the two, where large rounded rocks dipped into the lake for premium relaxing. After lunch, the ladies explored the jumbled south shore followed by two ducks, while Mike and I took photos. I was just as mesmerized by the place as ever, in awe of the stillness and silence, the deep blue of the water, and the rusty streaks bleeding down from Septimus. Eventually, we took a last look at the lake and retraced our steps back down to camp. Mike cooked us another yummy dinner, this time a Thai peanut noodle dish. Everyone was tired from the day’s heat and climb, and we retired to our cool tents in the fading light.
Day 3: Della Falls Camp to Trailhead
Our group got a nice 0800 h hiker’s start on Monday, giving us plenty of time to descend the 13.6 km back to Great Central Lake. Travelling in this direction meant the day got easier as time went on. Soon all the major natural and artificial obstacles were behind us. We took our lunch break on a cliff overlooking the swirling pools of Margaret Creek. Afterwards, the group relaxed into the flat and shaded last half of the trail. Our guests took lots of pictures to remember the green beauty of this part of the journey. Eventually, the funny half-picnic tables of the Trailhead Camp and the blue haze of the lake came into view. Ben Potter greeted us early, relaxing and reading his book on the dock. With his encouragement, we all took a refreshing swim in the lake. Swallows flew around our heads, catching bugs just inches above the surface. I felt happy seeing their small homes in the flooded snags just beyond the dock. With most of the dirt rinsed off, our group motored home with Ben across the water. An eagle pair watched us go by, unfazed by the swallows diving around them. The trip ended with a shared meal and warm wishes. We hope the ladies return home with great memories of their trip to the Vancouver Island wilderness!