On an island full of incredible waterfalls and beaches, it would seem quite difficult to stand out amongst the crowd, but Sombrio Beach waterfall does exactly that. Despite becoming a well-known spot, expect to have to do some exploring to find this lush oasis tucked out of view. The Sombrio Beach waterfall was once considered a hidden gem, but the secret is well and truly out and worth seeing for yourself.
There are several beach waterfalls on the west coast of Vancouver Island (check out Mystic Beach and Sandcut Beach), but this waterfall really is something special with its narrow moss-covered canyon. While only a few steps from the beach, Sombrio Falls feels like an oasis tucked away in the forest. You’ll find this beach in Juan De Fuca Provincial Park on the southwest coast of Vancouver Island.
As well as having a hidden waterfall, Sombrio Beach is an amazing place to enjoy on a sunny day. You can surf here, chill out on the beach and there is even Sombrio Beach camping so you can make an entire weekend out of a visit here.
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How to get to Sombrio Beach, Vancouver Island
Sombrio Beach, BC, is on the southwest coast of Vancouver Island and is a 1-hour 45-minute drive from the city of Victoria. It is somewhere you should definitely visit as part of your road trip around Vancouver Island.
From downtown Victoria, you need to head north out of the city and then turn off towards Sooke. Most of the drive is along the picturesque winding roads of Highway 14. This is also a good weekend getaway from Vancouver and it should take around 4.5 hours to get here from downtown Vancouver.
The turnoff to reach the beach is 25 kilometres past Jordan River although there is no sign to actually mark the gravel road that takes you down to the beach. There are several signs as you get close though, with one sign 2 kilometres out and a second sign 400 metres before the turn-off.
If you are coming from the Port Renfrew direction then you will see just the one sign, 2 kilometres before the turn-off. The entrance to this road is 17 kilometres from Port Renfrew. The entrance to the gravel road is right next to an electronic ‘Slow Down’ sign but can be easy to miss.
It is a fairly rough 1.8-kilometre gravel road that takes you down to the parking lot by the Sombrio Beach trailhead. While it is a rough road, you will be able to take any type of car down this road with no issues. On the way down to the parking lot, you will come to one junction along this road and you turn left at this junction.
On a sunny weekend in the summer you can expect this parking lot to be absolutely packed from early in the morning. Even though it is a narrow road you can park along the side of the road all the way back up the hill. You may have to walk an extra few minutes to reach the trail, but you should always be able to get some form of parking. At the end of the parking lot, by the Sombrio Beach trail, you will find 2 pit toilets that are actually quite nice and well maintained.
Sombrio Beach Trail
From the parking lot, it is a 500-metre trail down through the forest to reach the beach. The trail winds gently down the hill along a wide gravel path and you can easily pull a cart with all of your beach or camping gear. A 100-metres before the beach you will reach a junction where you can go right to West Sombrio or left to East Sombrio. The Sombrio Beach hidden waterfall is located at East Sombrio for reference.
The west actually has two beaches to choose from, West Sombrio and West-West Sombrio, which isn’t as confusing as it sounds. West Sombrio is the first stretch of beach you see if you follow the trail to the right. If you continue along the trail you will come to a small suspension bridge which then takes you to West-West Sombrio, BC.
Here you’ll find a beach made of large rocks, some great tent pads tucked in amongst the forest and much of the surfing at Sombrio Beach tends to happen here. While waves break across all of the beaches, West-West Sombrio has one of the more popular breaks for more advanced surfers. We recommend making the short walk to check out this part of the beach, especially if you want to escape the crowds.
If you go left at the junction you will only have to walk for another minute or two before you reach East Sombrio, which has two more pit toilets right by the beach. This side of the beach is much busier as it is slightly easier to reach and the beach has a sandy shoreline which makes for a much better terrain to set up comfortably for the day or for an overnighter.
Finding the Entrance to the Waterfall
Where the trail spits you out on the beach is really nice and sandy, although you’ll be lucky to find a spot unless you get here early. The east side of the beach is full of day-trippers, overnight campers and surfers. And although the beach is really long, it can be hard to find a spot in the shade unless you arrive early at Sombrio Beach. Surfing is also quite popular right in front of the trail and there are smaller beginner waves for those who are just starting out.
