Frozen Cosens Bay Waterfall in Kalamalka Provincial Park near Vernon

Cosens Bay Waterfall Hiking Guide

A hidden waterfall in Vernon that's best to check out in the winter and spring before the water disappears.

Cosens Creek Falls, also known as Cosens Bay Waterfall and Cosens Falls, is a small waterfall tucked on the south side of Kalamalka Lake Provincial Park near Vernon, BC.

Even though it’s not the biggest or most spectacular waterfall the Okanagan has to offer, this small, relatively unknown waterfall is well worth a visit – especially if you’re already exploring Kalamalka Park, the beautiful provincial park it resides in.

Over the last few years, Cosens Bay Waterfall has become more well known, but it still retains a lot of its anonymity. Every time we’ve visited, we’ve had the waterfall to ourselves.

The best time of year to visit Cosens Falls is the winter and spring. In the summer, the water dries up and the waterfall virtually disappears.

DifficultyModerately Easy
MapGPS & 3D
DistanceCougar Canyon Parking: 3.64 km / 2.26 mi
Kalamalka Parking: 6.03 km / 3.75 mi
Cosens Bay Parking: 6.2 km / 3.85 mi

*All lengths are based on the most direct route. There are many possible alternative (and longer) routes.
LocationCougar Canyon ParkingKalamalka ParkingCosens Bay Parking
ElevationCougar Canyon: 204 m
Kalamalka: 317 m
Cosens Bay: 310 m
Park Size3,218 hectares
Open DatesYear-round, best in winter & spring
Trail Type
Network
Recommended Gear10 essentialsGPS
VERNON WEATHER
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Trail Details for Cosens Bay Waterfall

Cosens Bay Waterfall is the only waterfall in Kalamalka Lake Provincial Park. The 3,218 hectares park is stunning and features amazing views, hiking and biking trails, and access to Kal Lake, the park’s namesake.

After you’ve checked out the waterfall, I highly recommend exploring more of the park.

There are many ways to reach Cosens Creek Falls and no matter which trail you take, you can enjoy picturesque views of Kal Lake – especially in the summer when the water turns a vibrant turquoise!

Cosens Falls, a small waterfall in Vernon, tumbles down a rock face.

Cosens Creek Waterfall Map

Cosens Bay Waterfall is located about halfway through the Cosens Bay Express trail at the south end of Kalamalka Lake Provincial Park.

The trail network at Kal Park is extensive, so for clarity I’ve only highlighted the most direct routes from each trailhead in the map below. Feel free to create your own route to mix things up!

Women stands under the frozen Cosesns Falls, looking at an icicle.

Trailheads for Cosens Creek Falls

There are three trailheads for the Cosens Bay Falls hike, all within the provincial park.

Cougar Canyon Trailhead

Kalamalka Parking Lot Trailhead

Cosens Bay Trailhead

Hiking Safety

Every time you head into the outdoors, it’s important to be prepared. Kal Lake is a large park and even though it’s quite popular, keep yourself safe by thinking ahead.

Regardless of the season you visit or how easy you think the hike is, you should carry the ten essentialsuse a GPS or phone app, and tell someone where you’re going and when to expect you back. At the very least, these things will drastically improve your safety on the trail.

Because the Cosens Bay Waterfall is located on the edge of a vast wilderness, there is a possibility of encountering wildlife such as bears or cougars. To keep yourself and the wildlife safe, I highly recommend RecSafe with Wildlife’s bear safety online course. Kim’s doing amazing work educating people about bear and wildlife safety!

Women uses the Garmin Inreach Explorer at Kal Lake in Vernon
Women holds Garmin Inreach Explorer GPS with Kal Lake in the background

Spring & Summer

The many trails that lead to the Cosens Bay Waterfall can be quite exposed and hot in the summer. Hydration and sun safety are extremely important. Here are some tips:

  • Learn how to stay hydrated when it’s hot out
  • Bring a water filter such as a LifestrawSteripen, or tablets in case you run out of water. The waterfall itself is usually dry in the summer, but it’s not far from the lake.
  • Wear UV-blocking clothing and a hat
  • Wear plenty of sunscreen
  • Don’t overextend yourself
  • Rattlesnakes live here, please use caution and don’t put your hands where you can’t see them.
Women standing in front of Cosens Bay Falls in the spring

Winter

In the winter, the trails to Cosens Bay are extremely icy and slippery. Here are some tips to make the most of your winter adventure:

Woman stands at the base of a frozen waterfall

What to Expect Hiking to Cosens Bay Waterfall

There are three direct routes from various parking lots to the Cosens Bay Waterfall, but the huge network of trails in Kalamalka Lake Provincial Park means there are actually countless routes you could take to reach the waterfall.

