As our inbox starts filling up with 2020 bookings and itinerary ideas, take a moment to consider visiting Carmanah Walbran Provincial Park. This park was fought for by a group of dedicated activists in the 1990’s and established as a provincial park in 1994. It is home to ancient trees, epic cedars, giant sitka spruces and rugged unkempt wilderness. The routine flooding during the fall and winter months results in the boardwalks being upturned and relocated, a park maintenance nightmare. But this hard to manage forest is just what makes it so special, it is the wild west coast at its damp, overgrown, independent, gorgeous best.
Why should I visit?
- It’s stunning: The tranquility of the forest allows you to truly re-connect with nature, breath in the fresh air as you marvel at giants.
- It’s quiet: It is slightly more difficult to get to meaning it has stayed a hidden gem.
- Its wild: They have tried to install a boardwalk, and handrails etc, but the forest wants to remain wild and flash floods have thrown the boardwalks aside and the fallen trees have re-diverted paths many times. You feel like you have gone back in time.
- It’s an adventure: From the moment you leave the tarmac it’s an adventure. As you wind up the steep rocky roads and peer across the forest to Nitinat Lake, to when you descend into the valley and notice how the trees just get bigger and closer together.
Is it difficult to get to?
To get there, it is recommended that you use a 4×4 vehicle. Whichever direction you choose, you will drive a few hours on logging roads with the last section being quite rough (and fun!). Budget around 4 hours to drive from Victoria.
How do I get there?
You can either take the highway 14 through Sooke to Port Renfrew and then follow the logging roads around to Carmanah Walbran Provincial Park or you can take the Highway 1 north towards Duncan and turn off towards Cowichan Lake, you then pass through Youbou before leaving the tarmac behind and following the signs for Nitnat Lake and then Carmanah Walbran Provincial Park.
Are there any good hikes?
There are two relatively easy hikes in Carmanah – unfortunately neither are loops so you would reach your focal point and turn around.
Both hikes begin at the same point and descend into the valley – this is roughly a 700-1km walk downhill – remember this as you will end your hikes with a 700m-1km hike uphill at the end.
After passing the Coastal Giant you will reach a fork and you can do either of these walks relatively easily with a small amount of log walking in involved. Both are about 1 hr.
Left takes you to the 3 sisters – part of one of the sisters came down in the winter and is still an impressive sight laying on the forest floor. The path has flooded in areas and thrown the boardwalks up, as well as some parts of the path have washed away and you might need to scramble over logs to get across, this is entirely at your own risk to do so.
You can continue on from here, but past the 3 sisters, the paths are not maintained.
Right takes you towards Heaven Tree and Stolhmans Grove this is slightly more overgrown than the 3 sisters but the path is in better shaped in parts, once you reach Heaven Tree and grove, the path get less maintained and you probably need to turn around.
Where can I camp?
- You can either camp at the entrance lot where there are 1 or 2 vehicle camping spots, tent pads and fire rings can be found within walking distance.
- During the summer months you can camp on the exposed gravel bars inside the valley floor.
- You can hike into one of the backcountry camping spots
- Nitinat Lake – you can camp at nitinat lake campground which is roughly 45mins-1hr drive from the park.
How difficult is Carmanah Walbran?
Without sugarcoating it, it isn’t the easiest place to visit, as mentioned you need to drive off paved roads, you need to be prepared for rain, the weather can be unpredictable at the best of times. You need to be comfortable hiking in areas without visible sign posts. You need a satellite or GPS messenger service as there is no cell service in case of emergency.
Renting one of our Overland vehicles on Vancouver Island, you have access to:
- Detailed knowledge and routes for Carmanah Walbran Provincial park
- Unlimited Mileage
- Insured for off-road driving
- GPS messenger system
- Full equipped with all the camping gear you need.
But even with all that, we don’t recommend someone head in there without backcountry experience.
For more information, contact one of our knowledgeable team members.