Canada’s Most Breathtaking Waterfalls
The world-famous Niagara Falls may steal the spotlight, but there are plenty more spectacular waterfalls in Canada worth adding to your bucket list.
10 Must-See Waterfalls in Canada
Wells Gray Provincial Park, British Columbia
One of the most beautiful waterfalls in Canada, Helmcken Falls are located in the majestic Wells Gray Provincial Park, which was created in part to protect the powerful falls. Tumbling water has gradually created a large canyon at the base of the falls and in the winter frozen spray creates an icy wonderland along the edges. Easily accessible by road, there is a platform available for getting that perfect shot.
A bit of Canadian waterfall trivia: Despite being named after John Sebastian Helmcken for his role in bringing British Columbia into confederation, the physician passed away without ever visiting the natural wonder.
Jasper National Park, Alberta
Athabasca Falls is easily one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Canada, and a jewel in the crown of Alberta’s legendary Jasper National Park. Cutting through rock and opening onto sweeping mountain vistas, multiple routes and bridges allow for a variety of viewpoints. Before reaching the falls, you’ll walk along the magnificent limestone gorge where fast flowing water has carved away smooth formations leaving pretty little crevices and swirling whirlpools. Ranging from milky white to aqua blue, the striking colour of the water changes throughout the year, but is always awe-inspiring.
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Pissing Mare Falls
Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland and Labrador
Pissing Mare Falls may have a funny-sounding name, but they’re no joke: in fact, they’re amongst the highest waterfalls in Canada. Located in the stunning Gros Morne National Park, the falls are only accessible by boat tour and most of the time the pristine area is pretty much left alone. The falls drop into Western Brook Pond, which is actually a fresh water fjord carved out by glaciers thousands of years ago. Towering cliffs covered with emerald green foliage provide a dramatic backdrop to this natural phenomenon, making these falls a sight to remember.
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Shannon Falls Provincial Park, British Columbia
The tumbling rapids of Shannon Falls rush over a series of granite cliffs into the Howe Sound and eventually the Pacific Ocean. Easy to access and just two kilometres south of Squamish along the Sea to Sky Highway, getting to these falls is a breeze. Best viewed in the spring or autumn, the falls are only 200 metres from the parking lot along a paved path. Once you arrive at the falls, a series of trails and boardwalks allow you to further explore the pretty surroundings. Named after William Shannon, a brick maker who settled in the area in the late 19th century, these falls are the third highest in B.C.
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Yoho National Park, British Columbia
Takakkaw translated from Cree loosely means “the magnificent,” and it’s a suitable word for the second-highest waterfall in Canada. After a steep drive up a winding road, these falls are only a short hike from the parking lot along a wheelchair accessible path. Even though the falls can be seen from far away, up close the spectacular views, magnificent roar and cold mist provide an awe-inspiring sensory experience. The road to visit the falls is generally only open from the end of June to mid October and is weather–dependent.
Headed to Yoho National Park? Don’t miss out on these top attractions in nearby Banff.
Nailicho (Virginia Falls)
Nahanni National Park Reserve, Northwest Territories
Coming in at twice the height of Niagara Falls, this massive waterfall is located on the South Nahanni River in the Northwest Territories. Called Nailicho in the South Slavey language, the word means “big river falling”—and it’s an apt description. The remote location means it receives only about 1,000 visitors per year who must make their way by either canoe or floatplane. Both options allow for beautiful views with unparalleled opportunities for wildlife watching. If you do make it up to visit the falls, take the time to explore the rest of the Nahanni National Park Reserve, which has been recently expanded and is now roughly the size of Haiti.
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Niagara Falls, Ontario
Niagara Falls are the most famous waterfalls in Canada—and understandably so. Actually made up of three different falls, the aptly named Horseshoe Falls is the only one located on the Canadian side. Easily accessible and always awe-inspiring, Horseshoe Falls is the most powerful in North America. Receding glaciers formed the falls thousands of years ago and the beautiful green colour is due to dissolved salts and finely ground rock. Multiple viewing options are available including the Hornblower boat cruise. The Hornblower replaced the Maid of Mist tour boat, which operated from 1846-2013 and was North America’s oldest tourist attraction.
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Quebec City, Quebec
Located just outside of Quebec City, these magnificent falls are actually higher than Niagara Falls. A suspension bridge over the crest of the falls allows for multiple views of the tumbling torrent, the St. Lawrence River and even as far as Île d’Orléans. A funicular is available to transport you from the top to the bottom (or vice versa), but for those who want to get their daily steps in, there is a wooden staircase. The waterfalls are accessible year round, and in the winter the spray freezes to create a layer of flowing ice, which is climbed by only the bravest—or most foolhardy, depending on your perspective.
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Bridal Veil Falls
Bridal Veil Falls Provincial Park, British Columbia
Pretty and delicate, the Bridal Veil Falls are located just east of Chilliwack, British Columbia, and really do look like their namesake, with water gently cascading over smooth rock. An easy 15-minute walk to the falls takes you through lush foliage, which includes cedars, hemlocks and ferns. Picnic tables are available, and there are lots of opportunities for viewing wildlife along the way. Mount Cheam, where the falls are located, is also a popular hang-gliding and paragliding site for adventurous types wanting a bird’s-eye view.
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Kakabeka Falls, Ontario
Nicknamed “Niagara of the North,” this magnificent waterfall is located 30 kilometres west of Thunder Bay on the Kaministiquia River. Ojibwe for “waterfall over a cliff,” Kakabeka Falls are easily accessible with numerous trails and a platform that wraps around the top. Plunging 40 metres (making it the second highest waterfall in Ontario), the tumbling waters descend into a gorge that has been carved out of Precambrian shield. Along with being home to some of the oldest fossils in the world, the spot is also one of the traditional fur trade routes of the Voyageurs.
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