Anyone who spends time travelling the central and northern parts of Vancouver Island will soon come to realize that once you move away from the eastern shoreline, except for driving in to Gold River, Port Alice and Coal Harbour, you are off the paved roads. There is an entire network of gravel roads on the island, most of which are Forest Service Roads.
What are Forest Service Roads? According to the BC Government, they are part of the Resource Roads of BC:
Resource roads are typically one- or two-lane gravel roads built for industrial purposes to access natural resources in remote areas. Over 620,000 kilometers of roads on the British Columbia landbase are considered resource roads. Resource roads are a highly valued part of B.C.’s transportation network and are essential to economic development.
The B.C. Government administers about 60,000 kilometers of Forest Service Roads (FSRs). FSRs are maintained by the forest industry under road use permits, or where there is no industrial user responsible for maintenance, by the B.C. Government. Where there is no industrial maintainer, the B.C. Government carries out maintenance, subject to available funding, where communities, rural residents and high value recreation sites have priority.
Many of the BC Oceanfront listings will say that a property is accessible by limited Forest Service Road access. This is because Forest Service Roads are not guaranteed to be be open and in working condition at all times. However most of the main lines on northern Vancouver Island are generally open year-round, although not always in great condition.
Driving on a Forest Service Road on Vancouver Island is not the same as driving on a private gravel road or farm track. The condition of the roads vary greatly depending on the season and the amount of industrial traffic using them at any given time. In the rainy winter months it is not uncommon for the roads to get very slick, and for parts to be partially washed out. For roads that head towards the mountains snow is more common than on the rest of the island. In the summer the roads can be rutted and dusty, making visibility a challenge. Drivers should be prepared for any conditions and always take it slow. These are working roads, and you may pass large logging trucks or other work trucks. Keep in mind, the large work trucks generally always have the right of way!
There are many maps available showing the forest service road networks. The one used most often in our office is the Backroads Mapbook - an excellent resource for anyone looking to venture beyond the paved roads of Vancouver Island. However spurs and side roads can open and close depending on the logging work in the region, so a sharp eye and good sense of direction helps in navigation.
For many people living on Vancouver Island, the Forest Service Roads provide access to remote communities (eg. Zeballos, Winter Harbour and Tahsis), lakes, hiking trails, rivers, hunting grounds and much more, enhancing our connection to the rich landscape.
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