Let’s face it: the forested trails on the North Shore are generally crappy to hike with tedious surroundings that largely fail to inspire. This one is largely no different, but today was a pleasant reminder of how there are pockets of scenery with serious Wow factor. The waterfalls and canyon of Cypress Creek are stunningly spectacular, and they’re joined by the groves of giant Douglas firs to lend even more majesty to the area. The section of the Trans Canada Trail we covered is an easy, if not particularly inspiring, hike, sometimes on access roads, sometimes in the forest, but a pleasant enough way to spend a bit of time, even in the rain.
We parked at the trailhead off Woodgreen Place, which is a modest-sized gravel parking lot with a portaloo for amenities.
The trail was remarkably dry and free of mud, although that may change after the weekend’s downpour. We hiked upstream alongside Cypress Creek to visit all three waterfalls, emerging on the Eagle Lake access road, which we followed until it ducked into the forest as the Trans Canada Trail (TCT). We headed into the Nelson Creek drainage, turning left onto the lower fire road and returning to Cypress Falls park before retracing our route back to the car.
While not hard to follow, there were a handful of places where the trail was not clear, especially in Cypress Falls park where the trails were badly eroded. The TCT was quite well signed and easy to follow. The fire and (paved) access roads were easy to follow and in very good shape thought not signposted in any way. A good map or mapping app is recommended.
Not much in the way of wildlife. A few robins, a whistling varied thrush, a wren or two, and a few chickadees, juncoes, and golden-crowned kinglets. Spring was just beginning to make its presence felt with a handful of salmonberry flowers and skunk cabbages adding some colour to the landscape.
Distance: 8.0 km
Elevation gain: 410 m
Time: 2 h 45 m
- 😀 Seeing the verdant canyon near the lower falls was an inspiring reminder of how spectacular parts of the North Shore are
- 😀 The trio of waterfalls were all amazing to see and spend a few moments admiring
- 😀 Standing beneath the giant Douglas firs in the park is always a treat
- 😀 Being surrounded by greenery, whether an understory of salal, or moss-covered logs was a welcome chance to forget about the busyness of the city
- 🙁 The road sections were tedious, especially as they offered no shelter from the rain that caught up with us
The last two weekends have been miserable, weather-wise, a fact made all the more frustrating since the week days have been absolutely gorgeous with plenty of sunshine. Our inability to get significant outdoor time last weekend (a full four-day weekend at that!) took its toll during the week and so we decided that we’d get out whatever the weather this weekend. The forecast was not promising but we went anyway, the first raindrops speckling the windscreen as we drove over the Lions Gate Bridge, the mountains shrouded by misty shower clouds.
We pulled on our boots, tied our pack rain-covers securely, and set off onto the trail, entering the cool green forest. Within a minute we took the side trail down to a view point for the lower falls and were immediately struck by just how impressive a setting the falls are in. We’ve been here several times over the years but seeing the falls again in reality never fails to impress me. Why is it that some places don’t stick in your mind as being awe-inspiring? Do we just have too much in our heads these days? Do we see too many beautiful places on Instagram and forget how it feels to witness the scale of a location far beyond the size of a phone screen?
Whatever the answers to those questions, we just allowed ourselves to enjoy the view before us, the waterfall plunging 30 m into the sheer narrow canyon surrounded by the most vibrant greenery and a few big trees. We even had this spot all to ourselves. After taking in both viewpoints we headed back to the main trail, soon reaching the polished slabs for a peek of the top of the waterfall before checking out the canyon near the bridge over the creek. A short climb took us up and over a cliff and we followed the trail uphill among the giant Douglas firs, the sound of the creek ever present over to our right.
We passed through a gate as we entered the anachronism that is the British Properties, a sign warning us of untold horrors ahead (haha, no not really – it was just a disclaimer that British Properties would not be held liable for any incidents on “their” land). Within a few minutes we came to the second waterfall, another single drop beautifully framed by trees. We grabbed a few more photographs and continued on uphill to emerge on a soft bark-mulch path that led us out onto a private road. We had been sheltered from the rain until now and were glad to duck back into the trees to checkout the uppermost falls.
