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Sombrio Beach and Waterfalls

Vancouver Island

Known for surfing, this beach also has a waterfall or two if you know where to look.

Hiking Moderate

3.9 km
171 m
171 m
1-2 hrs
Low Point
0 m
High Point
68 m
Sombrio Beach and Waterfalls Map

Sombrio Beach is part of Juan de Fuca Provincial Park, from here you can hike to two unique waterfalls, one inside a slot canyon and another that pours directly into the ocean from a hidden cove.


From the parking lot, there is a wide gravel path that will take you down to the beach. When you reach the fork in the path with a sign for East Sombrio or West Sombrio, go left, following the directions for East Sombrio. You’ll cross a boardwalk over a creek and reach a shelter with interpretive signs. Sombrio Beach is in the traditional territory of the Pacheedaht Nation, and it was the site of a fishing and harvesting village called Qwa:qtłis. Take a moment here to learn more about their lands and culture. You’ll also find information about the marine life in the area and what months offer which whale spotting opportunities from transient and resident orcas to humpback and gray whales.

The first view of the beach is framed by 800 (or so) year old Sitka spruce trees. Hang around here long enough, and you’ll hear repeated exclamations of “No waaay” as people catch sight of the view for the first time.

Southern Vancouver Island gets a winter swell, and this is one of the places you can surf from late fall to mid-spring. But don’t expect to find rentals or lessons, this is a remote surf spot used mostly by experienced surfers from the neighbouring communities.

The beach is a mixture of large-grained sand and rocks. Careful footing is required, look for the flat shelf above the tideline for easier walking. Left (southeast) down the beach is a rocky outcropping; the path to the first waterfall is around the corner in the next bay. The tide needs to be below 3 metres to pass.

Extending out in the water are large, grooved boulders that would’ve once been a part of the cliff lining the beach. Here you’ll find tide pools and small caves to explore.

After the point, a small creek divides the beach. Follow it up, and you’ll find the slot canyon, home of the first waterfall. The entrance is marked by hanging ferns, and there are small footpaths on either side of the creek, but depending on the water level, you’ll need waterproof shoes (or sandals) to reach the waterfall itself. Trace the smooth undulating green walls of the canyon to reach the roaring, narrow falls.

The next waterfall is around another bay, reachable by a forested section of the Juan de Fuca Trail. Past the first waterfall, the trail re-enters the forest and should be marked by a hanging buoy. If the buoy is missing, look for an opening in the forest behind a collection of large pieces of driftwood.

This section of the Juan de Fuca Trail is often muddy and damp at all times of the year due to the shady canopy and marine mist. Waterproof hiking shoes with good grip are necessary. The trail is dominated by old-growth trees and their large root systems; you may have to use your hands in several places. Boardwalks have been put in places to take you over the more difficult patches. The first view of the second waterfall lies after the second boardwalk, marked by a wooden fence put in places to protect hikers from the cliffside.

Another bridge takes you over the creek that feeds the falls. You may hear what sounds like crashing boulders, but it is actually the waterfall meeting a breaking wave. After this, the trail grows narrower and more exposed. A rope railing has been put in place along a section with fall hazards. A small valley and opening in the vegetation marks your first view back at the falls. Relax on the rocks lining the path and watch the water ebb and flow.

There is also a wooden platform a few steps farther around the cove that offers a slightly higher viewpoint.



Hiking along trails with some uneven terrain and small hills. Small rocks and roots may be present.

High Exposure

3 out of 4

Some trail sections have exposed ledges or steep ascents/descents where falling could cause serious injury.


3 out of 4

Little chance of being seen or helped in case of an accident.

Best time to visit

all year round


  • Wildlife
  • Picturesque
  • Dog friendly
  • Water features
  • Forestry or heavy vegetation

Similar routes nearby

Guidebooks in this area