It’s cold, wet, and dark. November is a nasty month on Vancouver’s North Shore. It’s tough to get motivated to do a hike. But, when I can muster the motivation, I head to Cypress Falls Park in West Vancouver. This little gem of a hike is at its best during our soggy season. The creek is transformed into a raging torrent, waterfalls are dramatically swollen, ferns hang heavy with beads of moisture, mosses are resplendent and trails turn into wet, muddy obstacle courses. Hollywood could not find a better set for a primordial rain forest scene.
The easiest access to Cypress Falls Park is via the trailhead in residential Cypress Park Estates. Take the Upper Levels Highway to exit 4 (Woodgreen/Caulfeild Drive) and turn onto Woodgreen Drive. Continue along Woodgreen Drive to Woodgreen Place and turn right (there’s a sign for the park). There’s a gravel parking lot at the end of the street where you’ll find the trailhead.
Cypress Falls Park has big payoff for little effort. In only a 3 km hike you will see two magnificent waterfalls and a gorgeous old growth forest with giant cedar and Douglas Fir. The park can be a bit confusing, with a myriad of unmarked trails crisscrossing the main trail. My advice is to stay on or near the main trail, keeping the creek on your right and never veering to far from it. You should be able to see, or at least hear, the creek for most of the hike.
I’m rather embarrassed to admit that for several years I missed seeing the Lower Falls, which are only a couple of minutes from the parking lot. About 100 paces from the start of the hike, keep an eye out for a trail that goes to the right and down a little hill. There’s a marking scratched on a tree but it’s easy to miss. Just a short walk brings you to the magnificent falls. There’s a warning sign and barrier beyond which you should not proceed. Stand on your tiptoes and check out the precipitous plunge into the deep canyon.
If you don’t want to retrace your steps, do a little scramble up the left side of the bank and you’ll find the main trail. A short distance later, you’ll get to a viewing platform where you can see the waters of Cypress Creek tumbling over the falls.
A little further, there’s a wooden bridge crossing to the other side of the creek. Save that for later or next time, and continue up the steep hill. Near the top, the trail veers right and down a bit. You’ll go through a stretch of particularly impressive old growth. The path isn’t always obvious, but the forest is fairly open and it’s not difficult to navigate across the undulating terrain, never venturing too far from the creek.
Eventually you’ll get to a chain-link fence with a warning sign posted by British Pacific Properties. You are now leaving the park and entering a future development site—pray that development never happens and pass through the open gate.
It’s only a short distance to the Upper Falls, which are totally enchanting. Add a touch of tropical vegetation and they’d look right at home in the South Pacific. There is a perfect viewing spot to relax before heading back.
On the return trip, cross the wooden bridge and explore a bit of the other side. The narrow trail high above the canyon has great views, but occasionally gets a tad scary with some serious drop-offs.
I usually combine a trip to Cypress Falls Park with a cardio workout on the forestry roads just beyond the Upper Falls. The walk up to the Eagle Lake reservoir will get your heart pumping.
So, don’t let a little rain (OK, a lot of rain) deter you. Pack your rain gear and a sense of humour and go enjoy the rain forest in its best state…WET!