As we slid down the slippery hill soaking wet, we laughed and questioned our motives for hiking the icy Crawford Falls trail in the middle of winter. Our butts were freezing and our hands were shaking but the sparkling, frozen waterfall greeted us like the glorious sun and somehow burned away our chills.
We parked beside the curb on Canyon Falls Court in the small area where we wouldn’t be ticketed. The trail was easy to find and, before beginning the descent, we climbed to the edge of the canyon to take in the gorgeous view. Okanagan Lake expanded in the distance, but even from there we could see her glory. We couldn’t help but be envious of the people who woke up to such a view. As we looked into the canyon we spotted Crawford Falls far below and listening closely, we just made out her dull roar.
The descent to Crawford Falls
We began the descent, eager to experience not only our first visit to these amazing waterfalls but also our first winter hike. The trail descended quickly into the canyon and demanded our full attention — all of our limbs! — to make it down safely.
We swung from tree trunk to tree trunk, desperately trying to stay upright. Jacob, with the finesse of a pro-athlete, expertly slid down the icy trail as if on skates. Never having been much of an athlete myself — not to mention a terrible skater — I gave into the inevitable and slide down the snow-covered, rocky trail on my butt.
The sun hid behind the mountain and cast us into a cold shade. The snow was deep here and the ice thick. We followed the lightly trod path, grateful it hadn’t recently snowed; we’d have been entirely lost if it had. We carefully watched our steps because the trail was covered in black ice. We quickly climbed a small hill that gave us a beautiful view down the canyon but obscured our final destination.
Switchbacks & a ladder
The trail wound peacefully alongside the hill before being interrupted by narrow, slippery switchbacks that made their way deep into the canyon. Jacob tackled the obstacle first and gingerly tested the footholds as he made his way down. I continued after him, crawling on all fours like a spazzy bear cub. With only minimal falls, we made it to the bottom of the canyon.
The creek slowly crawled beside us, hidden beneath layers of snow and ice. I wandered down to it, careful to not break the fragile ice. A freezing foot amidst the cold snow didn’t sound like my idea of a fun time.
Before long we came to the last big hurdle: a ladder. The ladder was chained rigidly to the ground and a tree trunk. It looked absurdly out of place. We had a clear view of the 20-foot waterfall from the top of the ladder and couldn’t contain our excitement! Jacob went first and I quickly followed after stashing my GoPro in my pocket. My hands screamed at me, freezing, as I easily climbed down.
The 20-foot lower Crawford Falls
We made our way towards the waterfall and climbed over what was clearly frozen ice. Come spring, we wouldn’t be able to get as close to the waterfall as we did without venturing into the water.
We gazed in awe at the majesty of the cascades, a wall frozen in time. Thawing water melted the ice and created two small windows which gave us a clear view of the falling water. The canyon wall climbed above us, snow and ice clinging for their lives to the moss adorned walls. Tiny icicles grew on the edges, adding to the winter wonderland.
We laughed, happy to have had the entire waterfall to ourselves. The experience was totally worth our cold hands and freezing butts. Next time, though, we’re bringing gloves!
A peaceful, hidden oasis
The waterfall gave us a beautiful sense of serenity. Despite being only a short climb from a thriving residential community, the canyon felt isolated and untouched by man. The drum of the waterfall masked all potential urban noise which let us forget the rest of the world. We lingered for a time, snapping photos and enjoying the peace.
Crawford Falls is home to two waterfalls, a 20-foot and a larger, 40-foot one. After getting our fill of the smaller, 20-foot waterfall we looked for the steep trail to the larger falls. We searched for fifteen minutes without success; no one appeared to have tackled the second waterfall yet — or at least since the last snowfall! We decided it was probably not safe anyways and turned around. We’d be back to find the larger falls in the spring!
Hiking back up the canyon
The hike back was just as quiet as the hike down. We had the trail to ourselves except for a couple and a family we briefly passed. We fell a few times from the slick, black ice. The snow compacted perfectly and we had a snowball fight; cold snow covered us and we wistfully imagined the warmth of our car. The snow slowed us down and made the uphill climb tiring.
The hardest section was the final ascent to the top of the canyon; we stumbled up, almost on all fours. Before we headed back to our car we took one final look at Crawford Falls from high above.
Hiking in the winter is quite different from hiking any other time of year. The length of your trip will also drastically change the gear you’ll want to bring; however, because Crawford Falls is fairly short, you’ll mostly just want to stay warm.
For those of you that aren’t Canadian, a toque is a warm, usually knitted hat that we wear in the winter. Americans like to them beanies. No matter what you call it, you’ll be the happier for having covered your head and ears from the cold.
Information & trailhead location
The lower, 20-foot falls at Crawford Falls are easily accessible in the winter with a short hike from Canyon Falls Court. The parking is limited and you’ll be ticketed if you’re parked outside of the appointed area. Additional parking is available on the surrounding roads. If hiking in the winter, be extremely careful of the snow and ice and dress appropriately.
|Distance||~1.5 km return|
|Difficulty||Moderate due to snow and ice|
|Notes||The lower falls are easily accessible in the winter; however, we don’t recommend visiting the upper falls.|