Coldwater surfers, backpackers and families are out for the day; this beach has different energy—a rough road and a short walk down to the beach. The parking lot fills up fast on the weekends, so earlier is better.
Sombrio Beach is a great day-use area or overnight stay. It has excellent waves for surfing, two waterfalls, backcountry camping and a great vibe! It is a place with history and one of the unique beaches on the Island. Sombrio Beach should be on the top of your list if you go to the south coast of Vancouver Island.
A 2km logging road off of HWY 14 makes for an interesting ride down in small cars. It does get graded every once and a while, but it’s not a road for the sports car.
The hike down is an easy 250 meters down from the parking lot. The trail is wide and gravelled, and a consistent decline down to the beach. Halfway down, you will notice the option to head East or West.
West Sombrio: Take the right and head over the suspension bridge. The west side of the river doesn’t see as many visitors with its rockier beach and fewer attractions. It’s more common to see hikers, campers, and the odd suffer.
East Sombrio: Head left to the east beach, and you will see more sand, more people, waterfalls and a sea cave. Head east if you are a first-time visitor.
This pebble beach is over a kilometre long and is a great rustic getaway for the day, offering backcountry camping, lighting a fire on the beach, walking past sea caves and up to the unique waterfalls.
The beach is a mixture of sand and a lot of rock and can be challenging to walk along, especially during high tide, as you navigate the rounded stones moving under your feet.
About halfway up east Sombrio, an outcrop of stone becomes accessible during low tide and a great place to walk and search for sea creatures in tide pools. Be careful, as it does get slippery from the seaweed build-up.
Next to Jordan River, Sombrio Beach is one of the most popular surfing destinations on Southern Vancouver Island. Offering surfing options for all tide stages, it can get crowded and has some rock hazards. According to Surf Forcast, the waves are blown out 49% of the time, Clean 31% and Small 20%
Hit the beach and start walking to your left. You’ll pass a point with a small sea cave and neat rocks to walk along with small tide pools during low tide. Keep walking, and when you’ve walked just shy of one kilometre from the trail, you’ll see some water trickling from the forest, follow the water up.
The creek is not marked or overly obvious (hence the name hidden waterfall). Within the first few meters, you will notice the creek change quickly and an ominous dark void into the forest. This is where it gets fun.
The walk from Sobrio Beach to the waterfall is only 100m, and the water isn’t deep, but in the rainy months, expect to be walking through a couple of inches of water to get to the back of the canyon.
Not tired yet and want to keep exploring and get one more shot for Insta?
Hidden Falls number two is a lesser known spot that takes a little more time. Located on the Juan de Fuca trail that continues towards Loss Creek suspension bridge and Chin Beach. Follow the beach and trail about a half of a kilometre past the canyon, you cross a bridge, standing above the falls and watching the water rush over the edge into the sea. Keep going for another 10 and you get a full-on view of the falls through the trees seeing the freshwater splash into the Pacific Ocean. It’s an incredible sight and one you have to take the time to see if you’re on the beach. Note: During the dry season, it is possible for the waterfall to slow to a trickle.
Parking: The parking lot fills up fast on busy days and is not big enough for RVs. The road down can be rough.
Amenities: Pit toilets, bear lockers and backcountry beach camping.
Cell Coverage: As of August 2023 there is cell coverage for Shaw and Rogers users but as for Telus and Bell users the service is not great, most likely reaching American towers.
Fires: Small fires are permitted below the high tide mark on the beach. Only use driftwood for fires. It is a provincial park, and you can be fined for cutting trees or other vegetation.
Do not leave your fire unattended and practice “leave no trace” ethics.
Located along the west coast of Southern Vancouver Island, Sombrio Beach is a 2-hour drive down Highway 14 west from Victoria or 20 minutes east of Port Renfrew. After the sign, head down a rough and windy 2 km dirt road towards a decent parking lot not big enough for campers and motorhomes.
Take a Bus:
Planning an overnight hike along the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail? Need a way to get to the trail or back to your car? West Coast Trail Express offers a daily trail bus in the summer and every second day in the winter. Leaving Victoria and stopping at Sooke, China Beach/Mystic Beach, Sombrio and Port Renfrew.
Compared to other beaches in the area, Sombrio Beach has a unique history. Long before it got its name from the Spanish explorers, the area was home to the Ditidaht and the Pechaeedaht first nations. They chose this village site for its Salmon and the hidden sacred waterfall.
More recently, the area was well known for being the home of squatters from the 1960s to the mid-1990s. This unique community lived a simple, self-sustainable lifestyle away from the consumer world. This remote location attracted social misfits and surfers who built and lived in unique shacks and off the modern grid for years.
In 1997 it ended as the government integrated Sombrio Beach into the Juan de Fuca Provincial Park and cleared out everyone who called this area home.
Although the funky shacks have long been removed as you drive down the rough back road and walk the trail during a busy summer weekend, you will still see the melding of groups visiting the isolated beach, looking to get away from the hectic fast-paced modern world.
Coldwater surfers trekking their gear down the hill, Backpackers headed out for a multi-day trip along the Juan de Fuca trail, weekenders and overnight campers carrying their coolers filled with the necessary food and drinks to get by.
As you walk along the beach, tents are pitched, surfboards at the ready and photographers loaded up for the sandy beaches, hidden waterfall, camping, sea cave, and large surf.
