Category   Della Falls Trail, Strathcona Provincial Park, BC
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Della Falls, Vancouver Island BC
The Della Falls Trail near Port Alberni leads hikers from the head of Great Central Lake to the base of the highest waterfall in Canada (440 metres high, 1443 feet), a cascade from Della Lake.

This 16 km trail, by way of Drinkwater Creek, is a long hike taking about 7 hours one way, and suitable for intermediate level hikers. The trail was originally built by a trapper, Joe Drinkwater, who also started the Ark Resort. Della Falls is named after his wife.

The trail starts at the lakehead's eastern shore, where BC Parks has developed a campground with a bear-proof cache and a pit toilet. Along the trail, all the suspension bridges have been replaced with timber bridges. Much of the 16 km trail follows an old roadbed left behind from logging and mining early in this century. The first 7 km follows a flat road bed through a mixed second growth forest to Margaret Creek. Once across the bridge at this creek the road bed continues through some old growth forest for 4 km, gently gaining elevation.

Eleven kilometres up the valley a new bridge over a nice gorge crosses Drinkwater Creek and from there the trail continues more roughly to a bridge at 12.5 km. Beyond this bridge the roughest section of the trail passes through a rock slide which pushes you close to the creek. Gaining elevation again, the road bed leads up to the Love Lake trail/Mount Septimus junction at about 15 km. The last kilometre to Della Falls emerges from open old growth forest into an avalanche run-out zone to the base of the falls. Campfires are permitted, but discouraged.

Looking down on Love Lake in Strathcona, still frozen in August.
Photo: Brad and Kathy Powell

During the summers of 1983 and 1984 work crews improved the trail up to the falls and built several bridges. In 1995 it was in good shape because BC Parks has concentrated on new bridge construction. Camping is good on the north side of Drinkwater Creek about 1 km below the falls, which are visible from the campsite. These well-known falls are in three successive drops, each about 150 m. A climb to the top of the falls is possible, but a little dangerous.

There is much evidence of the extensive mining activity in this area. Please do not remove or destroy any of the remaining mining equipment, which now forms part of the historical record.

For Great Central Lake drive 13 km west of Port Alberni on Highway 4 and instead of turning towards Sproat Lake go straight ahead on Great Central Lake Road for 8 km. It takes 20 minutes to the Ark Resort, where you can park for a small fee and take a boat to Della Falls trailhead. Allow three days for a round trip if using a power boat, and six by canoe.

A useful alternative if you have your own boat is to drive to another access road about halfway down the lake on the north side. For this approach, drive out on the great Central Lake Road, and just before reaching the Ark Resort, turn right onto a gravel logging road. After about 7 km turn left onto Ash Power Plant Road. About 1 km on, bear right, then after just under 5 km bear left downhill. After about another 4.5 km make 2 sharp lefts.

Looking up the valley into the heart of Strathcona Park.
Photo: Brad and Kathy Powell

The road continues about 1.5 km to an undeveloped camping area and the lakeshore. From here a 2.5 km trail follows up a wide valley to Lowry Lake where great fishing is to be found. From the lakeshore camping area, canoeing time to the head of the lake is about four or five hours.

The north and south shores of this narrow lake (about 33 km long) are very precipitous, so if canoeing, an early start is recommended. The lake is usually windswept by west winds in mid-afternoon and the water can be very rough with whitecaps. There are a few possible campsites about halfway along the north shore; those along the south shore are a little better.

Hiking trails in Strathcona Provincial Park:

Bedwell Lake Trail
Della Falls Trail
Elk River Trail
Kwai Loop Trail
Landslide Lake Trail
Lupin Falls Nature Walk
Mount Albert Edward Trail
Paradise Meadows Loop
Sawdust Trail

Click for companies that offer Hiking & Backpacking services, or visit our Recreation section for more information on Hiking and Backpacking in British Columbia.

Trail information for Vancouver Island is provided in three superb Hiking Trails guides by the Vancouver Island Trails Information Society.

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