Some waterfalls are challenging to get to—Ammonite Falls and the Trent River Falls are two good examples. Both of these require a rope assisted descent down a fairly steep slope. I’m not fond of heights and have visited both of these locations several times without problem.
Bonnell Creek Falls are just a little more technical.
Accessing the top of the falls on Bonnell Creek is fairly quick and straightforward. It’s about a 10 minute walk in from the parking area, mostly on gravel logging road and then a short stretch through forest. The difficulty is in the descent.
The first part of the climb down is on a slope very similar to the steep banks at the Trent and Ammonite falls. A series of thick ropes provide needed support on the descent and ascent. No real problems on this stretch, but I did take it slowly and carefully. The rope deposits you on a flat area over the middle drop of the falls and provides good views of the first small drop upstream.
It is possible to make your way upstream along the side of the creek to get a closer look at the upper drop in the falls but care is required as the rock is exposed and slippery and descends directly into the creek without places to catch yourself if you fall into the water. I took my time and moved slowly and carefully to a vantage point with a slightly better view and angle on the upper parts of the falls.
The challenge is getting to the base of the third and largest drop. Better compositions and an excellent overall view of the dramatic final drop are only possible below the last drop of the falls. However, the last descent is straight down a 20′ + bank. Ropes are in place in this near vertical section, but in the words of another braver hiker who checked it out, “It’s essentially like rappelling down.” She decided against going down. The ropes also have foot loops to assist with climbing back up.
As much as I would have liked to have seen and photographed the Bonnell Creek Falls from the base, the last climb down just looked too steep for me and I just wasn’t comfortable attempting it.
Bonnell Creek Falls are still worth a visit. Just keep in mind that accessing the falls will require a bit of rope work. Exercise caution when descending and around the edges of the creek as the water flow is fast and the rock is exposed. Good footwear is recommended. Use common sense and stay safe!
From the Nanoose Bay Petro-Canada station head south towards Nanaimo. Just past the Arlington Inn, turn right onto Summerset Road. Continue on when Summerset turns into Sea Blush Drive. Look for Sundew Place on the right, continue the short distance to the end of Sundew and park near the large metal gate at the end of the road.
Beyond the gate it is about 5 minutes walk on gravel road through a series of gravel pits before you reach a trail leading into the forest on the right hand side of the road. The trail is marked with a pink spray-painted rock and is hard to miss. There may be another access point further up the gravel road closer to the top of the bank above the falls, but the walk through the forest is pleasant. Another 5 minutes or so gets you to first steep section with the ropes. From here it is a descent down to the falls.