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A Visit To Hunlen Falls – Canada’s 3rd Highest Waterfall

A Visit to Hunlen Falls – Canada’s 3rd Highest Waterfall

Breathtaking is the only word that can remotely describe the beauty of Hunlen Falls in remote Tweedsmuir Provincial Park in the West Chilcotin area of British Columbia.

"Hunlen Falls in a magnificent setting"

Hunlen Falls in a magnificent setting

How high are Hunlen Falls?

But almost no one has ever heard of Hunlen Falls – and nor do they realize that these waterfalls are Canada’s third highest – plunging 1,316 feet (401 metres). In fact they are the highest waterfalls in Canada IF you measure as a continuous unbroken drop.

"Hunlen Falls drops from the north end of Turner Lake"

Hunlen Falls drops from the north end of Turner Lake

For comparison’s sake consider Niagara Falls. It turns out they plunge a measly 51 metres (167 feet) – give or take a few feet depending if you’re on the American or Canadian side. Granted their volume is considerably greater.

The Turner Lake chain is excellent for canoeing

The Turner Lake chain is excellent for canoeing

The best way to see Hunlen Falls is via floatplane

It’s a twenty minute flight from Nimpo Lake – the float plane capital of British Columbia. If you have time, you can land on Turner Lake and take the one kilometre trail to the lookout.

View from the plane of Hunlen Falls

Topography of the Hunlen Falls area

Gorgeous view of Turner Lakes with Hunlun Falls in the bottom right corner

Gorgeous view of Turner Lakes with Hunlun Falls in the bottom right corner

"Part of the Turner Lake Chain above and the lake just above Hunlen Falls"

Beautiful Turner Lake above Hunlen Falls

It looks so calm above Hunlun Falls

It looks so calm above Hunlun Falls

Alternatively you can hike to Hunlen Falls. But take a look at the photos and can see how heavily treed the area is. That means there isn’t much in the way of a view until you reach the falls. That’s not my favourite type of hiking.

But if you hike to Hunlen Falls here’s what you need to know:

Read: The 10 Hiking Essentials Everyone Should Carry

The trail is 16.4 kilometres one way with a vertical raise of 800 metres (2625 feet). It’s a great trail if you like counting switchbacks. There are 78 of them.

Plan to take 6-9 hours one way so unless you’re a super-fast hiker, you’ll have to backpack into Turner Lake and spend the night. Backcountry fees apply – usually $5 per person per night in cash.

The trail starts at the parking lot from an old tote road 12 kilometres in from Highway 20. You need a 4 X 4 vehicle to access it.

Stillwater Lake, four kilometres in from the trailhead, is the last source of drinking water before you reach Turner Lake. Fill your water bottles here.

There may be a lot of trees down, especially because of deadfalls from a pine bark beetle infestation.

This area is famous for its grizzly and black bears. In fact Tweedsmuir Park recommends hiking the first three kilometres of the trail between late morning and early afternoon to avoid them.

Read: Tips for Staying Safe in Bear Country

From Turner Lake you can access several days’ worth of high alpine hiking including the Panorama Loop Trails and the trail to Ptarmigan Lake. Be sure to bring a good map and compass or GPS. As you may have guessed this hike is rated difficult.

"The whole of Hunlen Falls"

The whole of Hunlen Falls

Hunlun Falls doesn't have much width but what a drop

Hunlun Falls doesn’t have much width but what a drop

Have you heard of Hunlen Falls or Tweedsmuir Provincial Park for that matter?

You might also enjoy this post as the hike is nearby – A World-class Hike: The Rainbow Range in Tweedsmuir Provincial Park

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

Hunlun Falls in the chilcotin area of BC is Canada's third highest waterfall

 

 

 

Leigh McAdam is a Calgary based writer, author, photographer and social media enthusiast with over 57,000 followers. Her blog: HikeBikeTravel is frequently cited as one of the top travel and outdoor adventure blogs in Canada.

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta

This Post Has 37 Comments
  1. Are you shocked to know that I’ve never heard of them? Didn’t think so, but your pictures from the plane are awesome! A little more water and I’m pretty sure everybody would know where Hunlen Falls is.

