The footpath was unassuming. Starting beside a bridge over a little gurgling stream, it snaked around moss-covered logs and big rocks. My five-year-old intended to show off his trail-running skills so I had to try to keep up with him while the other two kids hiked a more normal pace with their dad. The trail was easy, with just a few scrambles over boulders and tree roots, accompanied by the soothing sound of water flowing over rocks. Within minutes, we heard a dull roar in the distance that got louder when we turned around the corner into a gorge, and there she was. The sunlight beamed through the opening above the hidden canyon, shining a spotlight on Tulip Falls, cascading down bright moss-covered rock walls. The scene stopped both of us in our tracks.
Finding waterfalls like this is like stumbling on a secret that only a few know about. Waterfalls have always been special to us, especially the little-known ones, where often we are the only ones admiring it at that time.
So when I found out there were three waterfalls along the same road outside of Castlegar, BC, in the beautiful West Kootenays, I immediately planned a waterfall-chasing adventure. One was a very short hike into a hidden canyon, one was a natural waterslide right by the road, and the last one was an easy hike to a 2-tiered beauty.
And an adventure, it really was.
It began by taking Broadwater Rd past the little town of Robson outside of Castlegar, BC. After following the road into Syringa Provincial Park, we took a right at Deer Park Forest Service Road, a gravel road that goes up and out of the park, while hugging the side of the mountain.
About 3.5 km into Deer Park FSR, you know you’re at the trailhead for Tulip Falls when you reach the first bridge. The road is wider near the bridge allowing for a few cars to park on the right side of the road. It is a short, easy 5-minute hike to the falls, and kids can play in the little pools along the way. But don’t stay too long because there are two more other waterfalls to discover!
The most adventurous one in your family will love Cayuse Falls the most, as it features a natural waterslide in the summer and fall. We followed the same gravel road as it continued climbing and it eventually turned right and inland around the 10k mark. When you see the bridge, you have arrived, so park in the larger parking area before the bridge. We climbed down the steep trail to the water and were treated to a great view of a greenish-blue swimming hole and the waterfall pouring down into it.
To access the natural waterslide, you have to cross the road before the bridge and find the trail that takes you down on the other side of the bridge. From there you can jump in the pool and make your way down to the slide. On this fall day, it was exhilarating in more ways than one. Don’t forget to bring life vests for those in the family who need them as the pool is pretty deep.
Deer Creek Falls
We piled back into the car for the last and furthest waterfall of the trip. About 3.5 km from Cayuse Creek, we took a right on Deer Creek Forest Road. We entered forest and scrub, and shortly after a sandpit, we turned left on an unmarked dirt track and followed it to the trailhead for Deer Creek Falls. A picnic table is at the trailhead for when you have starving children who will not last 2 km and over 30 minutes of easy hiking. Consider saving lunch and snacks for the more scenic picnic table at the foot of the falls.
Packs, snacks, and water accounted for, we followed the trail as it descended and found ourselves passing mossy pools of water and forests of tall cedars and pine. The kids had plenty of fallen logs to climb or balance on along the way. At the bottom, we arrived at a picnic table facing a two-tiered waterfall, the first a narrow one falling into an upper pool, followed by a wider one plunging into a crystal clear pool. By the picnic table were piles of large logs and trees crisscrossing over the creek, probably from storms over the years. The kids took it as an invitation to practice their balance and immediately started to play connect-the-logs to find a way across. The smooth rock and sand beach on the other side was the perfect spot to admire the falls closer up. From the picnic table, a footpath took us along the side for views closer to the falls, and further, a steeper climb went up and around to reach the upper pool. The trail is high and tricky at some spots and might not be the best for little kids. We spent most of our time at the beach on the other side, and the kids loved climbing and exploring the log pile in front of the waterfall. It was worth the trip. There aren’t many places you can hike to two waterfalls and slide down another in one day.
The next time you need a family adventure, maybe consider chasing a few secret waterfalls. Explore a new trail. Let a waterfall stop you in your tracks and surprise you.