Last updated January 23, 2020
I’ve never been a huge fan of the winter — I’ll always prefer soaking up the sun over bundling up — but even my sun-loving self can’t deny the beauty of frozen waterfalls. And no matter how hard I try, that’s just not something you can enjoy in the summer. There are a surprising number of waterfalls around Kelowna, but one of my favourites to visit during the winter is Crawford Falls. It’s fairly easy to get to and only takes about an hour to hike around, so you don’t need to worry about freezing your toesies off.
There are two waterfalls at Crawford Falls, but only the lower is safe to visit during the winter. It’s difficult to get to the upper falls on a good day, so add in ice and snow and you have a potentially dangerous combo.
Before we get into the nitty-gritty details of visiting the frozen waterfall at Crawford, here are the quick facts.
|Length||1.5 km / 0.9 mi|
|Duration||1 – 2 hrs|
|Parking||The trailhead is located in a residential cul-de-sac and there’s limited designated parking. Stay within the designated area because you could be ticketed and/or towed if not.|
|Notes||The trail is occasionally closed throughout the year for maintenance. Please check the Kelowna Tourism website before you head out to ensure it’s actually open.|
Crawford vs. Canyon Falls
One of the most confusing things about this waterfall is that it’s known by two names: Crawford Falls and Canyon Falls. Let me set the story straight — they’re one and the same. For the sake of this article, I’m going to refer to them as Crawford Falls.
Overall, it’s a short, quick hike and you’ll usually be alone in the winter because not many people want to brave the icy trail. I personally love it because the frozen waterfall hike is a great way to break that pesky cabin fever that tends to creep up in the winter. But since you will likely be by yourself on the trail, make you dress appropriately and carry the ten essentials. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, right?
What to Expect
Hiking to Crawford Falls can be a little difficult in the winter. Even though it’s only a 1.5 km hike, the trail is steep and gets very icy. I highly recommend wearing ice crampons because they’ll prevent you from slipping all over the place. But if all else fails, you can always slide down on your ass.
Even though the trail’s a bit difficult, it is easier than it used to be. The trail was redone in 2017 and there are now a bunch of metal stairs that lessen the amount of ice and snow you’ll have to hike over. These are mostly near the waterfall, so you’ll still have to safely navigate the very beginning of the trail which is quite steep.
The 20-Foot Frozen Waterfall
There are two waterfalls at Crawford Falls. The first is 20-feet tall and the other is 40-feet. During the winter, it’s only safe to visit the smaller one. Please DO NOT try to get to the second one, it’s extremely unsafe.
The waterfalls are hidden in the depths of the small canyon, but you can actually see the first one from the trailhead. As you near the bottom of the canyon, a metal staircase leads you down to the water and then straight to the first waterfall — it used to be a sketchy ladder, so it’s a lot easier these days! Do watch your step because there is a small creek you don’t want to fall in.
The frozen waterfall is breathtaking in the winter and looks as if time has forgotten it. When the ice thaws, it creates small windows that give you a great view of the cascading water. The canyon walls climb around you and snow clings to the moss adorned walls. Tiny icicles grow on the edges of the winter wonderland.
What to Pack
Before you run to your car and rush out to Crawford Falls in excitement, stop for a sec and make sure you’re prepared for the trail. Hiking in the winter is very different than other seasons and takes more preparation to stay safe. Besides our article on winter safety tips and tricks, here are a few items you should consider bringing.
- Ice crampons: If you’re going to buy anything specifically for this trail, make sure it’s ice crampons. They’re basically spiky grips you attach to your boots that prevent slipping on icy trails.
- Hiking boots: There are all kinds of hiking boots out there and some are made specifically for cold temperatures. While those are great if you can afford them, regular hiking boots will work fine. Just make sure they’re waterproof so that your feet don’t get soaking wet and cold from the snow.
- Wool socks: Wool is amazing in the winter and these mountaineering wool socks from Darn Tough will keep your feet toasty on a winter’s day.
It’s a lot of fun to explore frozen waterfalls in the winter! The lower falls at Crawford Falls aren’t too difficult to get to and make for a fun winter hike. Just make sure to be extremely careful because trails you’re used to in the summer look a lot different covered in ice and snow.
Have fun out there!