I remember my first trek into Walton Glen Gorge and falls along New Brunswick’s Bay of Fundy coast, between Alma and St. Martins. I walked inland from the sand and cobble beach, where we had camped for the night. Entering the impressive gorge, with its 30 to 60 metre high walls, all sound, except for the brook’s gentle gurgle, fell away.
I stood still in this cleft of rock, breathing reverence.
The call of a raven broke the spell. Sneakers already soaked, I continued wading the ankle-deep water upstream toward the 44 metre falls—the highest in New Brunswick. Although the flow of water over the falls was minimal that hot August day, my own personal discovery of this place, where water meets rock, evoked a curious tingle of pride... as if it belonged solely to me, or I was responsible for its beauty in some way.
Most of us have a fascination with cascading water. Hiking trails with waterfalls are popular within our provincial and national parks—but beyond the obvious natural beauty, there’s a sense of being connected to the land and its history.
It was this sort of fascination that led Nova Scotia’s Allan Billard to write a field guide for his province’s waterfalls in 1997, which sold more than 12,000 copies locally. He then published a keepsake book in 2007 featuring the photography of Donna Barnett, called Waterfalls: Nova Scotia’s Masterpieces.
Allan, a keen environmentalist, grew up exploring Nova Scotia’s waterways with his fisherman dad. “Waterfalls are a bonus when you are tramping through the woods… a pleasant tableau or reward at the end of a struggle,” he says.
In New Brunswick, backwoods explorer Nicholas Guitard embarked on his own quest: to visit, research and photograph New Brunswick’s many waterfalls before living memory and knowledge of them disappeared, subsequently publishing a photography book in 2009 and a field guide a year later, both called Waterfalls of New Brunswick (the second book was subtitled A Field Guide).
Having spent so much time exploring out-of-way places, he reflects upon the allure of cascading water: “I believe people feel re-energized—folks are not linked to nature because of their lifestyle. Spending a day in the natural world fosters our creativity and our spirit. We feel good about ourselves and our world.”
Following are a few noteworthy spots to see falls in Atlantic Canada. They are easy to find and with well-identified and marked trails, suitable for a family excursion, and accessible to the public. Of course, there are so many more to see, depending on factors such as weather and mobility. At Baxter’s Harbour, in Nova Scotia, for example, from your parked car you can see striking waterfalls cascading into the ocean when the tide is high. And, as the saying goes, size isn’t the whole story; waterfalls are partly defined by their wilderness setting, each with its own mesmerizing, elemental allure.
1. Hays Falls
Located on the Maliseet Trail, which is part of a route used historically by Maliseet, Passamaquoddy and Penobscot First Nations to navigate between the St. John and Penobscot Rivers. At 20 m in height, Hays Falls is one of New Brunswick’s highest waterfalls.
Directions: From Fredericton, drive north on Rte 2. Before Woodstock, take Exit 212 to Meductic, then turn onto Rte 165. Drive north 7 km, and watch for the sign Maliseet Trail. Off-road parking available.
Hiking Time: 30 mins one way
GPS: N 46° 01’ 36” / W 067° 33’ 16”
2. Maggie’s Falls
Formally known as Robinson Falls, but locals call them Maggie’s after the woman who once lived nearby and charged children a nickel for a swim. Fed by the Odellach River, these tiered falls step down over a series of flat edges; a number of trails lead to several vantage points.
Directions: From Perth-Andover, take Rte 109 northeast toward Plaster Rock. Just before Arthurette, watch for Birch Ridge Rd. Turn right and proceed about 6 km until reaching a gate on the left, bearing a sign for the falls.
Hiking Time: 20 mins one way
GPS: N 46° 44’ 20” / W 067° 27’ 39”
3. Little Sheephouse Falls
A pleasant and easy hike along the Miramichi region’s Little Sheephouse Nature Trail affords an opportunity to view three waterfalls, the highest being Little Sheephouse Falls, at 12 m. Found in a mixed forest of mature hardwood and softwood trees—a rarity in this region known for its lumbering, and salmon rivers—this tranquil, 1 km long trail is well-maintained and has a picnic area and viewing platforms, providing a cool diversion on a hot day.
Directions: Follow Rte 430 (Heath Steel Mine Rd) northwest out of Miramichi City toward Wayerton. Cross the river and continue driving until reaching Fraser-Burchill Rd. Turn left, and follow this road for 10 km until Sheephouse Rd. Follow it for 5 km until you reach a road on the left. Take this road, and watch for the nature trail signage at 2 km.