The first time I visited these falls was on a hike back in 2017 where we found them by accident. On that day the creek was running so high it was difficult to get anywhere near without getting drenched. Which is – naturally – exactly what I did. Today the water level was much lower and it was easy to stand on the edge of the plunge pool without being soaked by the spray. These falls are not as high as the other two but they make up for that by having two parallel cascades and being able to get much closer.
We returned to the road and walked over to the bridge across the creek, stopping to admire the rushing water and keeping an eye open (in vain) for a glimpse of a dipper. Today was another one of those days where I wasn’t really feeling up to much of a hike, but I knew that if we turned around now, I’d wish later that I’d spent longer outside. We turned and started walking up the road, winding uphill past salmonberry bushes only just budding, with only a few pink dots showing up at this modest elevation, then taking a shortcut on an even steeper side road as an attempt to spend less time out in the rain.
The rain was now falling more steadily, and seeing as we were away from the creek, we could hear the strong wind in the treetops. I sheltered the camera inside my rain jacket, too lazy to take off my pack to stow it, thankful for the waist belt on my pack to keep it in place. We came to the end of the road and noted a sign for the Trans Canada Trail that pointed downhill (yay!) into the forest. The descent was welcome and we rapidly lost much of the elevation we’d gained on the road, winding downhill through fairly dismal second-growth forest, brightened by a few mossy logs and stumps here and there. Much as I had enjoying the sounds of the creek and waterfalls, I was quite glad to leave them behind to be in the quieter forest, now hearing only the calls of wrens and dark-eyed juncoes.
The trail was surprisingly enjoyable to walk on, for the most part anyway, and not at all muddy. After losing a good chunk of elevation we started going uphill again and venturing into much nicer forest as we crossed over into the Nelson Creek drainage. Here the forest was pretty much unlogged and the ground was a sea of glistening salal and moss. Mist floated through the trees above us while chickadees or kinglets chirped among those high branches.
We came to a junction with the fire road that would be our way back towards Cypress Falls, and we turned to follow it. Despite being a fire road, it was – again – surprisingly pleasant hiking (despite what I said in the Opinion above), and we enjoyed the forest time and easy wandering. Alas our time in the forest came to an end as we rejoined the network of private roads on the British Properties, the wind and rain now fully against us. It was only perhaps 10 minutes of hiking in the cold driving rain but it was a really long 10 minutes, and we were very grateful when we rejoined the path into the forest.
The park was now much quieter with the rain falling and it wasn’t long before we were back at the car, pausing briefly along the way to admire some of the giant Douglas firs. We were wet and cold, but it had been worth it. There’s no way we would have gone outside in this rain, but once you’re out there it’s much easier to deal with – you just keep going. Happy to have had some good outdoor time, we headed to a nearby coffee shop for a hot drink and a treat before joining the long queue of traffic making its way back into Vancouver.
It wasn’t a long hike, but it didn’t need to be – just getting outside was the aim, especially as it’s been at least three weeks since our last hike – and we were happy to have taken advantage of the least-bad weather of the weekend!
3 thoughts on “Cypress Falls and the TCT, 15 Apr 2023”
That is one of my favourite walks when it is raining. I guess because it is short, and the forest is pretty magical even when soggy! It’s funny to think that this counts as crappy and tedious! We are so flipping lucky here!
It is a lovely little park – I didn’t mean to make it sound like I found that part crappy, I was referring to the typical North Shore trail of roots and rocks and mud and viewless second-growth forest, like parts of the Baden-Powell trail. But even then I’ll always be grateful to be able to hike them because they’re a welcome escape from the city. I just prefer the nicer trails :-)
Ah no worries, I know what you mean. We do have some crappy weather here!