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Winter Wonders: Frozen Waterfalls Near Vancouver

Best Frozen Waterfalls in Vancouver
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Vancouver is surrounded by some truly stunning waterfalls, and we’ve explored quite a few of them. It’s hard to resist the temptation to visit more often, especially when you’re craving some alone time in nature.

During the colder months, instead of the usual rush of water, you might even encounter a breathtaking scene of ice taking over the cliff faces. Can you imagine how magical that looks? 

If you’re up for it, you can definitely plan your visit to some frozen waterfalls from our curated list below. We’ve also thrown in some insider safety tips and a checklist of essential items for your trip!

Frozen Waterfalls in Vancouver

Let’s start with a rundown of seven frozen waterfalls worth checking out within Vancouver and its surrounding areas!

Norvan Falls, North Vancouver

Address: North Vancouver, BC V7K 3B2, Canada

Norvan Falls in Lynn Headwaters Regional Park, North Vancouver, undergoes a serene transformation in winter. 

The trail to the falls is 14 to 17 kilometres long, depending on whether you’re including the high route or just starting from Lynn Valley Road. Either way, the trail is surrounded by snow-covered trees and is leading to a frozen spectacle. 

The gentle sound of frozen water echoes in the crisp air, creating a peaceful ambiance. The falls, adorned in glistening icicles, present a simple yet breathtaking sight—a reminder of nature’s quiet beauty in the cold season. 

Pro tip: The trail is also quite icy and slippery. A lot of hikers only use walking boots, but on wooden boardwalks or ice patches, it’s better to use spikes or snowshoes.

Alexander Falls, Whistler

Address: Squamish-Lillooet, BC V0N 2L2, Canada

Nestled in the scenic Callaghan Valley south of Whistler, Alexander Falls becomes a winter masterpiece just a few kilometres before the Whistler Olympic Park. 

The waterfalls are segmented into three sections, boasting an overall height of 43 meters and a width of 12 meters. Enveloped by snow-covered landscapes, the falls, originating from Madelay Creek, freeze into a crystalline display. 

The frozen cascade, set against the backdrop of evergreen trees, creates a serene and captivating scene—a testament to the transformative power of winter in this natural setting.

Equally striking is the view during late spring or early summer when the snow rapidly melts, and the water regains its high-energy drop.

Pro tip: The viewpoint at the Alexander Falls Parking Lot is easily accessible, but for those venturing on snowshoes, there are two enticing options. 
The Express Trail, located just 0.5 kilometers away from the falls, offers a brisk and scenic route. The winding trail within the Western Hemlock forest beckons adventurers, situated 2.5 kilometers from the falls. 

Nairn Falls, Pemberton

Address: Squamish-Lillooet, BC V0N 2L0, Canada

In Pemberton, you can discover the enchanting transformation of Nairn Falls in winter in the Nairn Falls Provincial Park, 20 minutes north of Whistler.

The trail stretches 3 kilometres along Green River, and for a return, takes about 1.5 hours to complete.  You have to be careful around steep drop-offs, but the trail is relatively easy to navigate.

The snow-covered trail leads to a frozen cascade, where intricate ice formations adorn the rugged rocks. The juxtaposition of the frozen falls and the snowy landscape creates a picturesque scene, inviting both adventure seekers and nature enthusiasts to savor it.

Pro tip: If you’re driving, you can access the day-use parking lot at Nairn Falls Provincial Park.

Shannon Falls, Squamish

Address: BC-97, Squamish-Lillooet D, BC V0N 1T0, Canada

One of our favorite stops along the Sea to Sky Highway, Squamish’s iconic Shannon Falls takes on a subtle charm in winter. 

The mist transforms into delicate icicles, resembling nature’s own artwork. Against a backdrop of snow-covered cliffs and evergreen trees, the frozen cascade becomes a study in simplicity and elegance. 

Just don’t expect the ice to stay for long – some years the icy water forms then disappears rather instantly. But there have been successful ice climbing attempts as the falls is not that difficult to climb despite the unpredictable ice coverage.

From Vancouver, it takes about 45 minutes to get to Shannon Falls. As the third highest waterfall in the province, you can already hear its presence from the highway on a regular day, and just a few metres from it, get a peek from the lower platform.

