Just a little west of Parksville lies Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park, where you can find awesome waterfalls, rugged gorges, old growth giants, and sublime flanking mountains.
Despite the wildness of the landscape here, the waters are calm and clear (not to mention filled with legends, but more on that later) and the hiking trails are easily negotiated despite their beauty.
All of this makes Little Qualicum Falls the perfect place for a family day out or a chilled stint in nature that doesn’t require you to pack your expedition bags.
Welcome to Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park
440 hectares of natural beauty make up the full extent of Qualicum Falls Provincial Park. However, even outside of the bounds of the park, visitors can enjoy the mighty mountains that border Cameron Lake, as well as the hallowed wilderness of Cathedral Grove Rainforest.
This area was officially protected in 1940, in order to safeguard the irreplaceable old-growth Douglas fir forest that has been standing here for hundreds of years. Thanks to the preservation of this forest, the area around Little Qualicum Falls remains rich in biodiversity and gives you the chance to see all kinds of critters from deer to bears in their natural habitat.
The falls themselves get their name from the Qualicum First Nation, who run a pair of campgrounds and a day-care center for children around half an hour’s drive from the falls. Their vision is to build a stable and prosperous nation built around the values of cultural harmony and understanding between their citizens and the surrounding community.
What to Do with Your Day at Little Qualicum Falls
Your day at Little Qualicum Falls can take a number of different trajectories, depending on what you’re looking for.
If you are on the lookout for a laidback family locale or just a chilled-out day, a relaxing lounge and dip in one of the many crystal-clear pools here is always a family favorite. Add in plenty of places to picnic and an adventure playground to keep the kids happy and you have the perfect recipe to de-stress.
For the walkers among you, there are a total of 6 kilometers of loop trails that snake throughout the park. For something easy-going, we would recommend taking the 3km loop trail from the Little Qualicum day-use area which will take you to excellent vantage points to see both the upper and lower falls.
The loop is studded with picturesque viewpoints to capture the majesty of the waterfalls and should only take you around an hour to complete in its entirety.
If you were looking for a harder trail to test your abilities, the Wesley Ridge Trail begins here and will take you on a round trip up through Wesley Ridge that takes around 6 hours in all.
Finally, for the water babies out there, Cameron Lake offers a few unique selling points. As well as being a gorgeous location for swimming, the surrounding sweeping peaks funnel wind across the lake, making it a prime location for in-land sailboarding or windsurfing.
The lake shares the crystal-clear quality of the surrounding pools, so is also popular with freshwater scuba divers. It is also a popular angling location, being one of the few bodies of water in British Columbia where you have a chance at landing a brown trout.
In the intro, we mentioned some legends about Cameron Lake. We can neither confirm nor deny their truth, but, in order of likelihood, they are: that the lake features underground tunnels which connect it to Horne Lake, that a giant mysterious snake-like creature called Cammie lives in the depths, and that the lake is in fact bottomless. Whether or not there is any merit to these stories, they are a testament to the imagination-sparking atmosphere that can you feel here!
A Breakdown of the Amenities at Little Qualicum Falls
The amenities that you get for your day here will depend on whether you choose the Little Qualicum Falls day-use area or the one at Cameron Lake. One great thing, however, is that unlike many Provincial Parks the day-use areas stay open throughout the winter months.
Little Qualicum Falls day-use area has plenty of picnic tables for enjoying lunch, as well as a picnic shelter in case the weather isn’t kind to you. You can also find fresh, potable water and real flushing toilets here.
Cameron Lake also has plenty of picnic tables, although there is no access to drinkable water here and the toilets are only pit toilets located near the small car parking lot towards the south end of the lake.
The nearest sani-station to either area can be found at Rathtrevor Beach Park, which is a 3 km journey to the south of Parksville.
Camping at Little Qualicum Falls
Little Qualicum Falls is not just the place for a day trip – you can also sleep the night in the campgrounds here if you desire.
The campground here has around 100 non-service (meaning no electricity, water, or sewage) camping spots for either tents or RVs. You will also gain access to the site’s exclusive picnicking facilities.
In the high season of May to August, you will need to reserve a spot ahead of time. The campground is still open in April, September, and October, but runs on a first-come-first-served basis instead of pre-bookings during this time.
How to Get to Qualicum Falls Provincial Park
Qualicum Falls Provincial Park can be found a little outside Parksville, which itself is around a 2-hour drive northwest of Victoria.
Once you reach Parksville, you have a choice of making your way to two different day-use areas and car parking lots. You can choose either the Little Qualicum Falls day-use area which is 19 km to the west of Parksville along Pacific Rim Highway 4, or the Cameron Lake day-use area which is an extra 4 km in the same direction.
There is no right and wrong answer when deciding between the two, it all depends on what you are looking for. If you are seeking a day of instant-access waterside chilling, opt for Cameron Lake. If you want the full falls experience, opt for Little Qualicum.
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