how to find the hidden waterfall on sombrio beach 08

How to Find The Hidden Sombrio Beach Waterfall

One of the many spots I’ve been fortunate enough to see on Vancouver Island is the Sombrio Beach waterfall. While many locals know it’s location, it is a bit hidden and may be difficult to find without directions and in this post that’s exactly what I’m going to be showing you as I’ve been there a few times now.

Quick info on the hidden Sombrio Beach waterfall:

  • Name: Sombrio Beach waterfall.
  • Location: Sombrio Beach Vancouver Island.
  • Hike distance: 2 miles in and out.
  • Difficulty: Moderate (walking on the shore rocks is the most difficult part).
  • Easy to find? Somewhat, the instructions below will show you.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5.
  • Recommended? Yes! I’ve been here several times and though it’s pretty small and somewhat hidden, it’s still one of the most beautiful Vancouver Island waterfalls I’ve ever seen.

The good and the bad news about the hidden Vancouver Island waterfall:

  • 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.

how to find the hidden waterfall on sombrio beach 08

How to find the Sombrio Beach waterfall (step by step):

  1. You’ll start at the parking area of Sombrio Beach (input the spot on your GPS).
  2. Next you have to walk down the trail to the actual beach. 
  3. While walking on the trail, you’ll find a sign showing you can head to left or right. Turn left.
  4. Once you get to the beach, turn left again (east) and walk along the shore.
  5. 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.
  6. Your goal is to find a creek about half a mile into the walk.
  7. Once you find that creek, walk onto it, turn left and walk up the creek (there’s a little trail next to it).
  8. The hidden waterfall is only about 50 feet up the trail and hidden in the bushes. 

Here’s a map of where to find the Sombrio Beach waterfall:

sombrio beach waterfall map new 02

Now these are the basic instructions to find the Vancouver Island waterfall 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:

sombrio beach hidden waterfall
Sombrio beach waterfall photo

1) Input the Sombrio Beach location to your GPS (keep reading):

You can easily find that in Google maps. But before you follow this GPS, there’s something important you need to know:

This official Google maps spot may not 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 and I have been to Sombrio Beach 3 times (2023 was the last time) and on all 3 occasions the GPS took me to the old parking lot.

But here’s to make sure you get to the right one:

  1. What you’re going to want to do is use the GPS, reach that spot, but once you do, don’t stop.
  2. Instead, keep heading west and the VERY NEXT LEFT you see is where the new, official road to Sombrio Beach is.
  3. 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. 

2) At the parking area, enter the trail to reach Sombrio Beach:

You’ll see this sign. Head down to the beach from it:

sombrio beach parking picture

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:

sombrio beach trail east west

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:

sombrio beach

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 (product recommendations are below).

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.It might be just rocks you’ll have to pass, some sea algae, giant trees or all of them mixed together, so take your time here, because the hidden waterfall isn’t far from there.

As you head east on the beach, you should see this kind of view:

walking along sombrio beach

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:

sombrio beach hike to waterfall 1

But like I said, take your time on the trail.

3) As you continue along the beach, you’ll come across this area:

sombrio beach rock hike

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. It isn’t that scenic, but if you’ve never seen sea caves before, it’ll be worth stopping there to take a picture, provided the tide isn’t coming in.

About 100 feet after that, you’ll find this area (getting closer and closer to the waterfall!): 

sombrio beach bathroom area

This is a changing/restroom area and the creek you’re looking for 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 any. It’s just a small area made for the bathroom. But the point is, 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).

Just think of that small creek as another indication you’re getting closer and closer to the right one. Anyway, continue along the beach for about another 50 feet. At this point, the hidden waterfall is very close.

4) You finally see the creek (this is the entrance to the hidden waterfall):

sombrio beach creek to hidden waterfall

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. The only time you may have issues spotting it is when the tide is high, and if that’s the case, make sure to visit this place either during low tide, or use the bathroom area above as an indication you’re close.

Anyway, once you find the creek, enter into it confidently knowing what’s about to appear shortly. As you do, you’ll be able to walk along the creek and stay dry or if you choose to, get into the water, and as long as you wear the waterproof socks I recommend, you won’t feel a drop of the cold water on your feet. Anyway, keep working your way uphill.

