Trent River Falls

Last fall when I hiked up the Trent River I met some people who told me about a spectacular waterfall on the downstream side of the Inland Island Highway. At that time I did a bit of research on-line and talked to a couple of friends who had been into the Trent River falls—it sounded like an easy walk (aside from the last bit that was apparently fairly steep), but I never found the time to do it. I had a couple of hours free this Saturday and thought that it was high time to check it out!

Trent River Falls, Vancouver Island, BC
The thirty foot drop of the Trent River Falls marks the end of the line for spawning salmon.

The waterfall is amazing with a wide fan that drops thirty feet into a deep pool, perfect for summer swimming. At this time of year, there were fish in the pool and what looked to be spawned out steelhead trout pink salmon on the banks (I’m no fish expert, but these were pretty small compared to the chum salmon that I’ve photographed in the Puntledge River last year). A high rock cliff backs one side of the pool. The trail to the falls follows the top of this cliff and then descends a steep bank that takes you down to the water’s edge.

At this time of year the water is still fairly shallow and it is possible to walk on shelves of submerged rock part of the way along the edge of the main pool, avoiding the gravel and the fish eggs that may be nestled there between the stones.

Downstream on the Trent River
Downstream from the falls, the Trent River flows through boulders smoothed by years of water.

Downstream, the Trent works its way past high gravel banks through rounded boulders. Bigleaf maples and devil’s club grow along the river, along with the opportunistic red alder. It’s quiet at this time of year, nothing but the sound of the water flowing over stone and the clear wandering song of an American dipper working along the edges.

I found a few more fish here in their final resting place on maple and alder leaves. Still relatively fresh, but battered from the journey this far up the Trent River. Most weren’t whole and were missing tails or fins.

Pink Salmon?
A spawned out pink salmon(?) resting amongst the stones and fall leaves beside the Trent River.

The falls are a reflective place in autumn. The summer crowds are gone and even on a beautiful weekend afternoon it was just me and the fish down in the bottom of the river valley. Quiet except for the sound of water and stone. Peaceful.

Need to Know:

  • Probably best to photograph the falls in the morning with the rising sun since that will light the water and the rock walls. In the evening/late afternoon you’ll get even light once the sun sets behind the top of the cliff edge.
  • The Trent River supports several species of salmon and steelhead trout—be mindful of where you’re walking and work to avoid potential spawning beds.
  • View more photos and purchase prints of the Trent River Falls are available on my photography portfolio site.

Getting There:

  • Access to the trailhead is from the north bound lane of the Inland Island Highway  on the north side of the Trent River Bridge. Park on the side of the highway.
  • There are two rough tracks lead into the forest by the parking area. One is “deactivated” by a ditch – this one leads to some trails that eventually connect up with the main trail/road. The second track is a bit further along towards Courtenay (probably about 20′) and is a wide rough road that leads into second growth forest. It has a bit of a dip, but isn’t ditched. Take this track.
  • At the end of the track there is a couple of pullouts. Look for a well trodden trail that leads off to the left. Follow it to the top of the slope down to the river. This trail does follow along the top of the high cliff that backs one side of the river so keep an eye on children or dogs.
  • The descent down to the river is steep but doable with caution. There are ropes if you need them.