Thursday 22 February 2018

Provincial Parks on northern Vancouver Island

Strathcona Park is the largest park on Vancouver Island and one of the best known. It is central to the island but for southern islanders is often the extent of exploring. However, for the adventurous there are actually many more provincial parks north of Strathcona on Vancouver Island (and still more marine or water-access only provincial parks for those who want to get out on the water).


At the top of the island is the famous Cape Scott. While people think of this as a serious hiker's park (for the well-known Cape Scott Trail) it has some easily accessible day-use areas, including the beautiful San Josef Bay.
San Josef Trail

San Josef Bay, Cape Scott Park

Raft Cove is not far from Cape Scott, just more to the west. Easier to access by boat, there is a walking trail that can be challenging when muddy. Some people also choose to walk in from Cape Palmerston at low tide. The sweeping sand beach at Raft Cove is well worth the adventure to get there.

footwear after walking the trail in to Raft Cove in summer

Raft Cove

There are a number of lake parks scattered around the north island - Woss Lake, Schoen Lake and Nimpkish Lake are all provincial parks. Schoen Lake Park is the largest and actually comprises several lakes. At Schoen Lake there is a small campground accessible by forest service roads. Woss and Nimpkish Parks are mainly boat access and have no established amenities. Wilderness camping is permitted. All three parks offer visitors a glimpse into the rugged and remote beauty that makes up the interior of northern Vancouver Island.

Marble River, at the edge of Quatsino Sound, is the easiest of the river parks to access (via logging roads) and there is a forestry campsite just outside the park boundary. Marble River offers hiking and biking trails as well as good angling.

the Marble River Park surrounds most of Varney Bay 

A number of the parks on the north island are much more difficult to access and in fact some are almost inaccessible. Much of the access into the northern portion of the island is dependent on logging roads, and once a road is deactivated it is no longer serviced and can quickly become impassible. This has happened with the Artlish Caves Provincial Park, where there is now a hike in to the park as the logging road access was deactivated several years ago. These parks have been established to protect sensitive habitats and ecosystems, so access is not a priority.

You can discover all the provincial parks (and ecological preserve areas) through the BC Parks website. A good place to start is the geographical locator page, which lets you zoom into the region you want to explore.

Vancouver Island north of Campbell River is a massive space that may seem empty as the communities are small and spread out, but for the intrepid explorer there are some beautiful areas to discover. Doing a circuit of Provincial Parks is just one way to get out there.

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