Header image: Red Willow Falls by Lloyd Dykstra
Some parts of the world are named after the terrain they inhabit. For example, if you visit Salt Lake City, you know you’re going to be close to a body of water (ahem, a “lake”) that’s pretty high in sodium (aka “salt”). The same is true of Grande Prairie. The land ‘round here is indeed generally flat and prairie-like. But part of the wonder of the Peace Country is the further southwest you go, you actually start to head into the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.
Along Alberta’s western border, hidden among the emerald hills of summer, you’ll find a few waterfalls.
Though our region’s falls may not be as famous as Niagara, that’s part of what makes them special. After all, why be part of a crowd all taking the same photograph, when you could capture a unique moment all to yourself? Many of these waterfalls are hidden gems, only accessible through hiking, 4X4s, or ATVs. Take a day, go on an adventure, and discover a new part of the world – all part of an unforgettable Grande Prairie region summer.
Remember! if you do decide to go chasing waterfalls (instead of the rivers and the lakes that you’re used to), don’t forget we call the terrain of the Grande Prairie region ‘untapped’ for a reason.
Our first fall is located in Willmore Wilderness Park, accessible via a 3.6km trail marked by moose antlers that leads through a few challenging, forested hills. Eaton Falls itself cascades down over a face of jagged slate – a perfect Rocky Mountain landmark.
Twin Falls can be found about 12km north of Grande Cache. Starting off at the ominously-named Hells Creek, the walk is actually quite short and pleasant through a variety of interesting terrain. The falls offer a signed viewpoint for a great photo opportunity.
The hike to Muskeg Falls starts off easy through spruce forests but accessing the actual falls themselves can be tricky. There is a sharp, narrow descent with tricky footing. The upside? You can actually get right up to the falls themselves, but please – exercise extreme caution on wet terrain or near any edges.
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HOW: Hiking, 4×4/ATV
DIFFICULTY: Hiking – Hard | 4×4/ATV – Moderate
Alberta’s tallest waterfall can be found in Kakwa Wildland Park, but getting there is no joke. A 20km unmaintained off-road trail makes up the majority of the trek, which will take 1.5 hours in a 4X4, less on an ATV, and a full day for an experienced hiker. Be aware the trail crosses several creeks and rivers, so high water levels may impede access entirely. The effort is worth it – when you get there, you’ll almost certainly have the majestic 30m falls to yourselves.
HOT TIP – Want to make your trip extra unique? Why not try hitting the Kakwa trails on a SHERP ATV? Book an excursion with the crew at Shredded Peak, and you can head out at the wheel of a vehicle that can conquer deep water and steep rocky inclines with equal ease – bonus points if you dress up like a Mad Max character, too!
HOW: Hiking, ATV
The trail to Red Willow Falls can be found close to Beaverlodge – home of the legendary Giant Beaver – and is a short but fairly challenging route on foot. There are many steep and narrow inclines, some of which require the use of provided ropes. The marked quad trail offers an easier alternative but is longer. Whichever route you take, bring your swimsuit, because the pool at the base of the falls is a great way to cool off!
Take caution: a bear has been spotted in the area on numerous occasions.
HOW: Hiking, ATV
For ATVers, the path to Cutbank Falls offers a variety of intersecting trails for you to go wild on. For those on foot, the same trails can get quite muddy and torn up by the ATVs, which can make what ought to be quite an easy hike challenging at times. The destination is the same – a striking waterfall that has carved a path through a rocky channel.
HOW: Boat, Hiking, ATV
Once you’ve explored the falls of the Grande Prairie region, the Tumbler Ridge Global Geopark is just across the B.C. border. Packed with many spectacular falls, at the height of summer you can even take a cruise on a high-speed river boat!
There’s plenty of other outdoor options to explore this summer in the Grande Prairie Region. If you’re in the hiking mood, we’ve listed out some of our favourite trails to explore. If you’re game for anything, we’ve also compiled 20 Ways To Get Outside This Summer. Whatever you choose, make sure to do it safely and responsibly – and then hit us up at #GPTourism on social with the photos!