Hiking Time: 5-10 mins one way
GPS: N 47° 05’ 42” / W 066° 00’ 05”
1. Wentworth Valley Falls
One of Nova Scotia’s most beautiful “bridal veil” falls, Wentworth Valley Falls is a perfect summertime picnic site. As with many falls, it is most striking in spring or after a few days of rain. The watercourse is usually shallow, offering a pleasant wade for small children.
Directions: Take Rte 4 north from Truro. Two km past a gravel operation at Folly Lake, watch for a dirt track on the left, marked by a steel gatepost, a few metres south of the Wentworth Motel. The base of the falls is about 200 m down this road.
Hiking Time: 10 mins one way
GPS: N 45° 35’ 18” / W 063° 33’ 38” (road entrance)
2. Wards Falls
Located on Diligent River, Wards Falls is at the end of a 3 km meandering shaded pathway that follows the river, including several bridge crossings. The falls are not notably high, but the intriguing geology invites exploration. A cave has been hollowed out behind the falls; adventurous climbers will find a slot canyon—a narrow canyon formed by the wear of water—above the falls.
Directions: Travel west from Parrsboro on Rte 209 toward Wharton. At 8 km, watch for a right turn marked with a sign for the trail. The 3.5 km trail begins at a parking area. These falls are located on private land owned by a local logging company, which maintains the trail.
Hiking Time: 45 mins one way
GPS: N 45° 25’ 06” / W 064° 25’ 39” (parking area)
3. Delaps Cove Falls
The well-maintained Bohaker Trail to Delaps Cove Falls offers rest areas with views of the Bay of Fundy; the 15 m high waterfall cascades over a series of basalt ledges to the bay. If you venture out in early evening, a small viewing platform at the top of the falls may provide a spectacular view of the Bay of Fundy sunset.
Directions: From Annapolis Royal, follow the signs north, then west toward Port Royal National Historic Site. Before the Habitation site, turn right on Hollow Mountain Rd towards Delaps Cove, then left on Shore Rd. Continue through Delaps Cove and watch for a dirt road before a campground. Follow this for 2 km until you reach the parking area and trailhead. The 1.9 km trail is a circular route.
Hiking Time: 30 mins
GPS: N 44° 45’ 39” / W 065° 38’ 57” (parking area)
Newfoundland and Labrador
1. Steady Brook Falls
Take in a thundering, 77 m wall of water shooting out from a granite rock face. Follow the 1 km hike to several viewing platforms and the top of the falls, where the brook pools into several popular swimming areas. If you are an adrenalin-blasting explorer, consider taking Canada’s second-highest zipline (marbleziptours.com) across the falls, 88 m above the floor of the gorge.
Directions: Approximately 10 km east of Corner Brook on Rte 1, take the exit to Marble Mountain. Look for the signs behind George’s Mountain Village at the base of Marble Mountain.
Hiking Time: 15 mins one way
GPS: N 48° 57’ 01” / W 057° 49’ 28” (George’s Mountain Village)
2. Alexander Murray Hiking Trail & Rattling Brook Falls
The Alexander Murray Hiking Trail boasts three waterfalls on an 8 km looped trail climbing 1,100 ft in elevation, with spectacular views. The Rattling Brook Falls are a short distance north of the Alexander Murray Trail in the village of Rattling Brook. There, a 1 km trail with walkways and steps takes you to the base of a 250 m waterfall and a swimming area.
Directions: From the Trans-Canada highway, take Rte 390 towards Springdale, then Rte 391 to Kings Point. Just after entering Kings Point, watch for the Alexander Murray Trail Information Centre. The trailhead is behind the centre. The village of Rattling Brook is about 3.5 km farther.
Hiking Time: approximately 4-6 hrs round trip (Alexander Murray Trail); 10 mins one way (Rattling Brook)
GPS: N 49° 35’ 04” / W 056° 10’ 49” (Alexander Murray); N 49° 37’ 15” / W 056° 10’ 33” (Rattling Brook)
3. Overfall Brook
The Overfall Brook Trail is part of Labrador’s Pioneer Footpath trail network. This section follows the shoreline of Forteau Bay to an impressive “bridal veil” fall cascading more than 30 m to the ocean. Choose either a lowland route along the beach to the base of the falls, or a route through the barrens, offering a view of Forteau Bay with the Point Amour lighthouse in the distance.
Directions: From the St. Barbe, NL/Blanc Sablon, Que, ferry, turn right on Quebec Rte 138 (which becomes Rte 510 after crossing the Que-Lab border). Upon entering Forteau, turn right at the main intersection onto Harbour Dr, and proceed to the end of the road. A signed trailhead identifies the Pioneer Footpath and has a notation for Overfall Brook.
Hiking Time: 45 mins one way
GPS: N 51° 27’ 43” / W 056° 56’ 58” (waterfall)