Norvan Falls in North Vancouver is one of the best year-round hikes in the Vancouver area for several reasons. It leads to a spectacular waterfall, for one. It also runs through a very beautiful old-growth rainforest and along Lynn Creek, offers some mountain scenery, and it’s likely snow-free for most part of the year.
When it rarely gets snow, it remains accessible (a pair of microspikes are recommended though) and has a different kind of magical vibe. Either way, it’s one of our favorite winter hikes in Vancouver. It’s a good choice even on a rainy day, because you’re in the lush forest, as protected as you can be.
This is our guide to the Norvan Falls hike, with everything you need to know for a delightful outing.
Norvan Falls trail hiking info:
Norvan Falls parking and trailhead in Lynn Headwaters Regional Park
Since it’s a pretty Lynn Valley waterfall which is relatively easy to access, Norvan Falls is usually busy. People spread out on the trail, but parking can be challenging, especially in the summer months when the rest of Lynn Headwaters Regional Park trails are open, too.
So get there early (before 9 am) to secure your parking spot, ideally in the northernmost parking lot of Lynn Headwaters Regional Park. If you find it full, try to park in the other lots along the road, then walk to the trailhead. It adds some distance, but the terrain is easy, and you won’t really have a choice, anyway. When you reach the northernmost parking lot, walk across the Lynn Creek Bridge to start the hike.
Lynn Headwaters Regional Park has paid parking, except for the winter months. However, there’s no time limit, you can leave your car there for the full day.
Norvan Falls trail
Norvan Falls is a 14 km round trip on a fairly flat trail. It follows Lynn Creek for the most part, and you’ll end up in the peaceful wilderness. You’ll cross small creeks on the way, and cute little wooden bridges lead over some of them (the other option is that you jump). Some of these creek crossings are steeper, there might be large roots you need to step over, but nothing actually difficult. If you have time, take one or two of the side trails that take you down to the river.
The very first section of this hike is called the Lynn Loop. It loops back to the trailhead, but you’ll follow the Cedars Mill Trail to continue further. After 4 km you’ll reach a rocky clearing, also known as “the debris chute”. On your left a narrow trail leads down to the water, but the trail to Norvan Falls leaves Lynn Creek at this point. Enjoy the view of the surrounding mountains, then head up further in the forest. The hike continues on the Headwaters Trail.
This last section on the Headwaters Trail can get very muddy in the wetter part of the year (which is most of the year in Vancouver). Waterproof hiking boots are strongly recommended. In exchange, you can marvel at the thick moss blankets and hangs from the tree branches, and the large mushrooms grown out of the trees.
You’ll hear Norvan Falls before you see it. A steel suspension bridge crosses Norvan Creek to your left, but this is not the way to go. Walk over the bridge if you fancy, then get back and head right, following the creek uphill. When you notice the waterfall, get down to the river on the large rocks and tree stumps, and pick on to sit on and take in the views.
30 meters tall Norvan Falls, surrounded by lush greenery, is an enchanting sight. If the water levels are low enough, you can cross the creek to get a closer view. You can even venture to the base of the falls and swim in the small pool beneath. Be extremely careful though, because the wet rocks and logs are slippery.
Return to the trailhead on the same path, or a slightly longer way on the other side of the Lynn Loop.
How difficult is the Norvan Falls hike?
In a nutshell: it’s a long, but easy hike. It’s 14 km there and back, but the elevation change is a few hundred meters altogether. Most people need about 4-6 hours to complete the hike, but it depends on how long you stop at Norvan Falls (and how many pictures you take).
It’s safe to hike year-round, we enjoyed nice views of the snowy mountains towering above Lynn Creek in winter. The trailhead is easily accessible from Vancouver, and no wonder it’s popular among hikers, trail runners, dog walkers and families with children. It’s a lovely hike for everyone.
What is the best time to hike to Norvan Falls?
This hike cools you down in summer, and it’s easy to do on wet, cloudy, chilly days in the colder months, too. Since there are no views other than the waterfall, your hike won’t be ruined even if the weather conditions are far from perfect. The hike along the creek and the waterfall are lovely, no matter the conditions.
We recommend hiking to Norvan Falls in the shoulder season, because too many wonderful hikes in the Vancouver and Whistler area are only accessible during the short summer. However, if conquering peaks is not your thing, anyway, Norvan Falls trail is just as pleasant in the summer as in any other season.
Our favorite time though? When it gets some fresh snow. This doesn’t happen often, as Metro Vancouver is usually snow-free for most of the winter. But in the past couple of winters, there were one or two weeks when the city had a stunning white blanket, and this is a magical time to hike to Norvan Falls. Just make sure to have a pair of microspikes, because the steeper creek bed crossings can get quite slippery in the snow.