Hikes in Courtenay
Situated in the Comox Valley along the eastern coast of Vancouver Island, Courtenay borders the mountainous expanse of Strathcona Provincial Park to the west and the blue waters of the Strait of Georgia to the east, making it an ideal jumping-off point to explore the diverse landscapes of the island. This charming city with its unique setting is one of the only places in the world where you can kayak on the ocean, head out cycling or hiking, downhill ski in the mountains, and lounge by the beach for a sunset, all within the same day.
Accessible by car, plane, and a ferry that runs from Powell River on the Sunshine Coast, Courtenay is an amazing destination on Vancouver Island that features the amenities of a big city, with a wonderful sense of community and creativity that can only be found in a small town. With a colourful culinary scene that is supported by the local farming and fishing industries, there is more to explore on a visit to Courtenay than just the pristine British Columbia landscape. There truly is something for everyone in this beautiful seaside locale.
The Top 10 Hikes In Courtenay
With access to a number of different outdoor activities, Courtenay and the Comox Valley region are known to be an all-season destination for exploring the outdoors; however, it is the area’s many hiking routes that really make the wonderful landscapes of this region shine. Pleasant urban walkways like the Courtenay Riverway provide people within the city with the opportunity to connect with nature, whereas routes along the rocky coastline or further west toward the mountainous interior of the islands provide a bit more of a wild experience for those that want to leave the chaos of the outside world behind. Check out this list of 10 amazing hikes around Courtenay that we’ve put together below:
- Chinese Mountains Loop: This 4.2 km lollipop route is located on Quadra Island and will take you up to an amazing summit viewpoint to experience beautiful coastal scenery. On this hike, you will traverse a variety of terrain on your way up the mountain and will have a great sightline to the mainland.
- Ripple Rock Trail: This beautiful coastal hike will expose you to some stunning scenery and local history. The 8.0 km out-and-back trail will take you to a lookout over the Seymour Narrows, the site of one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history. Here, the waterway was reshaped to allow for safe passage by ships through the treacherous narrows.
- Elk Falls Loop Trail: Hiking the Elk Falls Loop is a quick and easy experience that will take you through the lovely forests of Elk Falls Provincial Park for views of a rushing waterfall. The well-maintained trails and stunning views of the moss-covered waterfall makes this a fantastic family-friendly hike that can be enjoyed by all.
- Nymph Falls Trail: Another great waterfall hike, this trail will take you through a stretch of temperate rainforest west of Courtenay for views overlooking a cascading waterfall. Diverse plant and animal life, as well as easy to navigate trails, make this route perfect for a fun family excursion.
- Ford Cove to Shingle Spit Trail: This hike on Hornby Island will take you through forests along the coast for beautiful views looking out across the water. The 6.0 km trail passes through Mount Geoffrey Escarpment Provincial Park and offers a great chance to explore the rugged coastline.
- Seal Bay Beach Loop: Passing through the Seal Bay Nature Park, this charming trail will take you through a stretch of temperate rainforest to reach a quaint beach. Once there, you will have an amazing sightline across the Strait of Georgia towards the Sunshine Coast.
- Courtenay Riverway Heritage Park: One of the most popular walks in Courtenay, the Riverway will lead you along the edge of the water for some lovely views of the city and the Comox Harbour. This hike is great if you are looking to get some exercise and experience beautiful views without leaving the city limits.
- Seal Bay Horse & Bike Loop: Another great hike in the Seal Bay Nature Park, this 8.7 km trail will lead you through the rainforest to experience its natural beauty and biodiversity. This is a multi-use trail, so keep an eye out for bikers and horseback riders.
- Trent Falls: This short hiking trail will take you alongside the waters of the Trent River to experience views of a stunning waterfall. The path leading through the forest is well-maintained and suitable for hikers of all ages and skill levels; however, those looking to get up close and personal with the falls will need to traverse a series of rope installations.
- Campbell River Canyon View Trail: Another short but scenic hike in Elk Falls Provincial Park, this trail will take you along the banks of the river for amazing views of the rushing water and the chance to watch bears feeding on salmon depending on the time of year.
When is the Best Time to Hike in Courtenay?
When looking to plan a hiking trip to Courtenay, the best season is subjective and will rely largely on what type of trails and landscapes you are looking to traverse. Generally speaking, the summer months (June-September) will offer the most favourable weather if you are looking to explore the rugged and mountainous trails within Strathcona Park, whereas this window will expand into the spring and autumn seasons for low-lying areas along the coast that are in close proximity to the city. For this reason, it is best to aim for the busy mid-summer season in order to explore a wide variety of terrain, or else narrow down your trip to specific areas that are suitable to hike in the shoulder seasons.
Other Outdoor Activities in Courtenay
As mentioned above, Courtenay’s location between the rugged interior of Strathcona Provincial Park and the vast expanse of the Strait of Georgia means that there is a wide variety of outdoor activities that can be sought out, both on and off the water. Fishing, boating, whale-watching, kayaking, and canoeing are all great water-based activities that can be done from the comfort of the city, and there are strong networks of hiking and mountain bike trails that fan out into the wilderness in all directions. In terms of winter sports, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and downhill skiing at the Mt. Washington Ski Resort are all great options to stay active during the colder times of the year.
