Kennedy Falls: the jungle gym experience you’ve been waiting for

This rugged hike offers an adventurous path to a stunning cascade.

The view from below the falls — a glorious reward for those that complete the journey. — Kim Regala/The Peak

By: Kim Regala, Staff Writer

I’m an absolute sucker for a good mountain view, so I feel pretty lucky to live in a province like British Columbia that is known for mountain ranges and hikes that take you to high altitudes. However, if you’re not into the extreme altitude gain, nestled within the forests of the Lower Mainland are an abundance of waterfalls that offer hiking experiences that are just amazing as the mountain treks. 

This week, I explored the rugged backcountry trail located in North Vancouver that leads to Kennedy Falls. While the wise TLC once said, “Don’t go chasing waterfalls,” I definitely have to respectfully disagree with this advice after embarking on this incredible adventure.

Despite typically doing a bit of research prior to most of my hikes, I came into this one with very little knowledge of what was to come. When I heard that it was an intermediate, five-hour, 10-kilometre trip, I immediately imagined it to be similar to the Stawamus Chief hike, which is described in comparable terms. Anticipating the significant altitude gain that I experienced on the Chief, I prepared myself for a treacherous, uphill battle. To my surprise, though, the entire trip was on fairly level ground. In fact, the total elevation gain felt very close to zero, and not once did I feel exhausted or even feel the need for a water break (though it is important to stay hydrated on hikes).

Although the difficulty level didn’t come from steep inclinations, the ruggedness of the path did prove to be quite challenging. With lots of fallen trees, grown out roots, slippery rocks, and tiny waterfalls that you have to cross over, there were plenty of obstacles that kept me on my toes. At times, I had to go from balancing on wobbly rocks to climbing over and under tree trunks. I actually found these moments to be the most enjoyable portions of the trek as they offered a different challenge than just walking uphill for a great length of time.

It was definitely easy to get lost during some parts of the hike, as there was a lot of deadfall that led you away from the marked path. I often found myself venturing off to unmarked paths because of this and the distracting beauty of my surroundings. Thankfully, the trail was marked very well with bright orange markers that guide you through the entire trip. As long as you keep an observant eye, there shouldn’t be any time during the hike that you can’t easily find your way back to the marked trail. While I don’t recommend straying too far from the marked path, I can say that getting a little bit lost in the forest definitely added to the experience’s thrill and adventure.

A little over an hour into the hike is when you come across the famous Big Cedar. This enormous tree is rumoured to be 600 years old, and with its wide trunk measured at a diameter of four metres, it isn’t hard to spot. This not-so-little gem really added to the charm of the forest, giving hikers a little taste of relatively ancient history.

In less than two hours, I reached the end of the trail, which revealed a gorgeous view of Kennedy Falls. Catching sight of the waterfall, I remember feeling completely mesmerized and lost in the moment. It was certainly a different kind of hiking experience getting to admire an awe-inspiring view from below instead of above. The viewpoint offered plenty of angles to choose from for that picture-perfect Instagram shot.

All in all, to make the most of this awesome hiking experience, I suggest bringing a companion and a few snacks, and allotting a significant amount of time for simply taking in the amazing scenery that is unlike most other hikes in the area. 

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