sombrio beach's hidden waterfall girl standing in-front of hidden waterfall

Finding Sombrio Beach’s Hidden Waterfall

For one of the most unique adventures on Vancouver Island, look no further than Sombrio Beach and its hidden waterfall. Tucked away in a mossy, wet, emerald green cave lies a single waterfall just steps away from Sombrio Beach. This hidden waterfall took us 3 tries to find, and when we finally saw it with our own eyes we were so relieved and amazed! Words and photos barely do it justice, this is an adventure you have to see for yourself.

This has definitely become a more well-known spot, so I’m here to give you the proper instructions to make sure you feel comfortable exploring off-path and to ensure visitors respect the sacred space. While there are plenty of waterfalls in Juan de Fuca that are close by (check out Mystic Beach), what makes this one special is the narrow, moss-covered canyon. It’s very close to the beach, but tucked away in its own oasis.

If this sounds like the perfect adventure for you, read on for thorough instructions on how to find Sombrio Beach’s Hidden Waterfall!

How to get to Sombrio Beach

Click HERE to open this map on Google Maps!

Directions to Sombrio Beach

Sombrio Beach is located on the Southwest side of Vancouver Island, and it is a part of Juan de Fuca Provincial Park. If you’re coming the Southeast side of the island you’ll be taking Highway 14. From Victoria, this beach is 1 hour 50 minutes away. From Sooke, the drive will take you 1 hour. Finally, from Jordan River it takes 30 minutes.

If you’re coming the opposite way, it will take you 22 minutes from Port Renfrew. Another fantastic way to reach this park is to take the route from Nanaimo through Lake Cowichan which will take you 2 hours 20 minutes on Pacific Marine Road.

I like to recommend this route because it will take you for a beautiful drive and lead you to a massive logging road. It broke our hearts to see how much clear-cutting happens on this route, and you’ll drive directly past the Fairy Creek Blockade. It’s important to be aware of what’s happening on Vancouver Island through logging practices, and this is a way to see it first hand.

From either way you’re driving, you’ll set your GPS beforehand (there is NO cell-service in this area) to Sombrio Beach Trailhead (see the map above). It’s very easy to drive past this driveway because it looks like an average pull-off on the side of the road. Look for the electronic “SLOW DOWN” sign. The road to Sombrio beach is 2KM of a rough, rocky road that will take you winding down until you reach the trailhead parking lot.

Where to Park your Car

You’ll continue driving down the 2KM road to Sombrio Beach and realize that it’s bumpy and rough. Luckily, you’ll only be driving down the road for less than 5 minutes. We took our large camper-van down this road, took it very slow and had no problems. You’ll have an even easier time in a smaller vehicle or even 4WD but it’s not necessary.

At the end of the road, you’ll reach Sombrio Beach Trailhead and be met with plenty of parking spots. It can get very busy and packed on a beautiful, sunny day! You can also park along the side of the rocky road if there are no spots.

There are 2 pit bathrooms available here, as well as signage letting you know the trail routes and information about the beach. Parking is free here, and depending on how full the lot is you may have to walk for a few minutes to the trail.

Sombrio Beach Trail

The trail is located directly at the end of the parking lot near the washrooms. You’ll walk down-hill for about 500M through the forest to reach the beach. There are actually 2 available beaches to choose from. Before you reach the beaches, you’ll notice a directions sign where you can go left to East Sombrio or right towards West Sombrio. Sombrio Beach waterfall is to your LEFT at EAST SOMBRIO BEACH.

West Sombrio Beach will be a more quiet, less busy option. You’ll find surfers, tent pads, and a suspension bridge on this side of the beach. It’s a short walk to check out this side of the beach, and I recommend taking the time to check it out too.

East Sombrio beach will be a quick couple of minutes from the trail junction. You’ll notice 2 more pit bathrooms with garbage cans here. This side of the beach is definitely more busy, and more popular for campers and visitors. The east side of the beach is a lot less rocky, longer, and you’ll find a sandy shoreline that is perfect to sit back and relax.

Walking back to the parking lot will be a bit more steep than the walk down to the beach, but you can easily tow your gear and camping equipment with a cart. It’s very popular to backpack here because of how close the trail is to the beach!

How to Find the Entrance to Sombrio Beach’s Waterfall

To find the hidden waterfall may be a bit tricky, as it’s hidden in the forest away from the beach and the trail is not obvious. The beach is long, and the first time we visited we got lost was because we started hiking into the forest too early. I’ll give you 2 sets of instructions here so that you don’t get lost like we did!

The easy instructions are that you will turn left when you reach the beach, and walk for about 15 minutes until you reach what seems to be the end of the beach. I’ve included photos of these rocks that you will need to climb over and continue until you see a small creek flowing into the ocean. You will follow this creek into the forest until you reach Sombrio Beach’s hidden waterfall!

For more precise directions, you’ll be turning left and walking down the beach for 15 minutes. There will be plenty of large rocks that slowly turn into smaller, and smaller rocks until the beach becomes sandy. Keep and eye out for a bathroom on your left hidden a few steps into the forest. This means you are close.

