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Elk Falls Provincial Park Vancouver Island
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Elk Falls Provincial Park, The Best Waterfall Hiking in BC

About Elk Falls Provincial Park

A thundering waterfall and some of the finest year-round salmon fishing in Canada are just two of the reasons Elk Falls Provincial Park is one of the most popular parks on Vancouver Island. Add to that the extensive network of forest trails, the nearby Quinsam salmon hatchery and, in the fall, the sight of spawning salmon in the Quinsam and Campbell Rivers, and it’s easy to see why Elf Falls Provincial Park is considered one of the best campground accommodations in the “Salmon Capital of the World.” This convenient location – just 2 kilometres from downtown Campbell River on central Vancouver Island – provides quiet riverside camping in the heart of a world-renowned fishing area. And you don’t have to go far to find fish – from November to March, the steel-head run right by the campsites on the Quinsam River. As spring progresses, lakes in the area – many of which have been stocked – ripple with rainbow, cutthroat and dolly varden trout. During late spring and through the summer, fishermen head to the tidal waters to fish for chinook or coho salmon.

After a morning of fishing, pack a picnic lunch and take a cool stroll to the Elk Falls day-use area. Just 3 km from the campground, this picnic area contains easy walking trails and the plunging 25-metre waterfall that gives this park its name. Hiking trails also lead to other areas in the park, which is home to the only significant stand of old-growth Douglas fir north of MacMillan Provincial Park.

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How long is the Elk Falls Suspension Bridge?

Elk Falls Suspension Bridge, at 60 metres in length and more than 60 metres above the canyon floor, is one of Canada’s highest pedestrian suspension bridges.

The bridge is designed for visitors who want to enjoy nature and explore the area around Elk Falls Provincial Park.

Elk Falls Provincial Park - Board Walk

How High is Elk Falls on Vancouver Island?

Elk Falls Park is known for its 89-foot-tall Elk Falls and the canyon that follows. The Campbell River flows smoothly into a wet gorge carved out by a once-magnificent waterfall.

The River has been redirected for hydroelectric generating since 1948, when the John Hart dam was completed, leaving the falls a mere shadow of their former grandeur. Though the river’s level can increase substantially during the peak of the snow melt season, days when the river is allowed to run freely are few and far between.

The diversion of the river allows the waterfall to maintain a regular flow throughout the year, regardless of the weather.

Elk Falls Provincial Park - Elk Falls

Elk Falls Trails and Hikes on Vancouver Island

Elk Falls trail map
Elk Falls Provincial Park Map

For a PDF copy of the elk falls provincial park trails map click here

Canyon Loop Trail

This 4-kilometer circular route may be found right across from Quinsam Campground on Highway 28 or by parking at the BC Hydro public parking lot in John Hart. This riverside circular route features a stunning bridge that spans the lower canyon.

This is a popular trail for walking, running, and fishermen. It also has riverfront regions with spawning and rearing habitat channels for salmon, as well as many vistas. The Millennium Trail may be found immediately upstream from the BC Hydro property and the Canyon View pedestrian bridge on the Canyon View Trail.

The Millennium Trail

The 2.5-kilometer route can be reached from either the higher or lower parts of the park. It connects the Canyon View Loop Trail and the Elk Falls Upper day-use area trail network and suspension bridge. Along the canyon path, it runs alongside to the Campbell River, providing magnificent views of the falls and the mature forest, which includes some old-growth Douglas fir.

Just upstream from the John Hart hydro station, near the Canyon View pedestrian bridge, this trail connects with the Canyon View Trail.

Quinsam River – Riverside Access Trails

Above the Quinsam Campground, approximately 2 km of rustic trails follow the Quinsam River. These trails have been flooded in the past and are located in an active flood plain. Some areas are in dire need of repair. All riverfront sites are urged to be used with caution. These spots are popular with the many fisherman who visit the Quinsam River throughout the year. Trials above the Argonaut road lead to the Quinsam River salmon hatchery.

Beaver Pond / Kingfisher Trail

A one-kilometer rustic trail This walk runs alongside wetlands and connects the campground to the Campbell River and Highway 28. Along this walk, visitors can see beavers and marsh birds.

This walk links to the Canyon View Trail and a fish ladder overlook on the other side of Highway 28. Cross this busy highway with caution. The Canyon View Trail and Millennium Trail will take you back to the campground if you go downstream from the fish ladder; if you go upstream, the Canyon View Trail and Millennium Trail will take you back to the campground.

Parking at Elk Falls 

What can I say – there is lots of places to park at the provincial Park. The main parking is at the top of the hill where the quick route to the falls are. Parking is also available at Duncan main, along the road or cross the bridge to gain access to Canyon Loop trail. There are several parking spot along the river or drive into the John Hart Dam.

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The Hike at Elk Falls 

I thought I’d head back to Elk Falls Provincial Park for a quick photo shoot. Snow was still present on the ground on this specific day.. Weird, there were no signs of snow at the lower elevation.

There aren’t many cars in the upper parking lot. It is 7AM. Why would anyone be here? Not sure why I’d expected to see people out-n-about.

From the parking lot to the waterfall is a very easy and quick walk. I didn’t even dress for the hike, I’m in runners and blue jeans. Elk Falls Provincial Park is an ideal place for someone looking to photograph waterfalls only minutes from their car.

So why did I decide to photograph the falls day? They announced on the radio that the hydro dam was releasing water. If you catch it at the right time, the water becomes a roaring thunderstorm cascading over the cliff. This event usually happens 3 times a year.

My curiosity had the better of me. I just had to see high and fast the falls were compared to my previous visit.

There are lots of photo opportunities in the park. I just wanted to reach the falls. However, you shouldn’t be in a hurry. Walk around and study the woods instead of rushing to the falls.

Arriving to photograph Elk Falls Provincial Park during the right time of the year can make a vast difference in what you will photograph. Compared to summer, the water level will be greater during spring runoff.

For me, the perfect time to photograph Elf Falls Provincial Park is spring. Mountain snow is melting, forcing the Hydro dam to release water.

Elk Falls Provincial Park The Falls

Frequently Asked Question

Large amounts of water fall 50 feet over a granite cliff into a lovely oval pool at Elk River Falls, commonly known as Big Falls. Although there are many rocks and roots along the route, the path to the falls is straightforward. The distance to the falls is about a third of a mile (0.6 miles roundtrip)

Elk Falls Suspension Bridge is one of Canada’s tallest pedestrian bridges, the 60-meter-long Elk Falls Suspension Bridge hangs over 60 meters over the canyon’s floor.

From the parking lot to the viewing area is 1.2 km (0.8 mile). The trail is double-width level, wide, and well-maintained. Rated as very easy.

Yes! visiting Elk Falls suspension bridge is free. It’s a provincial park and is open all year round.

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