The Three Falls Trail is a fun, easy to follow hike near the Lightning Lake Campground in E.C. Manning Provincial Park. On this walk you will get to see beautiful forest, bunches of wildflowers, along with three fantastic waterfalls. Plus the area is full of wildlife. We met a bear, saw a snowshoe hare and heard pikas all along this short walk. If you come in the summertime, you can feast on wild strawberries along the way. It was the perfect way to start a long weekend of hiking.
Manning Park is chock-a-block full of truly epic trails. However if you are just passing through, or arrive a little late to camp, you may only have a few hours to spare. On those occasions when you don’t have time (or the energy) for a massive hike, you can go chasing waterfalls instead.
Three Falls Trail Map
Three Falls Trail – the basics
Distance: 9.3 km
Elevation Gain: 290m
Time: 2-2.5 hours
What to bring:
The 10 Essentials. We didn’t need hiking poles for this one.
There is a loo at the trailhead
Yes, but keep them on a lead as there are bears and pikas in the area.
How hard is it?
Easy to intermediate. The trail is easy to follow and wide enough that you don’t have to walk in single file. There is a bit of elevation gain, but I think most people could manage it.
If you have extra time, then you could walk the whole way from the Lightning Lake Campground. However, the closest trailhead (with oodles of parking space) is at Strawberry Flats, along Gibson Pass Road. The start of this walk must be strawberry heaven in the summertime, we saw sooo many strawberry plants right next to the path. We were too early when we did this hike in July, so please eat some on my behalf.
Be Bear Aware
Within the first ten minutes of our walk we saw a bear super close to the path. He was pulling up thistles to munch on their roots, and was not interested in us at all. Still, we walked past carefully, and were sure to make plenty of noise and keep our bear spray handy. If you would like to know more about hiking in bear country, take a look at my friend Susan’s fab post about bear safety tips for hikers.
Three Falls Trail terrain
Most of this hike takes you through forest, with occasional (strawberry-filled) alpine meadows so it would be a great hike for both rainy and super-sunny days. The trail opens out a little each time you reach a waterfall, but it mostly you’ll be wandering along an easy to follow path with a shallow gradient.
In a couple of places you’ll find large areas of rock falls. If you look carefully in those areas, you might see or hear a pika!
These are incredibly cute fuffy little dudes with round bodies, that look like rabbits, just with no tail and short, round ears. They like to shout at you, so before you see one, you will probably hear some high-pitched “meep” sounds.
The first waterfall along the trail is Shadow Falls. There is a great viewpoint looking down to the valley, where you can sort of see the waterfall through the trees. At the official viewpoint, you can hear the waterfall much better than you can see it!
However, if you look for a mini unmarked trail that goes off from the viewpoint, there is a fantastic view much closer to Shadow Falls. Isn’t it amazingly splashy!?
The second waterfall along this trail, Nepopekum Falls, is pretty far away. There is a sign post that points you to a hole in the trees where you can look out for this beauty.
After that, keep following the trail to see the best of the three, Derek Falls. This waterfall drops down over 20 meters. We visited in early summer so it looked fantastic, but I have heard that it slows into more of a trickle later in the summertime.
The area around the waterfall is very steep and you can really see where rockfalls and avalanches have shaped the trees and shrubs on the opposite mountainside. I don’t think this would be a safe trail in the wintertime, due to the danger of avalanches.
Once you have finished looking at the views, head back on the same route. On our return journey we didn’t get to see the bear again, but there was a line of pulled up (and lightly chewed) roots to show where he had been!
Instead, we did met this handsome snowshoe hare. This fella is brown (with white socks) in the summertime, but in winter he’ll turn white. He wasn’t too worried about us, so we got quite close before he hopped off.
Camping at Lightning Lake
We Camped at the Lightning Lake Campground in E.C. Manning park, so Marc had great fun making fire, right after our hike was over. If you can, do try to nab a campsite here as it is just such a great place to go camping. Each lot is spacious, with a bench and a fire pit. Plus there are plenty of trees, so it feels very private. Lastly, it’s just a short walk to the lake, so if it is hot, you can cool down with a quick swim before bed.
A mini hike, camping and marshmallows. It was a great way to start a long weekend!
I hope you like the look of the Three Falls trail in Manning Park. We did a few more hikes in this area recently, so I have plenty more to share. You’ll be able to find more hikes on the interactive map on my Oh Canada page.
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