Thundering torrents of water tumbling down the jagged edge of a cliff are some of the most dazzling phenomena on earth. Lucky for us, in Canada we have access to some of the most picturesque and powerful waterfalls in the world. Located from sea to shining sea, all of these beautiful waterfalls have something unique that makes them a worthy bucket-list item.
The best time to view most waterfalls is in the spring. Melting ice and glaciers create the most powerful flow of water. For many waterfalls, once summer hits, the falls slow down slightly. While summertime is still a magnificent time to view the falls, the crowds generally get bigger at the most popular ones. For some of the waterfalls on the list, winter is an opportunity to get a new perspective. Ice and falling water mingle, forming strange and wondrous formations.
Most of the waterfalls on this list are easy to access and do not require more than a few minutes walk for stunning sights. Others are quite remote and will require careful planning and stamina to reach. But you’re sure to find plenty of waterfalls that will encourage you to travel. Come, chase waterfalls with us.
Blasts of water rush to the basin below at Canada’s world-famous Niagara Falls. As one of the most popular tourist destinations in North America, the area is abundant with sightseeing tours and touristy adventures. The falls are actually three falls: the Horseshoe Falls, the American Falls, and the Bridal Veil Falls. Horseshoe Falls is located on the Canadian side and is the most powerful waterfall in North America. Featuring the highest water flow rate of any waterfall in the world — six million cubic feet of water falls each minute — Niagara might not be tall, but it sure is mighty.
Virginia Falls, Nahanni National Park
Virginia Falls is a majestic waterfall in remote Northwest Territories. In stark contrast to Niagara, Virginia Falls can only be accessed by floatplane from Fort Liard but is almost, if not more breathtaking, than its competitor. Only 1000 people visit the falls each year to admire the 100 meter high, 250-meter wide cascade. The native name for the falls is Nailicho in the South Slavey language, which literally means “big river falling.” For the people who can make it to Nahanni National Park, they’ll find themselves agreeing with the name.
Pissing Mare Falls, Gros Morne
A stunning line of water crashes down the cliff face at Gros Morne Park. While the name harkens images of a less than desirable destination, we promise you that Pissing Mare Falls will amaze you. The falls are somewhat difficult to view. You’ll need to book a boat tour through the fjord after walking half an hour down a maintained trail. The waterfall is best viewed in the spring when it has the most potent flow from its glacier. Spring is also a less busy time to visit.
Takakkaw Falls, BC
Meaning “magnificent” in Cree, Takakkaw Falls is the second-highest waterfall in Canada. The Falls are nestled in Yoho National Park, BC’s answer to Banff just across the border. The falls jet 384 meters down stunning mountain cliffs to the ice-cold glacier river below. Takakkaw Falls are reached after a winding drive up a steep road and a short walk. You’ll know which way to go just by the powerful sound of the water crashing to earth. Late spring is also the best time to visit when melted snow and glacier makes the falls the most dramatic.
A circular canyon created by the jetting water creates a stunning backdrop to Canada’s fourth tallest waterfall. Nestled in Wells Gray Provincial Park, the water roars down 141 meters to Murtle River, where the water will fall six more times before arriving at its destination. The Falls are easily accessed from the main park road. They’re magnificent to view in both winter or spring. The water still flows in wintertime, creating teardrop ice formations in the canyon.
Eighty-three meters of water cascade down the forested side of a cliff into the St. Lawrence River at Montmorency Falls. Only 12km from Quebec City, Parc de la Chute-Montmorency has developed multiple ways to admire the falls taller than Niagara. You can walk across a suspension bridge, zipline over the water or an aerial tram will garner you some spectacular views. Each method will give you a different angle to enjoy Montmorency Falls. The falls are exciting to visit any time of year. In the Fall, the changing colours of the surrounding trees make up for the somewhat less powerful spray.
Shannon Falls, Whistler
Shannon Falls tumbles to earth along a series of cliffs 1000 feet above the Sea to Sky Highway. You can see them as you drive from the road (road trip link), or you can pull over to get a closer view. For an even more intimate view, trek up beside the falls until you can watch them fall down to earth down below. Be careful at the top; daredevils have died from taking a dip in the enticing springs and pool up top. The falls are very near to Squamish and are the third tallest falls in BC. They’re beautiful to visit any time of the year. Their proximity to the coast means the water doesn’t usually freeze in the winter.
Athabasca Falls, Alberta
It’s challenging to picture waterfalls more perfectly situated. Jutting down the quartzite cliff into the canyon below, the water whirls and bubbles in clear blue colours, a towering mountain overlooking it all in the distance. Athabasca Falls is short — only 23 meters tall — but powerful. The sheer force of the water chips 1 milimeter away from the surrounding rocks and viewing platforms every year. It’s not difficult to get here. A well-maintained 1-kilometer trek will have you admiring the falls in no time on your drive through the Icefields Parkway Route (road trip link).
Sunwapta is the Stoney First Nations word for “turbulent water.” The water is indeed turbulent at this picturesque spot in Jasper National Park. The falls are short but mighty as they rush down the narrow gorge. The falls are also ideally situated in nature: what they don’t have in height, they more than makeup for in placement. The most viewed falls are Upper Sunwapta
Falls, but there are less busy waterfalls a bit further downstream at Lower Sunwapta Falls.
Della Falls, BC
A trail of water plummets down 440 meters on Vancouver Island, making itself one, if not the, tallest waterfall in Canada. Della Falls is remote. So remote, in fact, that it takes a boat ride and a 4-day hike to reach them, but once you make it, you will be more than rewarded by the powerful drop of water winding down the cliff. In wintertime, the water freezes, and some brave souls ice climb up. Like most waterfalls, Della Falls is most powerful in the spring.
Bridal Veil Falls
While some waterfalls wow us with might, the Bridal Veil Falls inspire us with their delicacy. Flowing down 120 meters of smooth rock, they do invoke images of their namesake. A short trek off highway one will lead you through towering cedars and hemlock and curious wildlife. The falls freeze into a thin sheet in winter that can crash at any time, making it a wonderous and adventurous time to view them.
Kakabeka Falls, ON
While the “Niagara of the North” is not a wide as Niagara, its powerful tumble down the ancient cliffs below is spectacular. Less touristy than Niagara, the water churns and attacks itself during its descent. The falls are best viewed by following the boardwalk, the trail the arrives at the top of the 40-meter falls. The delicate shale surrounding the falls contains fossils over 1.6 billion years old. Needless to say, you need to stay on the trail to avoid upsetting these fantastic pieces of history.
Like the other waterfalls on the Icefields Parkway, Mistaya Canyon is a powerful waterfall with panoramic views of the Rockies in the distance. The canyon features multiple waterfalls dumping crystal glacier water down the jagged hallow rocks of the canyon. There are also unique rock formations created over the years through erosion. The hike to view them is short and well-trafficked and is best completed once the ice has melted.
Brandywine Falls is a perfectly straight chute of water in a circular canyon nestled in nature. The nearby Daisy lake and mountains only add to the power of the 70-meter waterfall, the tallest in the Whistler area. Located near the Sea to Sky Parkway, it’s only about a 10-minute walk from the highway to the popular top lookout platform. If you want to extend your stay at Brandywine Falls Provincial Park, they are many hiking and cycling trails in the area.
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