The Norvan Falls hike is a beautiful trail that runs through Lynn Headwaters Regional Park in North Vancouver. The Norvan Falls trail leads you alongside Lynn Creek before taking you up through the dense forest which eventually leads you to the spectacular Norvan Falls.
This is a moderately difficult hike with a relatively small elevation gain over the entire trail. If it weren’t for the length of the trail, it would probably be marked as easy. While the trail itself is scenic, the major payoff is the amazing view you get from the base of the falls as the water cascades over the cliff edge. Located just 25 minutes from downtown Vancouver, the easy access to this incredible hike makes it one of our favorite hikes in and around Vancouver.
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Norvan Falls Hike Overview
This is a 15 kilometre roundtrip hike that will take around 4 – 6 hours depending on your level of fitness and how much time you spend at the falls themselves. We managed it in 4 hours but we were moving quickly and only stayed at the falls for around 20 minutes. The trail is long but relatively easy as there are no really steep or difficult sections.
- Wear appropriate footwear: Hiking boots are great, but not necessary. If you wear runners be prepared to get them muddy.
- Take plenty of water and snacks. This 14km roundtrip hike makes for a long hike, especially in the heat of summer. Come prepared with lots of water and snacks to re-energize you for the way back.
- Leave No Trace. There are no garbage cans along most of this trail so be sure to pack out what you pack in.
How to Get to Lynn Headwaters Regional Park
This is one of the most easily accessible hikes in Vancouver. It is only a 20-minute drive from Stanley Park. Simply Follow Lynn Valley Road all the way to the end and you will find yourself at the entrance to Lynn Headwaters Regional Park. Parking here is free and there are several different car parks where you can leave your car.
If you come here at the weekend or during a public holiday, you can expect the car park to be extremely busy and the two car parks closest to the trail heads will be full before 9am. Head here early to beat the crowds.
From downtown Vancouver, there is a direct bus that will take you almost to the gates of the regional park. Bus 210 leaves from West Pender Street and Granville and you can get off at Eastbound McNair Drive at Ramsay Road. From this stop, it is a 10-minute walk to the regional park.
Norvan Falls Trail Description
The Norvan Falls hike is broken into three sections. The first section is part of the popular and short Lynn Loop. In the second section, the Lynn Loop starts to loop back, but our trail continues on the Cedar Mills trail instead. Lastly, the Cedar Mills trail finishes, and the last section to Norvan Falls is part of the Headwaters Trail.
1. Lynn Loop
Follow the paved road into Lynn Headwaters Regional Park and you will reach BC Mills House, which is where the trail begins. Here you will find several outhouse style bathrooms and also a map of the regional park with some general information on the different hikes here. This is the only bathroom on this trail so you may want to use the facilities before taking off.
Head over the wooden bridge which stretches across Lynn Creek. On hot and sunny days, you will usually see a few people cooling off in the rushing cold water below you. After the bridge, the trail splits in two. You can head in either direction but we recommend starting off by going left and following alongside the creek.
The first part of this trail is the busiest as it is actually the Lynn Loop, which is a much shorter and easier 1.5-hour hike through the regional park. This is the most popular trail and the reason why many people come here.
The initial part of the trail runs right alongside the creek and the path is well maintained. There are several spots along this path where the trees open up and you can see the crystal clear water running down through the valley. There are lots of places along this first stretch of the creek where people will stop to enjoy a swim in the water or take a lunch break.
The first two kilometres of this trail are almost flat and you will pass over some wooden boardwalks and walkways, and through the occasional patch of mud. Just under 2 kilometres in you have the option to turn right and complete the Lynn Loop. This is where the crowds start to thin out and you can continue straight along the trail.
2. Cedar Mills Trail
The second part of this hike is the Cedar Mills Trail. While similar to the first section, it weaves inland a bit more and you will pass through some shaded forests while still catching occasional glimpses of the water. There are a few more muddy spots on this part of the trail but there are usually some rocks or tree branches in the mud to help you navigate through.
This part of the trail is also quite flat and relatively easy. At around the 4 kilometre mark, the trail opens up into a clearing known as the debris chute. There is an opening to the left where you can enjoy the views by the water but head up to the right to continue your hike.
During our visit there was a sign warning of a bear in the area so make sure you are bear aware.
At the top of the rocky clearing, right before you head back into the forest, the trail splits and you can go right to head back to the car park and complete the Cedar Mills loop. Instead, turn left into the forest to continue to Norvan Falls.
3. Headwaters Trail
The third section of the trail is where the hike gets slightly more difficult as there is some moderate elevation gain and the path is littered with more muddy spots and tree roots.
The next 3 kilometres are spent gradually climbing up through the lush green forest. The trees and much of the forest floor are covered in moss and you should see some large mushrooms growing out of plenty of trees as you make your way through. The hike becomes quieter here and even on the weekends you should be able to enjoy the peace and tranquility of the forest.
Apart from the length of this hike, this part of the trail is the only section that would be considered moderate, rather than easy. It is slightly more difficult with roots, muddy sections and dry creek beds to climb down and back up, but it is not too difficult.
The trail will eventually lead you out to Norvan Creek where the trail turns into a T junction. During the summer months you can take the trail on the left all the way to Grouse Mountain, but it is closed most of the year due to the weather. However, it is still worth walking across the old steel suspension bridge and enjoy the swaying bridge as the water passes beneath you.
To reach the waterfall you turn right at Norvan Creek and walk 200 metres to the falls. You will hear the waterfall before you see it and just before you get to the falls the trees clear slightly and you will catch your first sighting of Norvan Falls.
If you follow the trail slightly further up to the right, there is a cool spot on the cliff edge to get an alternate view of the falls. Although watch your footing as there are lots of things to slip on. This is an awesome spot to enjoy watching the water flow down into the pool below.
Head slightly back down the trail and you can see a path that will take you right down to the creek where you get an epic view looking back up to the falls. This is a great place to enjoy some food and a well-deserved rest. There are lots of different logs and rocks to sit on and it’s also a great place to take some photos.
If you are feeling adventurous, you can actually make it all the way to the base of the falls where there is a small pool you can swim in. This requires some scrambling over rocks and along some fallen trees to get there. However, everything is wet and slippery so be careful. I may have had a slight mishap and ended up fully clothed and waist deep in the cold water…disaster!
The pool at the bottom of the falls is really cool and very few people make it this far. If you want to cool off after your hike in this is a great spot for a swim and it’s awesome looking straight up at the waterfall. Keep in mind, it is a lot easier to reach the pool later in the summer as the waterfall isn’t as intense and the surrounding rocks aren’t as wet.
After relaxing and enjoying the falls for a while, it’s time to make your way back to the car park.
You can follow the same route back to the parking lot or alternatively at the first fork in the path (the debris chute), you can head left, following the trail to complete the Lynn Loop. This is a slightly longer way to get back, but it does offer different scenery which is always welcome on a long hike.
Whichever route you take you will end up back at the BC Mills House and you can head back to your car or back to the bus after your 14 kilometre hike.
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The Norvan Falls hike is perfect for people looking for a moderate hike with easy access from the city. The nice thing about going all the way to the waterfall is that the crowd thins out once you get passed the Cedar Mills trail. The waterfall at the end of the trail is spectacular and a great reward for your hard work.
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