Hiking High Falls Creek

The Fall hiking season seems to be almost certainly behind us at this point, but Brandon and I were lucky enough to end off the season with a beautiful hike up to High Falls Creek outside Squamish.

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High Falls Creek is one of several trails located along the Squamish River going up the valley. I’ve heard about the river being popular for fishing and camping along the banks, and I once went white water rafting down it with Seth, but otherwise I haven’t explored this area at all. There were a few people still out enjoying the last few nice days of the season, but you do have to be careful camping along the river as it does frequently flood.

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High Falls Creek was basically empty when we arrived though. It’s an extremely steep trail that climbs up the cliffside, providing several glimpses of the waterfall cascading down through the trees. The waterfall is only about 1km in the trail, but it’s so steep that it feels like a lot longer. I’d debating bringing Sadie, but ended up leaving her home because I’d read it isn’t a dog friendly trail. I didn’t regret it because there’s a lot of climbing and rope sections.

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We passed two couples who had gone up to the waterfall, but decided to hike back down rather than do the rest of the trail. I understand why they did this, it’s a 9km loop to do the whole trail, but I wouldn’t recommend it. It’s a loop trail for a reason and I don’t envy them climbing back down all those rope sections. Otherwise, we didn’t see a single other person on the trail!

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As far as waterfalls go, it’s a bit hard to see this one. There’s no real good viewpoints from the trail, though there is a branch that goes down to the top of the falls, which is pretty neat. But I still loved the trail because it has gorgeous views all along looking out at the surrounding mountains and down into the valley. The trail continues up and up after the falls with a total of 500m of elevation gain in under 3km. It took us about 2.5 hours to do the 3km, but after that you pop out on the forestry road and it’s just a leisurely 6km walk back around to the car.

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We were hoping to catch the end of the leaves changing colour, but sadly we were too late. However, there were a lot of bare trees, so I could see this being a great Fall hike earlier in the season and I’d definitely like to return next year. Even though it’s not as rugged, I liked the forestry road because it still had some awesome views down into the valley.

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The last part of the road goes along the river, so we kept our eyes open for good river camping sites for another year. It was a gorgeous sunny day, but we could tell the area had recently flooded. We continued our tour of the valley when we got back to the car and drove around to check out a few of the rec sites, enjoying the last bit of sun before the rain moved in to stay.

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Hiking Flatiron

For mine and Brandon’s third annual Thanksgiving weekend hike, we did Flatiron for the first time in 2018. Now while I think Elfin Lakes and Watersprite were a bit of a stretch to be considered “Fall hikes”, I thought that Flatiron was a great Fall hike, but not in the traditional sense.

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We’d intended to do the Needle Peak trail, which shares the same trailhead as Flatiron, but once we got up to the branch and saw the layer of snow sitting atop this steep climb, we decided to leave it for another day and do the Flatiron trail instead. Flatiron continues on past the Needle Peak branch and hikes down through a pass and back up again to a small glacial lake. I’ve since learned this a popular location for camping in the summer, but in October it was pretty empty.

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The lake is what I think makes this a great non-traditional Fall hike. The trail continues over a steep slope to the top, which is a giant flat plateau (hence the name Flatiron). At just the right time of year, all the shrubbery against the slope turns this beautiful shade of deep red. Pair it with a fresh coat of snow, which is how it looked when we visited, and it really gives you lots of changing season vibes. I think your timing probably does have to be just right, but even if you missed it, it’s still a great hike.

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There were very people on the trail when we visited and most of them seemed to be attempting Needle Peak. There were just two other guys going the same way as us. We passed them on the way up because they had big backpacks on. We asked if they were planning to camp and they informed us they were actually hoping to fly down!

This was my first experience with paragliding and I have to say it’s a hard pass from me. Even Brandon, who is much more adventurous than me said you’d never get him paragliding. We were pretty much the only two groups on top of the Flatiron, so we watched them setting up their flight suits as we ate our lunch. I admit we definitely lingered over our lunch because we really wanted to watch them fly off.

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From the start, it was clear one guy was more experienced than the other and they chatted a lot as they got set up. Eventually, after much checking, they finally got ready to take a run. The more experienced guy had no problem and the wind caught him and took him right off the side and up. We watched as he sailed off and circled up and up in the wind currents for about 20 minutes before finally landing back at the car park.