When you reach what seems to be the end of the beach with the large black rocks, you’ll climb over or around these and be met with a beach cave to your left. If you’re visiting at high tide, you will have to climb over the rocks. If you visit at low tide, you’ll be able to simply walk around them. This is arguably the nicest part of Sombrio Beach, as the rocks turn into a nice, sandy, beach.

Look for the Creek Running into the Ocean

Depending on the weather, you may walk past 2 small creeks flowing into the ocean. The first creek is considerably smaller, so do not follow this one. It will be a much more obvious creek that you need to follow. The first time we visited there were actually 3 creeks, and the second time we visited we only saw the 1 main creek. This is what had us confused and lost. Make sure to follow the right one!

I’ve included a photo of what the entrance to Sombrio beach waterfall looks like, and currently as of May 2022 there are large driftwood in-front of the entrance. Navigate around these, and continue following the creek upwards. You MUST be wearing shoes, sandals, or boots that you don’t mind getting wet, because stepping in the water is unavoidable. Or barefoot! Following the creek will only take you a couple of minutes until you start to hear the roar of the waterfall.

Sombrio Beach Hidden Waterfall

After following the creek for only a few minutes, it will be obvious that you’ve found Sombrio Beach’s hidden waterfall. You will hear the crash of the water flowing, and you will start to get a glimpse of the mossy cave that leads you in. As you continue to follow the creekbed, you’ll take a few more steps until you find yourself in the middle of the cave.

The view of Sombrio Beach’s hidden waterfall is spectacular and awe-inspiring. We’ve travelled Canada for the past 2 years, and haven’t seen anything like it before. The cave is narrow, and you can walk yourself directly up to the falls to get the best view. It’s incredible to admire the unique cave and wonder how this waterfall came to be.

Pictures and videos do not do it the justice this waterfall deserves. It truly is an experience you need to see with your own eyes to truly appreciate it. Getting up close and personal with the waterfall is shocking and beautiful, as the roar of the falls surrounds you while you’re splashed with waterfall spray. You can even stand underneath the waterfall and get soaked!

While this secret spot is not so secret anymore, you can expect to have very little visitors with you. As we were walking up the creekbed we saw a few other people, but we were able to experience total solitude and had the falls to ourselves for a good hour before we left. However, we visited during the week around noon. You may have a different experience during the week at peak times.

Respect the Local Community

It is very important to know that this is a sacred space by the indigenous community and you must be respectful when you visit here. Do not take disrespectful photos, or treat it like a place to party, drink and smoke. Even further, do NOT carve you name or initials into the moss-covered walls. It would be extremely disrespectful to use the bathroom here in this cave, and we kept our dog closely on leash so that she didn’t accidentally disrespect the space either. Please make sure to leave no trace, and share this spectacular view with everyone.

Camping at Sombrio Beach

Sombrio beach camping at low tide

Sombrio Beach is fantastic for more than just the hidden waterfall! This is a popular spot to spend the day on the beach, to have a beach fire, to enjoy the amazing waves & surf, and especially camping. It can get very busy camping here and I would recommend coming early to secure a spot.

There are 3 main camping locations that are open year-round. This includes West Sombrio, East Sombrio, and Main Sombrio. You are required to have a backcountry permit to camp here but you do not need to book in advance.

Registering a Backcountry Permit

You’re able to book through BC Parks and I’ve linked the reservation page here. You’ll click on the “backcountry” tab, choose “backcountry registration,” and select Juan de Fuca Provincial Park with the access point set to Sombrio. Fees are $10 per adult per night, and $5 per child per night. You can also pay at the trailhead by leaving cash. Rangers are patrolling the beach regularly.

There are plenty of spots to set up camp, and on the West side you’ll even find tent pads. To camp right on the beach, choose East Sombrio and consider setting up on the sandy side of the beach about 15 minutes to your left. You’ll find pit toilets and bear caches here to store your food. If you’re setting up a beach fire, make sure to check local fire bans first. Bring your own firewood!

When is the Best Time to Visit?

You can visit Sombrio Beach year round! This park is available for camping, day hiking and visitors all throughout the year and you can find yourself with a very private beach if you visit in the off-season. We’ve been here in the Spring and Summer, and especially during April/May we found the beach to be relatively quiet.

However, during the warm summer months you will find this beach very busy as it’s a popular destination. Obviously your trip may be a lot more enjoyable in the summertime, so I recommend visiting around June/July/August. It’s much more enjoyable to be able to take a dip in the water, tan on the beach, and enjoy a beach fire.

Final Thoughts

Finding Sombrio Beach’s hidden waterfall has been on our Vancouver Island bucket-list for a long time, and it needs to be added to yours too! Like I said earlier, photos and videos do not do this place justice. It’s an incredible experience to see something so natural, beautiful and deliberate. I couldn’t recommend this adventure enough! It is 100% worth it!

We’ve found ourselves lost multiple times before, so with our detailed instructions you should be able to find this spot easily on your own. Since it’s not much of a secret anymore, you might find yourself lucky enough to follow others to this hidden gem of Vancouver Island. Make sure you’re prepared to get your feet wet!

As always, make sure you respect the outdoors and locals of the area, dispose of your trash properly by packing out what you bring in, and support local businesses! Please leave a comment and let me know if you’ve found this secret waterfall on Sombrio beach and if our directions helped you! I’m always happy to answer any questions or comments.

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