Everyone loves a good waterfall! And Little McPhee Falls is a two-tiered beauty that roars during the spring melt and quiets to a mossy trickle in the fall. This forested trail can be extended into a nice loop above the Kootenay River.
Distance, round trip: 7.66km
Season: mid-April to early November
Trailhead & Driving Directions
From Highway 3A in Castlegar, turn onto Ootischenia Road and drive up 1km. Turn left onto Corrigan Road and then take the next left onto Aaron Road. Follow Aaron Road as it climbs and then watch for a quick turn to the right onto gravel McPhee Forest Service Road.
Follow McPhee Forest Service Road for about 4km and watch for a signed junction on the left for the hiking trail access. The last 100m of road can be quite lumpy and bumpy for a smaller car.
Follow the trail as it passes above the Brilliant substation and below the power lines. It starts off as a wide track, and then narrows to a footpath.
At 0.7km, reach a signed junction where the right fork leads to the Brilliant Overlook Trail. Continue left and follow the Skattebo Reach Trail as it contours above the Kootenay River.
Look for the old Doukhobor waterline as you hike along. The metal rings from the old pipe are embedded in the ground and pop up in many sections along the trail. Take care to preserve this bit of local history – sometimes the waterline crosses the path.
At 1.6km, reach another signed junction where right goes up to the Doukhobor Waterline Trail. If you hike the loop, you’ll return this way.
Stay left and continue on the Skattebo Reach Trail as it descends towards Little McPhee Creek. At 2.5km, cross Little McPhee Creek on a bridge and look for the signed junction on the right up to the Little McPhee Waterfall.
Little McPhee Waterfall
It’s a short 0.2km ascent up a couple of switchbacks to visit the falls. In the spring, you’ll hear the roar and feel the drop in temperature.
Little McPhee Waterfall is nestled in a mossy grotto and is a pretty sight! During full run-off, the creek is churning with dangerous whitewater so be careful as you approach. It may be wisest to get closer later in the season.
Completing the Loop
After visiting the waterfall, you can retrace your steps or continue up to the McPhee Canyon Trail to make a loop of it. This is a nice option to extend your hike, but it does add climb.
If continuing, turn right and keep following the Skattebo Reach Trail until it reaches a junction at 3.4km with the McPhee Canyon Trail. You’ll find a pit toilet here and a helpful sign. If you wish, you can go another 0.2km further to see McPhee Creek. There is no waterfall here, but a nice spot with a bench beside the creek.
Starting up the McPhee Canyon Trail, you’ll begin a 120m hill climb. Watch on the left for glimpses of McPhee Creek at the bottom of the canyon, then continue on and up.
At 4.5km, meet another signed junction as you join the Doukhobor Waterline Trail. Turn right to head downhill along the waterline and eventually dip down to cross Little McPhee Creek again on a higher bridge. At 6km, rejoin the Skattebo Reach Trail and retrace the rest of your steps back to the car.
You should recheck your lefts and rights in the directions. It seems they got mixed up in a couple of places. Besides that, I agree this is a great, fairly easy hike but I would recommend doing it in the reverse order as it’s much easier. Turn right on the Waterline trail, descend the Canyon trail, visit the falls, then return on the Skattebo reach trail.
Thanks Leon! I made some corrections to lefts/rights! I found 2 places where they were mixed up.
Great quick trip over to McPhee Canyon and looping back on a portion of the Waterline trail. Other then a few mud spots on the SR stretch the trails were in excellent shape! Waterfalls are worth the hike and we enjoyed being able to loop rather than an out and back.
An August hike to lil McFee falls and found the water level low enouph to really make the mossy grotto stand out. A pleasant site and a
low water level allowed for a picnic at the base.