Unlike other areas of the Pacific Northwest, the Okanagan is technically a desert. In the summer, waterfalls are a welcome respite from the sweltering temperatures and the many waterfalls at Mill Creek Regional Park are no exception. Pair the waterfalls with shade from the trees and Mill Creek is a fun afternoon adventure no matter the time of year.
|Difficulty||Easy to moderate|
|Length||2.82 km, 1.75 mi|
|Terrain Stats||Download PDF|
|GPX File||Download GPX, GeoJSON, and KML files|
Mill Creek Regional Park
Mill Creek Regional Park is a 15.3-hectare park in the Ellison district of Kelowna, just east of the Kelowna International Airport. The creek begins at Postill Lake near the airport, flows through the regional park, and snakes through Kelowna before emptying into Okanagan Lake.
Mill Creek Regional Park is very accessible and located in the northeast region of Kelowna on Spencer Road, just behind the airport. The fair-sized parking lot is open during daylight hours and well maintained in the spring, summer, and fall; in the winter, the parking lot is closed, but it’s still possible to explore the winter wonderland.
There are three waterfalls at Mill Creek and hikers, dog walkers, and families enjoy coming here. You must keep your doggos on their leash and, as usual, clean up after them. Bears are also known to be active in the park, so bring bear spray and practice bear safety.
The first waterfall at Mill Creek is about 1 km from the parking lot and the trail is manageable for all experience levels. There are a few different routes, but they all eventually meet back up so it doesn’t matter which you take. If you take the left route, you’ll encounter wooden stairs and a curved boardwalk.
After a short uphill climb, a downhill fork leads to the first waterfall. This is a great place to enjoy a picnic or quick dip in the water!
You can also explore the top of the falls by continuing along the uphill trail. You’ll quickly reach a staircase that brings you to the very top of the falls where you can watch the water tumble down the rocks. However, be very careful as it can get slippery and would be easy to fall into the waterfall.
Getting to the second waterfall is a little more difficult because the trail near the first waterfall is sometimes flooded. If that happens, you’ll need to take an alternative trail that requires careful footwork and climbing. Except for that detour, the rest of the trail is easy and mainly flat. Large, moss-covered rocks line the creek and fallen trees form natural bridges across the water. The area is kept cool by the Black Cottonwood trees that grow along the creek.
As you approach the waterfall, the roar of the falls will greet you. And fun fact: the waterfall here is actually three small falls! You’ll likely have to navigate another small washed out section as you walk towards the falls. A small, damp cave sits to the left of the waterfalls but it’s not always accessible.
The trail to the final waterfall at Mill Creek is the most difficult. Even though the trail itself is fairly easy to follow, it’s narrow, rugged, and sometimes awkward.
At one point you’ll reach a barbed wire fence. There are two trails here and the best option it to take the uphill route. It’ll bring you high above the creek and along a well-worn path. You’ll eventually reach a rope which brings you down a steep, slick descent to the waterfall. If you take the lower trail, it’s a lot harder to reach the waterfall.
This is my favourite waterfall at Mill Creek Regional Park! The two-tiered waterfall cascades down the rock and looks like a natural water slide. You can walk right up to the middle of the waterfall and even though the rock is covered in water, it’s not slick. Not many people come this far, so enjoy the solitude if you’re lucky enough to have it.
The trail continues past the waterfall and to another man-made waterfall and small reservoir.
I always carry bear spray on my hikes. The wilderness is full of wild animals and it’s always more important to be over-prepared than under. In BC, bears, cougars, and other large animals call the mountains home. While my bear spray helps me feel secure when I explore, it’s important to remember that there’s a lot more to bear safety than just carrying bear spray.
Next, bring water! Woah, what a surprise, me suggesting water? No way. But in all seriousness, bring either a hydration pack or water bottle. If you really don’t wanna carry water, though, you could bring a water filter so you can drink directly from Mill Creek itself.
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Mill Creek Regional Park is a great, family friendly hike for everyone. The first waterfall is easy to get to and is a great place for a picnic or refreshing dip in the summer. The two other falls are harder to get to but entirely worth the effort.
Due to the washed-out sections of the trail, it’s unusual to run into crowds.