Water rushes from the tops of the ancient mountains surrounding Port Alberni, Vancouver Island, down through majestic old-growth forests, eventually spilling into the Alberni Inlet on its journey to the Pacific Ocean. This abundance of flowing water makes Port Alberni a bountiful waterfall destination.
From centuries past through to today upon the traditional territory of the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nation countless people have made the journeys into the forest to feel the calming yet empowering energy of the waterfalls. Today on my visit to explore Port Alberni taking in the natural beauty of Port Alberni I was joined by Islanders Ashley and Simon Richardson. Together we would all be in awe of the beautiful Vancouver Island #waterfall experience of the day.
Our first destination of the day would be a short 15-minute drive south of Port Alberni to China Creek Falls. Starting from the side of the road we made our way along China Creek on a densely forested trail under a canopy of giant maple, fir and cedar. Moss-covered rock bluffs, ferns reaching shoulder height and emerald pools highlighted the trail until the final steeper drop down to a huge opening in the forest.
Here in this opening the rocky bluffs gave way to a stunning two-storey tall waterfall. Powerful water crashed over the falls into a large pool below where we sat and enjoyed the Zen-like state that comes over you when sitting by rushing water.
“This would make an incredible summer swim spot, we will need to come back for sure,” commented Ashley. The large flat boulders lining the crystal-clear pool made for a perfect lunch spot.
China Creek Falls is a 3km total round trip hike, appropriate hiking footwear for uneven terrain is suggested (see All Trails for more info on the hike).
The next stop of our waterfall experience in Port Alberni would be to head back north of the city to Stamp River Provincial Park. Twenty-five minutes later we found ourselves in the riverside park that is home to the renowned Stamp River. With only a short 200m walk along a wide gravel pathway to the falls, this is a family-friendly and safely accessible destination for all.
I had been to the falls before and was excited to share the experience with Ashley and Simon, here for their first time. As we walked the short trail to the falls Simon would repeatedly comment, “Woah, did you see the size of that Douglas fir?”
The two of them marvelled when we came upon the steep canyon walls as the wide river narrows and drops down raging rapids below. The unique experience of the Stamp River Falls is that this is a key important spawning route of the Pacific salmon. Port Alberni is known as being the Salmon Capital of Vancouver Island and the spawning grounds above the falls is part of what makes this possible.
Spawning season starts in late August through into the fall when the salmon charge up the rapids and the man-made salmon ladders to fulfill their annual pilgrimage.
After taking in all the interpretive signage, learning about the falls and salmon ladders, it was time to set out for our final waterfall of the day. Back to the city and then a 20-minute drive west along Sproat Lake on Highway 4, we turned off the highway and into the Port Alberni community forest.
Our destination would be Weiner Falls, a 2km hike into the forest uphill. The last section of the hike is a steep descent with a rope hand line to aid you (more info on All Trails).
Once in the hidden oasis below we discovered a vibrant green pool with the creek cascading nearly three stories of craggy bluffs from above us. This was a really nice place to sit and relax on the flat rocks surrounding the pool below the falls. We could imagine ourselves lounging all afternoon on a typical sunny, hot summer day in the Alberni Valley.
While our trip didn’t include it, those wanting a truly remote and natural waterfall experience should put Della Falls on their list. This trip for those with hiking experience requires a boat ride on Della Falls Water Taxi across Great Central Lake followed by a 15km hike done as an overnight backpack trip. Here you find yourself at Della Falls, Canada’s 16th tallest waterfall at 440m.
With our waterfall experience complete we headed back to Victoria Quay along the inlet in Port Alberni. Here we shared our highlights from the day with one another; plans for a waterfall return was at the top of the list. The next plan was where to grab supper from all the amazing choices Port Alberni has to offer.