Top 10 Hiking Destinations on Central Vancouver Island
From North to South and everywhere in between, Vancouver Island is home to countless world-class hiking trails for all skill levels. Below is a list of Van Isle Marina staff’s favourite hiking destinations around the Central part of Vancouver Island. We offer this post as a complement to our post on the Top 10 Hiking Destination on Southern Vancouver Island.
Some of these hikes are perfect for those times when you just feel like going for a drive and getting back to the land for a little while. Others are accessible by boat, combining the best of both worlds!
1. Jack Point
Jack Point and Biggs Park at the south end of Nanaimo are close to the Duke Point Ferry terminal, so you can see the BC Ferries come and go if you time your trip accordingly. This hike starts along the beach, where you have the chance to walk on the rocks and on the unique rock formations made of limestone.
The trail then meanders inwards through a lightly forested area. Take in the views of downtown Nanaimo and the Nanaimo River estuary. The start of this hike is flat, but there are some stairs and boardwalks towards the middle and end. (photo credit: bikelist.org)
2. Neck Point
Travel further up Island from Jack Point and you’ll reach Neck Point in Nanaimo’s north end. This loop is short and leisurely at about 2km. Offering stunning ocean views and rocky bluffs, the trail is both child friendly and dog friendly. Take in the sunrise or sunset at this easy going trail and park. It’s also a great chance for bird and harbour seal watching.
3. Pipers Lagoon
Just north of Neck Point Park is Pipers Lagoon with a short isthmus trail and 8-hectare park. Pipers Lagoon is a very popular place for locals so it can get busy, but there is enough room for all to enjoy the scenic ocean views, birdwatching, swimming, picnicking and kite flying.
There is a lengthy pebble beach to one side of the trailhead, and a large shallow lagoon to the other. Pipers lagoon is also home to “Shack Island”, a unique cluster of small buildings that were built in the 1930s and 1950s.
4. Moorecroft Regional Park
Located in Nanoose, Moorecroft Regional Park is another oceanfront hiking destination topping our list, despite being only a 1-km journey. However, Moorecroft is just as well-known for its 79-acre forest that’s next to the shoreline and filled with Garry Oaks meadows and “coastal Douglas-fir maritime ecosystems.” Enjoy views of the Salish Sea and the coastal mountains along with the forest and ocean views.
5. Cathedral Grove
Featured in our Top Vancouver Island Attractions post not too long ago, Cathedral Grove is certainly a hike not to miss if you’re touring Central Vancouver Island. This old growth forest on the outskirts of Port Alberni is accessible right off the highway and seemingly pops up out of nowhere! You’ll appreciate the 800-year old massive trees, accessible walkways, and free parking.
6. Englishman River Falls
Drive west of Parksville for 15 minutes and you’ll find Englishman River Falls Provincial Park featuring a short hike suitable for the whole family along Englishman River. You’ll also be in a picturesque forested area featuring lush old- and second-growth Douglas firs, cedars, hemlocks and maples. There are bridges and two waterfalls to spot and take pictures at.
7. Little Qualicum Falls
Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park is not to be missed during a trip to Central Vancouver Island. The falls straddle the Little Qualicum River and can be found on the southern shores of Cameron Lake. There is about 6 km of walking trails through old growth forest surrounding numerous falls. Here you can camp, swim, fish, and picnic in addition to hiking.
8. Paradise Meadows and Forbidden Plateau
Paradise Meadows at the southeast of section of Strathcona Park near Courtney/Comox provides the entrance to Forbidden Plateau. Enjoy the easier, shorter loop hikes through the meadows, or venture off to the lengthier, steeper mountain climbs of the plateau.
The Forbidden Plateau loop is 14 km, while the highest mountain in the area is Mount Albert Edward. At nearly 33 km round trip, Mount Albert Edward is considered an expert, multi-day hike through the backcountry.
9. Mount Arrowsmith
Mount Arrowsmith, located near Cathedral Grove and Port Alberni is one of the most popular mountain hikes on Vancouver Island. At 5,961 feet (1,817 metres) and about 6 kms round trip, it is considered a medium to difficult hike. At the top of this mountain – the largest of the southern half of the Island – you’ll enjoy 360-degree views of Vancouver Island and many of the Gulf Islands, lakes, and watersheds. There are two main trails up to the top: The Saddle and The Judges Route.
10. Della Falls
Vancouver Island is home to Della Falls – the highest waterfall in Canada at 440 metres (1,443 feet). Della Falls is located at Great Central Lake, which is just past Port Alberni. Access to Della Falls is via the 15-km Della Falls Trail, which is mostly a rail-grade old logging road and mining trail.
The trailhead is a little trickier to come by, however, made easier if you’ll be launching your boat! Just watch out for canoers along the way. If you’re driving without a boat of your own, parking is at one end of Great Central Lake and a water taxi is available to cross the full distance of the lake (33 km) to the trailhead.
The best time to experience Della Falls is between July and September, depending on snowfall.
- Rathtrevor Beach in Parksville – a sandy beach on the east coast of Vancouver Island with old growth Douglas fir trees to the other side means Rathtrevor is filled with hiking trails. Accessible by boat.
- Notch Hill in Nanoose – this somewhat steep hike is a 3-km loop through the forest.
- Mount Benson in Nanaimo – this medium mountain hike provides stunning views of Nanaimo and the surrounding regions. Favoured by locals, you’ll appreciate the friendly spirit of your fellow hikers, and the photo ops at the top.
Wherever you end up hiking on Vancouver Island, make sure you bring tons of water, snacks and safety provisions. We also suggest wearing layered clothing and comfortable shoes suitable for Vancouver Island’s unpredictable weather.
Read More: Top 5 Recommended Hikes on the Gulf Islands
The above hikes are just some of the amazing trails around Central Vancouver Island. For more recommendations on things to do on Vancouver Island, explore more of our blog, and follow the Van Isle Marina team on Facebook and Twitter.