The entrance to the waterfall is about a 15-minute walk from the trail that leads you to the beach. You’ll need to turn left and walk this way along the beach. After walking for around 10-minutes you’ll come to a rocky point that almost looks like it is the end of the beach but you need to climb along these rocks to continue (they are very easy rocks to climb).
Climbing across this small section of rock takes you to what we think is the nicest section of the entire beach. This is a really awesome sandy beach that has much fewer people as it takes more effort to get to. If you are going to camp or even just set up for the day, this is the place to do it.
Sombrio Beach Waterfall
Walk along this section of the beach for a few minutes and you will see a small creek flowing into the ocean with some large driftwood right where the creek flows out of the forest and onto the beach. This is the entrance to the waterfall and you are just minutes away from getting your first view of these unique falls.
A small path will take you alongside the first few metres of the creek but it isn’t long before you actually have to walk directly up the creek to reach the falls. We recommend doing this in either sandals or bare feet unless you are willing to get your shoes wet.
As you walk up the creekbed, you’ll see the lush green canyon covered in moss and you’ll hear the roar of the water crashing over the rocks. Take a few steps into the canyon and you’ll get your first sighting of this sensational hidden waterfall as it cascades down into the canyon.
To see the falls in all its glory you will need to get up close and personal as it is tucked away in the back corner of the canyon. As you get close you’ll feel the cool spray hitting you in the face and you need to get within a few metres to be able to look up and see the whole waterfall.
The waterfall is quite narrow and falls from the edge of the rocks about thirty feet or so above you. Pictures of this place really don’t do it justice so you should definitely check it out for yourself. It is difficult to capture the waterfall with a camera as you have to be so close to see it all. Plus, it is the experience of hearing the rushing water reverberate around the canyon and having the cool spray wash over you that makes this such an amazing place to visit.
If you feel like an icy cold shower you can actually stand right underneath the waterfall which is always a fun experience. Based on how busy the beach was, we expected the waterfall to be packed with people but there were only a couple of other people here when we arrived. We hung around for a few minutes and the other groups left and we had the place to ourselves for about 15 minutes which was incredible.
When you have had your fill of this unique place then you can make your way back down along the creek and onto the beach again.
Sombrio Beach Camping
One of the many reasons this is such a popular spot is that you can camp right on the beach. Another bonus of camping here is that there is lots of space for tents and it only requires a backcountry permit – no need to book months in advance. Even in the height of summer, you can still get a backcountry permit to enjoy a few nights on this pretty stretch of coastline.
Bookings are made through Discover Camping, in the Backcountry Permits section of their website. You will then need to select Juan De Fuca and choose Sombrio as your entry and exit point (unless you are completing a larger section of the Juan De Fuca trail). The Sombrio Beach camping fees are $10 per adult, per night and $5 per child per night. You can book your permit here through Discover Camping.
As mentioned above, there are actually several beaches to choose from when camping here. West-west Sombrio has a few tent pads which make setting up for a comfortable night’s sleep nice and easy.
However, if you would like to camp right on the beach you will want to choose a spot somewhere along East Sombrio. It does get very busy here on the weekends, but as it is such a large beach you can just walk a bit further to find the perfect spot.
There is no potable water here, so you will need to either boil or filter your water. We recommend using a filter and always carry the Sawyer Mini Water Filter with us whenever we are camping. You will also find pit toilets and bear caches dotted along the beach so you can safely store your food. As it is a backcountry site you won’t have the luxury of a shower, but you can jump underneath the waterfall or go for a swim in the ocean instead.
A backcountry site means that you need to pack out all of your rubbish as well. Please leave this beautiful place in the same condition that you found it. Beach fires are usually allowed here, but you should check to see if there are any local fire bans in effect. You will need to bring your own firewood as scavenging firewood is harmful to the local ecosystem.
The Sombrio Beach waterfall is one of the coolest places along this stretch of Vancouver Island’s coastline. You’ll have to go and discover it yourself to see how truly amazing it is and we recommend grabbing some friends and spending a couple of nights out under the stars.
It can be a little tricky to find this “hidden gem” but if you follow the instructions in this guide you should have no problems. Let us know in the comments if you have been lucky enough to explore this waterfall!
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