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Unfortunately the second guy didn’t have quite as much luck. He took off just after the first guy, but he terrified me and Brandon with a fall right at the start. It almost looked like he was going to get up, but the wind took his chute funny and he ended up crashing to the ground. It wasn’t a far fall, but it didn’t look comfy and it made us really nervous to watch him. I can see why Flatiron is a great place to practice though, there’s lot of wide open space in which to run from and relative safety from which to fall until you head out over the edge.

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We watched him make 2 more unsuccessful attempts and then Brandon decided it was time to get out of there or we were going to be watching this guy fall to his death. After that he decided to give up and ended up packing up and hiking back down to meet his friend at the car. So fortunately no one was injured, though I’m sure he was disappointed.

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As usual, it was freezing at the top of the trail for October, but this time we’d come prepared with warm jackets so that we could stay out and watch the view. Unlike our other two trips though, this year we got clear blue skies and lots of sun, so it made for an incredibly scenic trip! It’s a steep trail, with 800m of elevation gain spread over 11km round trip, but so worth it for the 360 degree views at the top!

If you’d like to hear more about Flatiron or see more photos, I have published another blog post on an overnight trip I took in July 2020.

Hiking Watersprite Lake

Since my last post was about mine and Brandon’s First Annual Thanksgiving weekend hike, I decided to continue the trend and write about our other hikes. Watersprite Lake is another hike that is not really a Fall hike, but that I tend to think of as a good hike for Fall since that’s when I first visited it.

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Watersprite Lake is one of the newer trails in Southwestern BC and was developed by the BC Mountaineering Club, who have a hut that they maintain at the lake. It’s since blown up on social media and unfortunately it saw way too much traffic this year with the pandemic and I heard it’s been trashed. This makes me so sad to hear because it is really a beautiful trail and nothing makes me more mad then seeing the wilderness disrespected. Always practice leave no trace principles, proper backcountry bathroom etiquette, and generally leave places better then you found them.

The Watersprite facebook group has actually asked that people stay away from this hike for a little while to give the wilderness some time to recover, so maybe consider saving this hike for another year (also it’s a bit too late in the season for it now).

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I’ve only been to Watersprite Lake the one time and it was shortly after it was constructed in October 2017. Brandon had a premonition this hike was going to get really popular, so we drove out on a cold Thanksgiving weekend to check it out. I believe you can get to the trailhead with 2WD, but I’m glad we had Brandon’s 4×4. There’s a few sketchy sections where I think high clearance would definitely be preferred.

We debated where to start the hike for a while on the way out. Brandon had visited the area in the winter and taken a completely different trail to the lake and was keen to follow that, but I convinced him winter trails weren’t always accessible in the summer (which was the right choice) and we did the new trail. There were actually some club members out doing maintenance at the time we visited, which we really appreciated.

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Otherwise, it wasn’t too busy. There was a handful of people at the lake, but almost no one along the rest of trail. In total it’s a 17km trail with about 650m in elevation gain. The trail starts in the woods and then winds along the hillside and then up a final steeper forested section to the lake. Because it was October when we visited the weather was right on the cusp of turning from Fall to Winter (the season timing is different in the mountains). It was an overcast day and we weren’t sure if it was going to rain on us, so we came prepared with rain jackets, but not quite prepared for how cold it was going to be.

It wasn’t too bad hiking up to the lake because we were moving, but just before we hit the lake, it started snowing! There was no snow on the ground yet, but it started to accumulate fast over the shrubs. Despite the less than ideal weather conditions, it was still very beautiful at the lake. It was foggy and hard to see the mountains, but something about the snow was really beautiful.

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Unfortunately, we were freezing. We set up on the little lake peninsula for lunch – thankfully I had my sit-upon to keep my bum warm, but I only had a fleece and my rain jacket, when I was really in need of a puffy. We scarfed down our lunch and didn’t hang around too long because we wanted to keep moving to stay warm. So it was a pretty quick visit at the top, but we did take the time to check out the hut, which had a few people camping in it.

Shortly after leaving the lake the snow switched to rain for a short while, but then thankfully it stopped altogether, as if the adverse weather conditions were reserved only for the very top. Once we warmed up, we had a lot of fun on the way down, stopping to take some pictures with some cool rocks (one of my fav things) and looking down into the valley, which is totally open from along the trail.

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Despite the conditions, I still had a great time on this trail and I would like to go back some day, but I’m not really in a rush with so much traffic. If you want to visit, I’d suggest checking it out in the off season, like we did, or going up on a week day when it’s likely to be less busy. We finished the day off with a very non-traditional, but delicious, thanksgiving meal at Mags99!

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