Payzant Falls on the Juan De Fuca Trail

A couple of weeks ago I did a day trip out to the west coast between Port Renfrew and Victoria. This stretch of coast is the home to the Juan De Fuca Trail, a 47 km long trail that follows the coastline. Hikers have the option to do the whole trail as a multi-day hike or to pick and choose trailheads as jumping off points for day hikes.

The Parkinson Creek trailhead is a little less frequented than the more popular China/Mystic Beach and Sombrio parking areas and as a bonus, the road is in better shape than the pothole slalom course that leads down to Sombrio. It’s the perfect starting place for an easy 3 km (one-way) hike to Payzant Falls.

Payzant Falls
Payzant Falls – the primary destination of this short hike.

From the parking area follow signage towards Payzant Creek. The first part of the trail is fairly easy going and crosses over Parkinson Creek before descending down to the ocean. The flat rocky shelves are interesting to explore and with the right conditions can produce dramatic waves. Always be aware of what the water is doing and watch your back!

Big Waves at Parkinson Beach
Watch out for roque waves at Parkinson Beach – this is the exposed West Coast!

Depending on the time of year, rubber boots are a good idea for the next section of trail to Payzant Creek—the trail can be very muddy with wide, deep puddles. It doesn’t take long to get to Payzant Creek and the falls so if you’re in running shoes and are willing to get a little wet and muddy you’ll do fine.

There are two main drops at Payzant Falls. The trail crosses over the creek above the largest drop and you can look upstream to a series of small cascades in a narrow grotto-like ravine.

Payzant Falls
Looking upstream at the upper cascade of Payzant Falls on Juan De Fuca Marine Trail.

Access to the lower part of the falls is on the other side of the camping area just beyond the bridge that crosses the creek. You have scramble down a bit of a steep slope to get to the water level but the views of the main falls and a downstream chute are well worth the effort.

Payzant Falls - Main Drop
The main drop at Payzant Falls.

I spent quite a bit of time at the lower falls looking for interesting compositions and trying to keep the fine mist off of the front of my camera lens. Both upstream and downstream provide excellent views.

Downstream from Payzant Creek
Looking downstream from Payzant Creek – be careful in this location as the rock is slippery and the water flow can be fast.

If you’re looking for a bit of a longer hike, consider pushing on to Providence Cove. You have to descend down into the valley created by Yuah Creek; just remember that you’ll have to come back up again in order to return to your car. Providence Cove is a beautiful spot to have a lunch break and enjoy the sounds of the waves and dramatic light that is so unique to the west coast.

Providence Cove
Providence Cove – gorgeous place to eat your lunch.

There are plenty of options for photography on this short section of the spectacular Juan De Fuca trail if you’re not adverse to getting a little wet or muddy. The waterfalls at Payzant Creek are the main attraction, but the forest and coastline are beautiful as well.