Continued from Part 1…..

Gold River and Upana Caves.

After Strathcona, we hit the road to gold river, the Hwy 28 cuts through the middle of Strathcona park and you are not short of some incredible views driving through it really is one of my favorite places in Vancouver Island.

Upana Caves

Shortly we hit Gold River a small town where you can stock up on gas, supplies, Wi-Fi and beer. After doing just that, we continued on towards Tahsis to stop off at the Upana Caves, if you are in the area, these are definitely worth a visit. They are easy to access and don’t require skills to have a rummage around in them, obviously make sure you have someone with you and wear the necessary protective gear.

The caves range from large and easy to get through, to some more challenging and tighter squeezes. There are maps at the site to help guide you through the Caves but remember to know your own limits if you are going to go in.

Woss Lake

From here we drove down the road to Tahsis, it is a continual mixture of gravel road and bits of paved road thrown in, it is quite an active road for industrial vehicles, so please watch you speed and respect larger vehicles.

Tahsis is a small community – from here you have access to a number of other caving sites for the more experienced.

You can also access the trail head that leads into Woss lake provincial park from here.

We then turned around and headed back towards gold river, but instead of taking the right-hand road at the junction we continued on towards Muchalat Lake, there are sign posts along this road and we followed the signs for Woss.

I had planned to check out a campground along the way and then overnight at Woss Lake Campground.

We pulled into Vernon Lake Rec site around 17:30 and as soon as we got out the car at one of the sites, Maverick our border collie, ran and jumped straight in the lake, so we allowed him to make the final call and decided to pitch up at Vernon Lake instead for night.

Vernon Lake Recreation Site: Is very rustic, with pretty dilapidated pit toilets and little shade on the campgrounds, but it does have about 15 lake fronted spots with little mini-private beaches, fire-rings and gorgeous views. So overall, I actually quite liked it.

 

The next morning, because I was freezing and Roxy was awake at 5:00- we were on the road by 6:30 and heading to Woss Lake, we decided to take a drive down the lake and up one of the side logging roads to a spectacular view across the Lake with a great spot for camping. Awesome hidden find – let us know if you fancy the coordinates.

 

From here we walked along an old logging road to the border of Woss Lake Provincial Park, along the way we found some fairly recent bear scat but despite scouting around, no sign of the wee little things.

Woss Lake Campground: Is again, very rustic like Vernon Lake, but has a lot more shade, I would say it’s probably the better spot over Vernon Lake if you are looking for a place to stay for the night.

Schoen Lake Provincial park

Our last stop along this little trip was Schoen Lake Provincial park

Schoen Lake is located off the Hwy 19, from Woss Lake you follow the signs for the Hwy and turn right onto it, back towards Campbell River.

Shortly you turn right off the Hwy 19 again and follow the signs for Cain Ski Hill and Schoen Lake, the road will eventually fork with Cain Ski to the left and Schoen Lake Provincial Park to the right.

The campground is well kept and there are a number of sites located on the water front, there is a beautiful beach and swimming area. If you wanted to do some trail hikes though, you would probably need to drive to one of the trailheads located on the other side of the park. But overall definitely worth a visit.

If you need any advise on road conditions or journey times – please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Our latest trip takes us through Campbell river, Sayward Forest, Strathcona Park, Gold river, Tahsis, Woss Lake and Schoen Lake. The weather was gorgeous, the views spectacular and we went scouting for bears.

Our first stop was Campbell River, a large town 265kms north of Victoria.

Victoria → Campbell River

Take the Highway 1 north towards Nanaimo, you then have 2x options you can either take the direct route, Highway 19 north which bypasses all the towns on the way or the scenic route – the Highway 19A which winds along the coast. If you have time, personally I would take the 19A the best way to Overland is by seeing the sights.

There is plenty to do in and around Campbell river, but make sure to budget the time to spend a few hours in the town itself. There are plenty of options to choose from;

  • Kick back and enjoy the culinary delights of a number of fantastic restaurants overlooking the ocean.
  • Take sip of some of the local craft beer.
  • Campbell River is also a great option for taking a Wildlife or Whale watching tour.
  • Cycle Tours
  • Kayak Tours
  • Elk Fall Provincial Park

Sayward Forest

After Campbell River, we headed north continuing up the Hwy 19 before turning off into the Sayward forest area.

This area is great for exploring, there are tons of little lakes and forests and tracks that we could have easily spent weeks exploring.

This area is also home to the Sayward Forest Canoe Loop, which is a great loop paddle through 12 different lakes and approx. 7-8kms portage. You get to experience some of the calm pristine areas that can only be seen from water whilst making your way at your own pace. For more information get in touch.

The gorgeous beach of Brewster Lake

Our first stop was Cedar Lake Rec Site– A small little campsite, the tight road getting to it means it often rules out big rigs camping there. It is very rustic, but all sites have a picnic bench and fire-ring, and most are water fronted with the most spectacular views.

