Of the many spots I’ve been fortunate enough to see on Vancouver Island, one that is easily at the top of my list is the hidden waterfall located on Sombrio beach. It’s a place I’ve had the pleasure of seeing twice now (and hope to see many more times).
The good news and the bad news about the hidden waterfall on Sombrio Beach:
- The good news is that finding this hidden waterfall is pretty easy.
- The bad news is that there’s no official trail leading to it so you kind of have to ask about it, or figure it how to find it when you’re there.
But if you are a first timer who is visiting Vancouver Island (and I assume you are if you’re reading this), I want to help you save time and show you exactly how to navigate Sombrio Beach and find this hidden waterfall, enjoy it’s beauty and experience the same surreal feeling I did when I first found it too.
The first time I found this waterfall, it was during a major western Canada road trip I took, but I didn’t have the guide I’m going to show you today, so I relied only on finding the beach using my GPS, then asking the many locals who were there about it and having their advice and directions lead me to it.
The second time I found this waterfall, I already knew where to go, but this time, the beach was pretty much empty, and if it was my first time, I wouldn’t have anyone to ask about this spot.
So if you find yourself in this situation, having this guide to finding the hidden waterfall will help you.
The summary of how to find the hidden waterfall on Sombrio Beach:
- First you have to reach the parking area of Sombrio Beach (input the spot on your GPS).
- Next you have to walk down the trail to the actual beach.
- While walking on the trail, you’ll find a sign showing you can head to east or west Sombrio. Go east.
- Once you get to the beach, turn left (east) and walk along the shore.
- You’re going to have to walk about half a mile or close to a kilometer over sea rocks and maybe do a little hiking too.
- Your goal is to find a creek about half a mile into the walk.
- Once you find that creek, walk onto it, turn left and walk up the creek (there’s a little trail next to it).
- The hidden waterfall is only about 50 feet up the trail and hidden in the bushes.
Now these are the basic instructions, but…
I recommend you keep reading the more detailed version of those directions because there are a few things along this hike that may confuse you and have you wasting time. So what I’ll do now is get into the details of each of those directions:
First, input the Sombrio Beach location to your GPS (keep reading):
So before you follow this GPS, there’s something important you need to know:
This official Google maps spot doesn’t actually take you into the Sombrio Beach parking area.
There’s actually a new road that was built but the GPS hasn’t updated to it. Both times I followed the GPS, it led me to the above spot, which is the old parking area.
What you’re going to want to do is use the GPS, reach that spot, but once you do, don’t stop. Instead, keep heading west and the VERY NEXT LEFT you see is where the new, official road to Sombrio Beach is.
And while it’s only about 100 feet away from the old GPS location, the first time I went here, my friend and I didn’t know about this and assumed this old, closed road was the official spot to see.
So what we did was, we stopped, entered the old road and kept following it down to the beach, until we saw a new road and a local told us, we needed to go back to our car and continue west on 14 to find access to it.
So this isn’t a huge deal, but just know that the GPS won’t take you to the official parking area, but the old one, which is only 100 feet away.
Anyway, once you get to the new road (it’s still being constructed), you’ll go down it (you’ll see signs for Sombrio Beach) and this will take you into a parking area.
At the parking area, enter the trail to reach Sombrio Beach:
You’ll see this sign. Head down to the beach from it:
The trail to the beach is very beautiful and I do recommend you take your time (it’s very short).
You’re going to see this sign shortly into the trail:
As I outlined above, you’re going to want to take the East Sombrio path (left). You’re going to continue down the trail for a little bit more before finally reaching the beach.
Once you reach Sombrio Beach, turn left.
Once you turn, this is where the short, half mile hike to the hidden waterfall will begin. And you’re going to have to walk past a lot of sea rocks in the beginning which will be annoying and slippery if you’re not wearing good hiking sneakers, so be careful there.
Like I said, there’s no official trail to the hidden waterfall, so you’re just going to have to walk on the beach and the debris that’s on it for a little bit:
As you head east on Sombrio, you’ll cross different areas with different landscapes. The first one has the sea rocks, the next one has a mix of sandy areas and logs:
Take your time with this trail because like I said it can be slippery and because the beach itself is slanted a bit, you’ll want to be careful with how you walk on it.
As you continue along the beach, you’ll come across this area:
This section of the hike can be annoying if you reach this area during high tide. If you’re here during low tide, you can just walk around this rocky area easily.
But if you do get to this spot during high tide (which I did my second time), you’ll have no choice but to climb this rock and jump about 4-5 feet down to the beach on the other side of it, but you’ll also have to do it while the water/tide is out (you’ll have a few seconds to do this), so if you’re not really into adventurous climbs or hikes, go here during low tide (click here to see the tide times for southern Vancouver Island).
Once you pass it, you’ll be right next to a sea cave.
About 100 feet after that, you’ll find this area (getting closer and closer to the waterfall!):
This is a changing/restroom area and the creek itself is about 50 feet away from this spot, so you can use it as a marker. I tried to find if there were any easier trails next to that bathroom, but there weren’t.
Just use this area as a sign that you’re getting VERY close to the creek, and then the hidden waterfall itself.
Note: You’ll see a very tiny creek next to this bathroom but this is NOT the creek that leads to the waterfall (it is much bigger than that and much more obvious). So continue along the beach for about another 50 feet until…
You finally see the creek.
Now from this point of view, this creek doesn’t look like much and for first timers, it can be hard to believe what it leads to, but trust me, this is the place. Start walking up the creek and it won’t be long (50 more feet) until you see it…
The hidden waterfall of Sombrio Beach is right there:
You can walk all the way up to the waterfall there but be prepared to get wet, because this little canyon is very narrow and without crossing the river that leads to it, you won’t be able to get in. If the water is very cold there (which it usually is), I recommend you get yourself a pair of waterproof socks like these.
I wore these both times I was at this waterfall spot and it easily helped me move through this canyon and all the way to the hidden waterfall easily without actually getting wet (or cold).
And that is how you find the hidden waterfall on Sombrio Beach!
Enjoy the views, the experience and take your time!
For me, every chance I’ll get to visit Vancouver Island, I’ll be sure to stop here and show anyone I can this amazing location. It truly is a breathtaking spot. It’s also a fortunate thing that very few people (even locals) go here, so you may find that you’ll be in this spot by yourself (which is awesome!).
I’ll be making more lists of places to see in Vancouver Island soon including another awesome trail called Hole in the Rock Waterfall, which is another beauty worth seeing if you’re visiting this island.