    1. @Steve It wasn’t that long ago that I first heard of them. You’re right – Niagara gets all the glory because of the width and volume but I still can’t get over the beauty of the area around the Hunlen Falls.

  2. Great shots. A waterfall is a feature that makes a hike awesome. But as an easy hiker, I don’t think I would care to hike the 16 kms, what with the bears.

    1. @Mary It was a first time visit for me too and I certainly loved what I saw. Would like to see the grizzly spectacle feasting on salmon in September one year too – from the safety of a boat.

    1. @Jackie If it’s a calm day you may be surprised at how much you like seeing an area from the air. It’s also fun to see where you’ve been on foot or by car in the context of the bigger picture.

  3. Hi Leigh:

    That waterfall looks absolutely incredible! I love waterfalls!

    I am from BC (Northern Vancouver Island) but I haven’t seen this waterfall yet. Hopefully one day soon I will. 🙂

    Kevin

    1. @Kevin So all you have to do is take the 10 or so hour ferry to Bella Coola, drive the gnarly Highway 20 and then either hike or float plane it in from there. No problem!! Hope you get there one day.

  4. Leigh, each post you’ve shared shows us another gorgeous site in Western Canada. I’ve run out of adjectives. Hulen Falls looks like a postcard. And crazy as it might sound, ten years in Canada and I never heard of it until now.

    1. @Marcia You’re by no means alone not hearing about Hunlen Falls. Because it’s remote it’s off the proverbial tourist trail. I bet more Europeans – especially the Swiss and Germans have been to them compared to Canadians.

  5. Wow truly breathtaking I must say. I stay in Atlanta and have never heard of Hunlen Falls. I never knew that such a beautiful place exist in Canada and would like to visit this place someday. Thanks for such lovely photos.

  6. I have never heard of Hunlen falls myself, it is breathtakingly beautiful and the images are so serene. It takes me to a whole new world, being an art collector myself these images are a great piece of art.

  7. I hiked from the main Hwy to Hunlen falls in 1995, solo.
    It remains the single best solo wilderness trip I’ve yet made. And actually some of the scenery was amazing on foot. I have photos somewhere but they are pre-digital! Thanks for this reminder!

    Nick

  8. Wow, Leigh, I didn’t realize you had come back out this way. I’m glad you got to see Hunlen Falls. Well done on the photos. They’re stunning!
    Hope you don’t mind but I would like to post your link on my blog and the Facebook page again. My visitors need to see your photos.

    Have you considered a hike into the Itcha Ilgatchuz Ranges? I think you would be really impressed with that country as well. All old volcanic stuff.

    Someday I hope to meet you!

    Jane

  9. We stayed in a cabin on Turner Lake in 1988. The son of Ralph Edwards owned the cabin. He was an interesting man. We canoed down the lake and hiked to the top of the falls. Very impressive. Don’t go near the edge if you get the weebie geebies.

  10. Worked at Tweedsmuir 35 yrs ago at the young age of 16! Flew into Turner Lk. Spent time with John Turner, amazing!. Canoed the chain of lakes with all our gear to upkeep campsites and trails for portages. 10 days, then back to Turner lake for a hike down beside the falls to see their original homestead! Amazing history here! We hiked out all the way down to BC Parks Headquarters, which is after you pass the parking lot and then out on the highway and a few more Km! 12 females, some U.S. Running when we saw the road, knowing we were home! LONG HIKE! aWESoME ExPERiENCe!! Would love to go back…in a float plane!

  11. We are planning to complete this hike next week. We will have an SUV but it’s not 4×4. Will we have an issue getting to the parking lot?

    1. @Jonathon I don’t actually know where the trailhead is to the parking lot or what shape the road is in but I do know people hike in regularly and even canoe the lake so hopefully access is not an issue. Why don’t you email or tweet to Tweedsmuir Provincial Park to get updated info.

  12. Wow, this hiking trip to the falls looks super adventurous! I personally prefer seeing nature in ways more like this, untouched, like a hidden treasure and you have to get to know it yourself, like there aren’t thousands of touristic photos of it everywhere 🙂 Your pics look stunning!
    Hope to be trying out this trip soon. Thank you for the article.!

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