More Beaches along the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail
After saying to a friend that my family was heading to Sombrio Beach for a one night camping trip, he informed me not to miss the hidden waterfall. I obviously said “Don’t worry I’ve seen the pictures I will be heading into the canyon to see it.” To my surprise this was not the waterfall he had in mind! What… yes that’s right there is another one there apparently that’s not the famous canyon falls.
We headed to the beach early on Friday morning with the intention of getting a decent spot in the parking lot as Sombrio notoriously gets busy during the height of summer. Jumping in the truck for the epic adventure we headed along the Juan de Fuca highway past all our usual stops for treats as they hadn’t opened yet… sad face! The road down to the parking lot is crazy. Gravel, dust and potholes so please take extra care when snaking down the hill toward the lot especially if you have a small car.
Arriving at the entrance to Sombrio at 7:30am was a great decision as the parking lot was already quite full with overnight campers from the night before. Fully loaded we headed down the short 10 min hike to the beach entrance to pick our spot for the night.
With a crazy 6 year old we have to think of the inevitable night time dash to the restrooms so setting up near the beach entrance seemed a good idea and we did have plenty of flat spots to choose from. This is a good time to ask your kids to collect small dry twigs for the fire later. This way you have time to set the tent up in peace and your kindling can dry out in the sun over the course of the day.
Our kid is very task orientated, which is perfect for camping. If we ask her to help with any minor chores like collecting things she’s more than willing to be part of the mission. Rocks for the fire, firewood, finding logs to sit on, wet sticks for the dog to play with, shells to make the campsite look pretty and help with storing the food in the food save bins provided by the park to keep us all safe at night.
All this is great to start showing her how to survive a night in the wild. Later that night we gave a tutorial on how to build a safe fire for camping and cooking. Next year she’s learning how to bow hunt before we drop her into the wilderness 20km from home to see how long it takes to arrive back… Just kidding she’ll only be 7 then but the year after who knows!
Camp is set and now its time for some fun play…
Now it’s time to head to the falls. With our wet shoes in a backpack and some snacks for breakfast, we made out way to find the first hidden waterfall. Hiking on a beach is usually a tough thing to do but the beauty of Sombrio beach makes it easy. The landscape is Rainforest, smooth stones, sand and ocean making it the perfect visual combination with a scattering of driftwood.
As the tide rolled out, we searched through tidal pools looking for marine life and washing our feet. Turning the corner to the second half of the beach we get to see where the entrance to the falls is located as the water makes small cool rivers flowing into the sea.
Water shoes on, it’s time to head into the canyon and up to the famous hidden falls. The water is cool and clear and after a few steps, you realize how big the falls are when the wall of sound starts to get louder and louder. With each step up through the stream we start to see the canyon walls turn smooth and the temperature starts to slowly fall.
The rocks are slippery so take caution when climbing up to dip your head into the water. It’s so dam cold but so refreshing and if you’re brave enough standing in the water is crazy fun and luckily in the summer, the beach will warm you up in no time.
Hidden falls number two is a lesser known spot that takes a little more to get to. The Juan de Fuca trail includes Sombrio Beach so the pathway to the trail is just to the right of the canyon and it leads to the second falls that are rarely seen. Following the trail for about 10 minutes, you cross a bridge, standing above the falls and watching the water rush over the edge into the sea.
Keep going for another 10 and you get a full-on view of the falls through the trees seeing the freshwater splash into the Pacific Ocean. It’s an incredible sight and one you have to take the time to see if you’re on the beach. Note: During the dry season, it is possible for the waterfall to slow to a trickle.
Heading back to the campsite mid-afternoon meant we’d burned enough energy for a hearty dinner before playing our usual game of finding the perfect s’mores stick and lighting the fire for the night.
Head down for a fun night and don’t forget to pay your fees back at the parking lot.
HOW DO YOU FIND THE HIDDEN WATERFALL?
From the parking lot, walk down to East Sombrio Beach. Follow the Beach to the left for about 800 meters, you will see a small creek coming out of the forest. Follow the creek bed 75 meters to the entrance to the canyon and to the waterfall.
CAN YOU CAMP OVERNIGHT?
Yes, but you do need a backcountry camping permit.
CAN YOU HAVE A FIRE ON THE BEACH?
Yes, it’s one of the few beaches that allow fire directly on the beach. You must use only driftwood or bring your own. It is illegal to cut down trees or other vegetation in the park.
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We love Vancouver Island and want to keep the natural beauty. Please respect the places you visit and pack out what you pack in and leave the area better than when you arrived. We all know how much trash can spoil an experience and the environment, so please help us keep it clean!
Tide and Seasonal Safety:
Changing seasons and tides can have a drastic effect on most locations on Vancouver Island. Please be cautious as the information in this post may vary depending on the time of year and weather. Make sure to check for current weather and tide information before you make your journey!
When visiting the beach, it’s essential to pay attention and stay safe! Please be cautious walking on the shore during high tide. At this time, some areas may not be accessible. Click here for the tides in your area. Be aware of ocean currents before swimming, paddle boarding or kayaking.
We would like to acknowledge the land we appreciate daily within the 50 First Nations that make up the traditional territories of the Coast Salish, Nuu chah nulth, and Kwakiutl–the first peoples of Vancouver Island .
The information on this website should not be taken as accurate, complete or up-to-date. Please check and look into the information yourself. We do not assume any liabilities for the use of this information. It is unreasonable to rely solely upon the information from this website.