You’ll have to bush whack just a little bit (maybe 50 feet or so), but after the bushes clear, you’re going to see a gorge. And the good news is, you won’t be able to miss it. And now that you see it, the next part is easy. Just keep walking uphill or about 100 feet and then:

5) The hidden Sombrio Beach waterfall is right there:

secret waterfall on vancouver island

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. And on that note:

I strongly recommend wearing specific socks for that part of your hike to the Sombrio waterfall:

If the water is very cold there (which it usually is), I recommend you get yourself a pair of waterproof socks like these. They are awesome for such hikes (I have an addition Randy Sun waterproof socks review on that and I’ve used these twice on the Sombrio Beach hike). In addition to those, I also made an additional list of the best waterproof socks so you have more options.

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. 

Gear to wear if you visit Sombrio Beach’s Hidden Waterfall:

You only really need hiking shoes for exploring Sombrio Beach and certainly the hidden waterfall as you’ll have to walk across slippery rock areas, but beyond that, you’re OK. One thing to note is that this particular waterfall is on a very famous trail known as the Juan De Fuca trail which has many sights to explore.

While this hidden waterfall is certainly among the top sights in my opinion, you’re probably going to have a lot more time left over after seeing it to explore other spots near Sombrio Beach. Me personally, I explored Sooke Potholes Park afterwards and that was another gem of a place to check out (you can swim there). Anyway, let me know if these directions helped you find the hidden waterfall!

Questions about exploring Sombrio Beach? I’ve got the answers:

How do you get to the secret waterfall in Sombrio Beach?

Start at the parking lot, then walk down to Sombrio Beach. Make a left (east) and follow the beach until you find a creek 1 km in. Follow up that upstream to reach the Secret Waterfall.

How long is the Sombrio Beach trail?

There are 3 different trails at Sombrio beach. The longest is 4 km, while the shortest to the secret waterfall is about 1 km.

Is Sombrio Beach sandy?

Very few parts of Sombrio Beach are sandy. Most of them are very rocky and slippery.

Can you surf at Sombrio Beach?

Yes it is possible to surf at Sombrio Beach.

Does Sombrio Beach have cell service?

The parking lot to Sombrio Beach has good cell service, but when you reach the beach and go on one of the trails, the service gets worse.

Thank you for reading my post on Sombrio Beach!

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  1. Wow, thank you so much for the detailed description! I was wanting to visit this beach for the waterfall, but now I’m not sure if I can do it physically. I can go up and down stairs but my knee can’t bend deeply and take a lot of bodyweight at the same time. Can you recommend a beautiful place to visit between Sooke and Port Renfrew with easier terrain? It would be very much appreciated!

    1. Hi Justine, I honestly think you can do the hike to the Sombrio Beach waterfall. The rocks in the beginning on the beach might be the only problem for you but if you use trekking poles (I recommend the Trailbuddy trekking poles, as they are cheap and highly reliable), you should be OK. Keep in mind that there are no stairs in this hike, but there is a descent from the parking lot to the beach that might be difficult for you, in which case the hiking poles will help a lot.

      As for the other places you mentioned, Sooke Potholes Provincial Park is awesome and not far from Sombrio Beach. They have a few hikes which are pretty simple and it’s worth checking that out.

      As for Port Renfrew, I’ve been there before and recommend the Botanical Beach (during low tide) where you can see starfish and amazing shoreline views. However you will need to hike down to the beach from the parking lot as well here and do a loop hike (about 3 miles total). Again I will recommend the hiking poles I mentioned earlier as not only will they help you in all these locations, but in many other hikes you do. Of course you should try them out first on a regular easy hike to see if you’re comfortable and feel less pain in your knees when using them and if you are, there’s a good chance they’ll really help you out here too (I have knee problems as well and these hiking poles have been an amazing thing to have on my hikes).

  2. I tried to reach it today. I had not seen your post. I’ll go tomorrow, and now I am totally confident that I will find it. Thank you!

    1. No problem Julie! Let me know how it goes, take plenty of pictures and hope you enjoy it (it’s an amazing spot)!

  3. Thank you for the level if due diligence on your details! Very impressed. I strive to give relatable, easy to understand details in my posts too. Yours was perfect. I did a 2021 Summer “Jenn Chasing the Waterfalls ” but didn’t get to this one. I will try this year 🙂

    1. It’s not a large waterfall by any means, but it’s location and the gorge it’s within is just stunning.

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