Pro tip: Shannon Falls is a crowd favorite, so parking spots fill up quickly. Aim for a weekday visit to avoid the crowd, or arrive early.

Twin Falls, Lynn Canyon, North Vancouver

Address: 3663 Park Rd, North Vancouver, BC V7J 3G3, Canada

The star of the show at Lynn Canyon Provincial Park is arguably the suspension bridge, a shorter and lower sibling of the Capilano Suspension Bridge. But the Twin Falls equally calls attention to itself, with a pool of water at the base.

Typically lively, the Twin Falls embraces a serene demeanor in winter. However, compared to the other waterfalls on our list, it’s very rare to see the Twin Falls freeze.

All the more special, right?

Pro tip: It’s tempting to dive off the cliffs here and use Twin Falls as a put-in. But the signs all around Lynn Canyon Park say it all – it’s dangerous, considering the rugged landscape and the unpredictable water conditions.

Brandywine Falls, Whistler

Address: Whistler, BC V0N 0A0, Canada

Another popular stop for Sea to Sky Highway road trips, Brandywine Falls stands at 70 metres and is surrounded by a massive eroded cavern which makes for a spectacular sight.

During the winter months, the falls usually freeze. It’s an interesting sight to see – the trail to the lookout point is easily accessible so those who are curious but not outdoorsy or winter enthusiasts comfortably venture out to visit.

From a distance, you can also spot snow-covered mountain peaks here, making the backdrop even more appealing.

Pro tip: If you’re visiting during a different season, you can also prepare for other activities like hiking, picnicking, and mountain biking.

Helmcken Falls

Address: Helmcken Falls Rd, Thompson-Nicola, BC V0E 1J0, Canada

Let’s throw in these waterfalls that’s around 6 hours away from Vancouver. That’s a much longer drive compared to the ones we’ve talked about, but the unique sights here are so worthwhile.

While it’s a longer journey compared to the ones we’ve discussed, the unique sights make it entirely worthwhile.

Situated in the expansive Wells Gray Provincial Park in the east-central part of BC, Helmcken Falls is just one of over 40 waterfalls in this 1.3 million-acre park. 

During the winter, this falls is a real gem, forming a cone at its base as the splashes freeze in time right in the middle of the gorge.

Pro tip: The trail to the viewpoint is manageable, but be ready for high foot traffic. So, plan your trip well, secure nearby accommodation if necessary, and arrive early to secure your parking space.

Tips for Safety When Visiting Frozen Waterfalls

  • Check Weather Conditions: Prioritize safety by staying informed about weather forecasts; sudden changes can impact trail conditions and overall safety. You can also check Avalanche Canada for updates before heading out.
  • Inform Someone of Your Plans: Let a friend or family member know your itinerary and expected return time for extra layer of security.
  • Pack a First Aid Kit: Accidents can happen, so having a basic first aid kit ensures you’re prepared to address minor injuries or discomfort during your visit.
  • Stay on Marked Trails: Stick to designated paths to avoid venturing into unsafe areas or encountering unexpected hazards, ensuring a secure and enjoyable experience.
  • Respect Warning Signs: Heed any posted warnings or closures around frozen waterfalls; they’re there for your safety and the protection of the environment.

Essential Things to Bring on Your Trip

  • Warm Layered Clothing: Ensure you dress in layers to stay warm in the chilly temperatures, and don’t forget a waterproof outer layer to stay dry from mist near the frozen waterfalls.
  • Sturdy Waterproof Footwear: Opt for waterproof boots with good traction to navigate snowy and possibly icy trails comfortably.
  • Winter Accessories: Bring essentials like gloves, a hat, and a scarf to protect yourself from the cold, and consider packing hand warmers for added comfort during extended stays.
  • Camera with Extra Batteries: Capture the stunning frozen landscapes, but be mindful that cold temperatures can quickly deplete camera batteries, so carry spares.
  • Trail Map and Compass: Even with well-marked trails, having a map and compass is a good safety measure in case of unexpected conditions or if you decide to explore further.
  • Reusable Water Bottle: Stay hydrated, but be sure your water bottle is insulated to prevent freezing in colder temperatures; sipping warm water can be a pleasant addition to your winter adventure.

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