On the first sunny morning after a string of rainy days, my sister and I set out for a brisk morning hike from our home base at Tigh-Na-Mara Seaside Spa Resort in Parksville. Little Qualicum Falls was our destination, just 20 minutes away up Inland Island Highway with a turn onto Highway 4 towards Port Alberni, we arrived at the Provincial Park.
Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park
Little Qualicum Falls, flowing from the southern shore of Cameron Lake, was established as a Provincial Park in 1940 to protect the old-growth Douglas Firs that stand tall within its boundaries. There are campgrounds, day-use picnic areas, and 6km worth of trails from the Lower Falls to the Upper Falls area.
We parked in the gravel lot and took a quick look at the information board, since neither my sister or I had ever been to the park before. We began at the bottom part of the trail loop, walking down towards the Lower Falls area.
The trail network consists of wooden stairs, sharply angled stone stairs, mulch, and some gravel. There are many places to veer off the main trail and follow a beaten path along a chain-link fence in some areas. These secondary trails end when the fences loop around to a dead end but they provide some beautiful vantage points from where you can watch the cascading falls at various stages.
Old man’s beard (beard lichen) drips from the hefty branches of sturdy Douglas Firs. Bark peels from Arbutus trees, leaving shavings on the damp ground. Moss carpets the area that is wet from the morning dew, recent rains, and mist from the multi-tired falls.
We continued from the Lower Falls to the Upper Falls viewpoint, passing hikers and several dogs on leash, which are allowed the in park. Camping is closed (its 93 sites are open May to September) but the trails are fairly busy for a bright Saturday morning.
Reaching the upper falls area, the water was rushing so furiously after so much rain that the falls didn’t quite look like the pictures I had seen before. Instead of pools connected by cascades, like filling a slightly tilted ice cube tray, it was a single rushing stream that speckled lenses and rosy cheeks with mist from the overlooking trails.
We were out for almost two hours, traipsing through mud puddles, navigating around exposed root systems, and trying to take in (and photograph) the seemingly endless shades of green in the rainforest. It was a lovely way to kick off a sunny day before returning to the shores of the Salish Sea.
From Nanaimo, Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park is 30 minutes north along the Inland Island Highway then 10 minutes west on Highway 4. View my full photo set from this excursion on Flickr.