The trails in the Kal Lake network are multi-use, so you’ll be sharing the trails with mountain bikers and hikers. Mountain biking is very popular here, so keep your eyes and ears open and practice trail etiquette so everyone can enjoy the trail safely.

Below, you’ll find what to expect for the three main routes. If you venture off of these, the terrain is fairly similar but the exact details are obviously different.

I can’t stress the importance of using a GPS or phone app enough. Download the GPS files above and use them to navigate.

Cougar Canyon Parking Lot Route

Kalamalka Main Parking Lot Route

Cosens Bay Parking Lot Route

Cosens Bay Express Trail

Regardless of which route you take, you’ll end up hiking on the Cosens Bay Express Trail. This trail is a narrow, single lane trail that hugs the forested mountainside. It’s a multi-use trail, so it’s common to encounter mountain bikers.

The Express Trail connects the road with the Cosens Bay beach. It follows power lines (but they’re not too noticeable) and has gradual elevation change. The views of Kal Lake from here are beautiful.

The trail is exposed with little to no tree cover, but there are nearby trees.

Single lane hiking trail heading towards a large lake

Cosens Bay Waterfall Turn-Off

The turn-off for the Cosens Bay waterfall is about halfway through the Cosens Bay Express trail (regardless of which direction you take).

There’s no obvious sign or trail marker showing you where to head off-trail to find the waterfall. In fact, you’ll probably feel like you’re in the wrong place because it really doesn’t look or sound like there’s a waterfall nearby.

It’s best to use a GPS the first time you’re trying to find the waterfall; the coordinates are 50.19376, -119.25416

Watch out for a very faint trail that branches off the Cosens Bay Express trail and heads uphill into a clump of trees. The dirt trail is steep and short. As you head into the trees and towards the waterfall, the trail becomes more pronounced.

Turnoff Cosens Bay Express trail to the waterfall
A faint trail heads in the forest

Use Caution

This is a very short trail, only ~230 m one-way from the Express, but it’s steep and narrow. The closer to the waterfall you get, the worse and more precarious the footing becomes; in a few places you may have to use your hands for balance.

This part of the trail should only be attempted if you’re steady on your feet.

I’m not trying to make it sound extremely difficult or anything, but the last bit is more than a simple saunter through the woods. Having said that, most people probably won’t have any problems.

Cosens Bay Waterfall Viewpoint

Cosens Bay Falls is a small waterfall tucked into a shaded crevice surrounded by a steep hillside and rocky cliff. Snow and ice hang around longer in the spring than elsewhere in the Okanagan. It’s a pretty waterfall, but is somewhat difficult to access.

There’s one small viewpoint for Cosens Falls which gets right up close to the waterfall, but doesn’t provide an expansive view.

This “viewpoint” is nothing more than a steep, dirt hillside. There’s a small fallen tree that you can use as a seat or hand hold to get a closer view of the waterfall.

Depending on your ability and confidence around steep, slick dirt hills (mine’s almost zero), you can either walk right up to the waterfall or go downhill to see it from below. Be careful while doing this.

Woman stands in front of a frozen waterfall in Vernon

Seasonal Changes

Throughout the year, Cosens Bay Waterfall changes a lot!

In the winter, the waterfall completely freezes and is quite impressive; you can walk in and behind the waterfall! Bring spikes so you can head downhill and see an even more impressive view of the waterfall.

In the spring, the water is freely flowing from the melting snow and shoots off the rocks above, landing a few feet below the main viewpoint. There’s often still some snow in mid-April. While not as impressive as the frozen waterfall, it’s still very pretty!

Come summer, though, the water dries up and there’s barely a trickle left.

Women with a toque smiles at the camera in the winter. Kal Lake is visible in the background.
Cosens Bay Falls in the spring

FAQ

What’s the best time to visit Cosens Bay Waterfall?

Is Kal Lake Provincial Park dog friendly?