Frequently Asked Questions About Courtenay
How far is Courtenay from Nanaimo?
By car, Courtenay is 108.0 km from Nanaimo, making for a 1h 15 minute drive between the two cities.
What is Courtenay known for?
Courtenay is known as a vibrant and growing city with strong cultural and culinary sectors. It also has a good reputation for its easy access to a wide variety of outdoor activities within the Comox Valley and along the coast, such as hiking, biking, skiing, and boating.
Best Hikes in Courtenay
Elk Falls Loop Trail
The Elk Falls Loop Trail is a 1.4 km lollipop hiking route in Campbell River, BC that takes you through Elk Falls Provincial Park for some amazing views over the plunging falls. Along the trail, hikers will pass through a gorgeous stretch of forest along the edge of the rushing Campbell River before arriving at a viewpoint where you can witness the violent water dropping 25 m into the moss-covered canyon below. With easy to navigate trails that are well-maintained and beautifully scenic views, this is a family-friendly adventure that everyone will be sure to love.
Nymph Falls Trail
The Nymph Falls Trail is a 2.6 km lollipop hiking route just west of Courtenay, BC that will take you through an amazing example of West Coast temperate rainforest to eventually reach a viewpoint overlooking a cascading waterfall. In addition to the scenic views of the falls, along the trail you will meander past a variety of plant life, including large moss-covered trees, different species of wild mushroom, and copious vibrant green ferns scattered across the forest floor. With easy to navigate trails and spectacular views, this is the perfect trail for a day trip with the entire family.
Chinese Mountains Loop
The Chinese Mountains Loop is a 4.2 km lollipop hiking route on Quadra Island that will take you uphill to the summit of the north and south Chinese mountains for a sightline across the coastal landscape. Along the trail, hikers can expect a variety of terrain types including gravel roads, dirt, rock, and creek beds that climb up the mountainside to lookouts with views of both mainland British Columbia and Vancouver Island. This hike has some of the best views on Quadra Island, so make sure to add it to your list for the next time you find yourself exploring coastal BC.
Ripple Rock Trail
The Ripple Rock Trail is an 8.0 km out-and-back hiking route near Campbell River, BC that will take you out to a scenic lookout with views of Menzies Bay and the Seymour Narrows. In addition to featuring breathtaking scenery, this is also the historic site of one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history, when the Canadian government reshaped the waterway to make it safer for ships to pass. Whether you are hiking the trail for the views or the history, the well-maintained and easy to navigate trails are sure to make this a pleasant hike for every member of your party.
The hike to Trent Falls makes use of a 2.1 km out-and-back trail that follows closely alongside the Trent River to arrive at a beautiful cascading waterfall. Although the trail is perfectly suited for hikers of most skill levels, access to the falls requires navigating a slightly steep section of trail that might slow travel, as there are rope installations to help with the descent. Even so, this is a fantastic family-friendly adventure that will allow you to explore the temperate rainforest landscapes around Courtenay.
Courtenay Riverway Heritage Park
Hiking the Courtenay Riverway Heritage Park Trail will take you along a 4.7 km lollipop hiking route that runs parallel to the flowing waters of the Courtenay River. Along this trail you will experience a blend of urban and natural beauty as you make your way through the heart of the city towards Comox Harbour. This hike is a great way to get some exercise and experience scenic views, all without leaving the city.
Seal Bay Horse and Bike Loop
The Seal Bay Horse & Bike Loop is an 8.7 km hiking circuit near Courtenay, BC that passes through the temperate rainforest environment that can be found within the Seal Bay Nature Park. While out on this trail, hikers will be able to utilize well-groomed paths that showcase the large, moss-covered trees and variety of other flora within the pristine forest atmosphere. Remember to keep an eye out while on the trail as this route is also used by horseback riders and mountain bike enthusiasts.
Ford Cove to Shingle Spit Trail
The Ford Cove to Shingle Spit Trail is a 6.0 km out-and-back hiking route on Hornby Island that cuts through Mount Geoffrey Escarpment Provincial Park to provide views of the coast. Along the trail, hikers will make their way along a beautifully forested trail that follows closely along the water’s edge and allows you to explore the landscape around Ford Cove. Make sure to stop in at the food truck near the trailhead for some delicious fish & chips after your hike.
Seal Bay Beach Loop
The Seal Back Beach Loop is a 4.0 km hiking circuit in Courtenay, BC that passes through the amazing landscapes of the Seal Bay Nature Park. As you hike along the trail, you will experience a slice of the Pacific temperate rainforest environment and enjoy some breathtaking views from the beach across the water towards the sunshine coast, as well as the rugged mountains of mainland BC. This short hike features wide, easy to navigate paths that are suitable for hikers of all skill levels.
Campbell River Canyon View Trail
The Campbell River Canyon View Trail is a 4.8 km lollipop hiking route in Elk Falls Provincial Park that skirts around the edge of the Campbell River for some impressive views of the rushing river below. While the trail is great for family-friendly exploring, there are some steep sections of stairs that could impede travellers. Try hiking this trail in the autumn, when you will have a chance to spot bears feeding on salmon along the river.
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