There are a number of great and free recreation sites around this area, so you have plenty to choose from if this one is full- if you want a list of our favourite lake campgrounds on Vancouver Island – please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

From here we continued our way slowly through the Sayward Forest and then decided to loop around and through the Snowden Demonstration Forest.

Snowden Demonstration Forest

This area is fantastic for Mountain Bikers on Vancouver Island. You have a range of trails to choose from that suit both beginners and more advanced along with a number of hiking options. You could camp at a number of sites along the Lower Campbell Lake – (Loveland Bay, Burnt Beach rec site etc) and then bike into the forest and spend the day exploring. Finishing off with a cool dip in the lake and an ice cold beer.

 

After Snowden Forest we followed Campbell Lake Main Forest Service Road along the lake before turning off and driving towards Strathcona dam and then joining Hwy 28.

See our Mountain Bike tour for potential tour options.

Strathcona Provincial Park

After we drive into Strathcona Provincial park and turn off Hwy 28 onto Westmin Road following Buttle Lake. Tonight’s campground is Ralph River.

Ralph River campground is a well-kept site – the water comes from hand-pumped water wells and also comes with garbage disposal and pit-toilets. Ralph River is one of a couple of options the other driving accessible site is Buttle Lake Campground. Both are reservable, but book up fast.

From here you have a number of day hike options.

A great little morning hike that we recommend is the Bedwell Lake Trail, this is awesome if you just want a casual hike with some stunning scenery – from Ralph River Campground continue down the Westmin Road, at the end of the lake there is a gravel road called Jim Mitchel Lake Road, turn left down here and follow the road, enjoying the spectacular views of the mountains as you do so. There is a small parking area to the right and the trail head is just down the road from here.

The hike has some pretty steep sections, but the trail is very well maintained, I recommend taking a picnic up with you and enjoying the surrounds for a bit before making the return journey back down.

……To be continued in Part 2

Part 2...

 

Fancy pushing the boundaries a bit and finding some remote locations?

Here are 9 of our favourite wilderness spots that you can get to with your vehicle. There are still many more amazing locations that can only be accessed by boat, kayak or foot.

 

1. Carmanah Walbrahn Provincial Park – An easy(ish) access from either side, although we prefer the west side, this protected area is home to some giant trees, wilderness trails and abundant wildlife. Check out our visit there (Insert) for pictures. There is space to camp either at the park entrance or backcountry camping is allowed in the summer months.

2. Cape Scott – The northern most protected area on Vancouver Island this is a rugged coastal wilderness famous for wolfs and other wildlife the rocky coast is punctuated by fine textured white sand beaches.

Note there are some road closures in this area at the moment.

June 3rd – June 7th 2019

June 10th – June 14th 2019

San Josef Main FSR

3. Telegraph Cove – You might have guessed it, named after the old telegraph system this was the northern terminus for the telegraph line. A 1 room telegraph shack that loggers, fisherman etc could use to stay in touch with the outside world. This is a great launch pad for excursions into the great bear rainforest or whale watching. Many of the old buildings still exist – built on struts in the water and connected with boardwalks although it has now modernised over the years.

4. West coast Trail – Technically the ends of this trail are vehicle accessible, but the vast majority of this 75km backpacking trail is not. Developed in 1907 to help facilitate the rescue of shipwreck survivors it is rated as one of the best hikes in the world. Only open from 1st may to 30 Sept and requires booking – if you have short time or not planned a trip, also consider doing the Juan De Fuca trail a bit further south on the Island

 

Main cave entrance – Upana Caves

 

5. Tahsis (For the Caver) – Tahsis was first settled by the first nations and remained largely unchanged until the 1900s when logging was first introduced. The first logging community was developed as a floating settlement to begin with – this area is still well known for its abundant wildlife. For the avid caver there are a number of great spots – from Coral caves to Weymer caves in Weymer Creek Provincial Park. If you are not an avid caver but want to check out and easy accessible site – we would recommend the Upana Caves located roughly 15 kms down the Gold river-Tahsis road, these caves are easy to get to and easy to explore around.

6. Coal Harbour – A marine hub this is worth a stop to look at the 6m Blue whale jawbone (the largest ever found)

Strathcona Park

7. Strathcona Park – The oldest park in BC, and by far the largest on Vancouver island, you have plenty of options to choose from here. Hiking, biking, relaxing are all on the menu. This park is famous for its numerous mountains, lakes, waterfalls and glaciers. You can do this the easy way or you can make it very difficult for yourself by hiking through it.

8. Hot Springs cove – technically shouldn’t be in this list as you need to take a boat from tofino but regardless, needs to be on here. You can do this as a day trip from tofino, but be warned that it gets busy in the peak seasons.

View of Woss Lake

9. Woss Provincial Park – You can drive to either the end nearest to the Hwy 19 and camp at Woss Lake Campground, but this won’t get you into the park, if you want to go inside the park, the best option is to drive to Tahsis and walk into the park from there – but you must note that this really is wilderness camping so make sure you do this safely.