Vancouver Island Provincial Parks

A curious visitor at Elk Falls Provincial Park.

June 6 – June 17, 2022, Vancouver Island, BC.

Vancouver Island has a lot of parks. According to information I found on the web there are 128 Provincial Parks (this includes Marine Provincial Parks and a few Ecological Reserves but doesn’t include many other types of parks like regional parks) on the Island. And as far as I can tell, all of these parks are free to visit. Some parks have campsites. Fees to camp run anywhere from $13 to $35. In US dollars this is from $10 to $28 – quite a deal!

This, of course, was great for us. We love hiking and looking for wildlife. And sometimes a park is just the best place to chill for the day or to take care of business. We hardly made a dent in the 128 Provincial Parks on the island. But here are a few we visited with my honest impression of each one.

(All pics are click to enlarge. Once you have them enlarged you can view them in a slide show. Also, you can hover over the pics to see captions.)

Goldstream Provincial Park

The Trans Canada Highway runs right through Goldstream Provincial Park. This is how we first noticed it, driving up the highway en route to somewhere else. When we decided to make an about-face and head back the way we came we took the time to stop. The park is an old-growth temperate rainforest. In the fall you can see thousands of Chum Salmon swimming upstream to spawn. The park has a couple of nice waterfalls too. Since Trans Canada runs right through the park and a median runs down the center of the highway, it is hard to get from one side to the other. But if one is parked on the east side you can traverse a drain culvert on the northeast side of the park to reach Niagara Falls on the west side of the highway. We were able to drive to the Goldstream falls after leaving the east side of the park and heading south.

Juan De Fuca Provincial Park

Juan de Fuca Provincial Park lies along the Pacific coastline of the Strait of Juan de Fuca on the southwestern side of Vancouver Island. A visitor center employee in Victoria recommended that we travel this part of the island. And although beautiful, it wasn’t the easiest park to explore. One of the main features of this park is a 29 mile The Juan de Fuca Trail which runs along the coast. People can day hike parts of the trail but many also do overnight backpacking trips along the trail.

There are 4 different spots to access this trail. We explored 3 of them over 3 days. Our first trailhead, China Beach, was a nice walk with some mud to an unimpressive beach. I was looking forward to our second trailhead, Sombrio Beach, because it seemed to have more features, including a suspension bridge and a hidden waterfall.  It is also a popular spot for beach camping and surfing. From the parking lot, we took the trail to the right to reach the suspension bridge. The bridge was nice but from there we found so much mud on this trail we finally gave up trying to gingerly step around it and just started slogging through it. The trail led to a pretty beach covered with slippery algae-covered boulders. I gave up counting how many times I fell. We tried to follow the trail across the beach and back up into the woods but the path from the beach was steep and muddy and led into thick woods. We turned around. On our way back to the parking lot we saw teams of young people going down the trail to the left with coolers and tents. We peeked down the path they were taking to see that this was the easy way to get to the beach. Everyone was setting up for a night of beach camping. Our third trailhead was my favorite. It was an easy walk down to Botanical Beach, the view was nice and we were able to do some tide pooling.


Spring Beach Recreation Site

So this isn’t a Provincial Park. We stopped at the visitor center in Lake Cowichan on our way to somewhere else. We asked the guy minding the office if there were any good places to hike in the area. He directed us to the Spring Beach Recreation Site. It was a lovely little hike next to a beautiful lake.

Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park

We often times look for parks where we can just literally park for the day. This is how we got to Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park. We needed a day to check off some items on our chore list and to work on the blog. The parking lot at this park provided us with a nice place to spend the morning. In the afternoon after we finished with our tasks, we finally exited Ballena Blanca and headed to the beach to see what this park was all about.

What we found was beach and more beach stretching way out into the Strait of Georgia. At low tide, the water retreats for almost a kilometer (0.621371 mile). It was a great place for tidepooling!

The park also has a campground among a grove of mature Douglas fir trees.

MacMillan Provincial Park

The highlight of MacMillan Provincial Park is Cathedral Grove. This old-growth forest is populated with towering ancient Douglas-fir trees – some more than 800 years old.

One of my favorite features of this park was the boardwalk. But the boardwalk doesn’t only serve to save people from having to trudge through puddles of mud, it also keeps the throngs of people who visit here on the trail and protects the trees.

BTW – this is another park with a highway running right through. But unlike Goldstream, it only requires awareness and a brisk walk to get from one side to the other.

Elk Falls Provincial Park

One of the highlights of Elk Falls Provincial Park is crossing a huge suspension bridge to see Elk Falls. This falls streams straight down thundering into the Cambell River which runs through the middle of the park.

The park is also a big fishing destination and is ringed with trails. We hiked the Canyon View Trail which we had the impression was a loop. Right away we dreaded the return trip as the trail went down and down. After miles of hiking, the trail looped around and ran out. We ended up walking back on a paved highway which might have been pleasant if it wasn’t so hot and the highway so steep.

Despite muddy trails and steep trails, overall we enjoyed our visits to these parks. We might return to a few of them again or maybe just check out one of the other 123 Provincial Parks on Vancouver Island.

8 thoughts on “Vancouver Island Provincial Parks

  1. ONE island with so many provincial parks seems unbelievable! Kudos to smart-thinking folks in BC for setting aside all these park lands for people to enjoy for generations to come.

    1. BC actually has over 500 Provincial Parks. It is such a big providence. Buy I was really surprised at how many were on the island. That explains why we were always finding them. It is hard to imagine a state in the US with that many parks. BC seems to really care about its wild places.

  2. If I didn’t know better, I would think some of these forest photos were taken in Georgia or Florida – so much beautiful moss hanging from the trees. Love it. What I don’t love is mud. Good for you for chugging along. I would have “noped” out of there much quicker. Those college kids definitely know how to do it right. LOL.

    1. I guess I’m an optimist. I always thunk there will always be something at the end of the trail that will make it all worth it – so we slogged through the mud.

      In retrospect I realize that the woman at the giditor center who recommended this park was young. She had probably spent many times taking the easy trail to the beach and camping. I bet it’s a big time!

  3. This treasure chest of parks is wonderful! I think we only went to Elk Falls as the other names (or photos) don’t look familiar. Trodding through the mud is not our thing either, especially with a dog. But in a wet climate like on VI, it is inevitable to encounter mud.

    1. Glad you missed Jaun de Fuca. I’m pretty sure you guys and Maya would not have liked it. With so many parks I’d be surprised if we visited the same ones. I feel like we hardly made a dent in the public lands VI has to offer.

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