Spring in Vancouver is a really good time to go and see waterfalls. There is still quite a lot of snow up high on the mountains. This melts and trickles into streams that then join up to give birth some pretty epic, gushing waterfalls. I recently bought the new 105 Hikes In and Around Southwestern British Columbia by Stephen Hui, and this mentions that the Coquitlam Lake View Trail has four waterfalls. We couldn’t resist a trail that combines good mountain views and waterfalls so as soon as I read about it, we drove out to Coquitlam. In the end, this walk was even better than I expected; Because we also met our first black bear in the wild(!) My friends named him Bearnard.
I have more to write about our trips to New Zealand and the UK…but I was so excited to see my first bear, that I have to share this first!!
Coquitlam Lake View trail map
Coquitlam Lake View Trail – the basics
Distance: 13 km
Elevation Gain: 600m
Time: Just over 5 hours
What to bring: This trail is best with good (waterproof) hiking boots and I found my hiking poles useful. We brought plenty of water, but no lunch (we had apples and granola bars) next time I’ll bring more food as I was pretty peckish by the end of the walk! We had a map in my 105 hikes book, but the scale is a bit small, so it would have been better to bring a larger map. (Read through the 10 essentials.)
Facilities: There aren’t any loos or cafes, so pee before you get here!
How hard is it: Intermediate. You need to cross some streams (by balancing on slippy rocks) and the hike up to the vistas is quite steep.
The path starts next to a shooting range. This is quite strange because every so often the quiet haven-like atmosphere is filled with the sound of gunfire. It is a slightly surreal way to start a walk!
Most of the Coquitlam Lake View Trail is through pretty, forested areas. It is really beautiful, but it also had more massive tree stumps than any other walk we have seen near Vancouver. This area must have had a long history of logging when you see just how many huge old-growth stumps there are!
I mean, just look at this massive, hollow tree stump! It makes me look tiny!
You’ll need waterproof shoes
There are a few places along the trail where you need to clamber over boulders to cross streams. I have a feeling this might be too difficult early in the spring, but in May we could cross pretty easily. I found it easiest to use my hiking poles to keep my balance. Marc used a large stick, and then kept hiking with it, Gandalf-style. Marc did step into the water at one point, so he was glad to have waterproof boots and a second pair of socks!!
Dry Crossing Falls
The first waterfall of the day was Dry Crossing Falls. I’m not sure how this waterfall got its name, as this was the wettest waterfall that we crossed! Some other hikes crossed by standing on the sack of logs, but I found that far too wobbly, so Marc and I both crossed the stream by stepping on the rocks. Maybe they should rename this ‘slightly soggy crossing falls’!? The water was flowing so fast that there was a big pile of coffee cream-coloured bubbles at the edge of the water.
After crossing the waterfall, stick to the Coquitlam Lake View Trail by watching for a sign post to the right. This is the slightly tiring section of the walk. The Coquitlam Lake View at the top is lovely, but you really do earn that view. This section of the walk is pretty new, and marked out with pink ribbons. It’s easy to follow if you keep your eyes peeled.
Elephant’s grave yard
There were soooo many massive tree stumps, fallen branches and bits of forest debris on this trail. As the leftover stumps were so large, it made me think of an elephants graveyard. I really really hope all these massive trees went on to build something beautiful as it was quite sad to see so many tree skeletons. It was also quite strange to have so little greenery on the forest floor. I think the trees were all just so tall, that not enough light reaches down to plants on the forest floor. It was strange how brown and barren it seemed.
Coquitlam Lake View
We made it up to the viewpoint BUT then we met some other walkers who said if we kept climbing there was a newer, better viewpoint higher up. The final 5 minutes was the steepest section of our climb, but look at the reward! The long ridge is Eagle Mountain, Tangled summit and Mount Beautiful. We’ve only seen it from the other side of the Mountain at Buntzen Lake. I hope we can hike along there this summer!
Anyway, this is a pretty good place to stop for an apple!
After taking in the view and chatting to another group of hikers, we headed back down through the elephant’s grave yard, and past Dry Crossing Falls again. On the way down I started to find some interesting fungi. I really liked the flat, black, lace-like fungi we found at the base of one of the huge tree stumps.
If you like you can head back the same way you came. But we were keen to see more waterfalls, so we followed a bike trail called the Sawblade. Halfway down the trail there is an awesome sign to mark the trail! It’s painted onto an old, massive saw blade! There weren’t many cyclists around during our walk, but if you try this trail, be read to move out of the way if bikes need to zoom past! You descend a few hundred meters through the forest on this fun path.
This was my favourite out of all the waterfalls we saw on the Coquitlam Lake View trail. You will start to hear the roar of the water as you hike down towards Sawblade falls. The, as you get closer, you can see the white water through the trees. To get the best view you need to climb down a steep bank. This is pretty slippy, but look how amazing the view is once you make it down!
It was a truly beautiful sight! We had been a little hot hiking through the trees, but the breeze next to Sawblade waterfall was all cool and refreshing. We spent a while clambering over the rocks at the bottom of the waterfall to get a better view and take photos.
Not a bad view for a cloudy day eh!?
After Sawblade Falls, you keep following the path through the forest to another viewpoint, then there is another steep decent towards the next waterfall, Woodland Walk Falls.
Just before you climb down to the next waterfall, there is a giant douglas fir tree. If you compare the tree to Marc, and the other thinner tree trunks around it, you can get the idea of just how ancient this tree must be!
Woodland Walk Falls
This waterfall was pretty cool because you can climb the rocks to get right up close to it. Just be careful as the surrounding rocks were really slippery! It wasn’t quite as impressive as Sawblade falls, but it was still really cool!
After all those waterfalls, you just follow one of the woodland walk trails back towards Harper Road where the walk started. There are a few different options, but we followed the upper loop through the trees. By now the sun was really bright so the whole forest was lit up like a star wars movie. We just needed to see some ewoks jump out to complete the look!
Just as we were getting to the end of the walk, there is an area that has been cleared of trees to make room for some power lines. Just as we walked past some bushes I looked up thinking I had seen a large dog. Then I did a double take! It was the first bear I’ve ever seen in the wild! Meet Bearnard. He was about 35-40m away, so although I was reeeeeally excited, we thought it was best to keep walking, rather than stopping to get my large lens and take loads of photos. Bearnard was quite small, so we were slightly worried he might have a mum hiding in the bushes somewhere!
This REALLY made our walk! Thanks for coming out to see us Bearnard!
We found one more waterfall right after meeting Bearnard. I couldn’t find a name for this one, but it was still pretty impressive.
What do you think? Do you fancy this really fun trail? The elevation gain wasn’t too bad (600m), but if you wanted a super easy version of this walk, you could just do the loop around the waterfalls and not climb up to the Coquitlam Lake Viewpoint.
My friend Susan has a fantastic post about how to survive when hiking in Bear Country if you think you might meet a bear like Bearnard and would like to read more.