Hikes in Vancouver Island
At 456.0 km in length and 100.0 km at its widest point, Vancouver Island is the largest island that can be found along the west coast of the Americas. Characterized by stunning coastal landscapes and a rugged interior that is packed full of dramatic mountain peaks, this pristine land offers a vast expanse of wilderness that is waiting to be explored.
With a number of population centres distributed throughout the island, planning an adventure here can be as convenient or remote an experience as you want it to be. A wide variety of landscapes including temperate rainforests, rocky coastlines, jagged mountain ranges, and serene inland lakes means that there will always be a new and exciting excursion waiting for you on Vancouver Island.
The 20 Greatest Hikes on Vancouver Island
Thanks to the beautiful and diverse terrain that can be found across Vancouver Island, a hiking excursion here can take on many different forms to match any skill level. From long walks on the beaches of Tofino to a multi-day trek through the wild interior of Strathcona Provincial Park, there are no limits to the fun and excitement that can be experienced on the island.
While you likely won’t be able to explore the entire island in one go, each locale has its own unique character and breathtaking hikes, giving you even more of a reason to come back and visit every corner of this fascinating place. If you aren’t quite sure where or how to get started with a hiking trip to Vancouver Island, check out this list of we’ve put together of the 20 best hiking routes:
- Flower Ridge: This hike will take you up a steep path to reach a stunning alpine ridge that is surrounded by gorgeous wildflowers and views overlooking the southern portion of Strathcona Provincial Park. While out on this adventure, you will experience breathtaking views of some of Vancouver Island’s iconic mountains, including an amazing sightline to Nine Peaks.
- Bedwell Lake: This well-maintained trail will take you over beautifully constructed bridges, staircases, and boardwalks to reach the edge of Bedwell Lake. Here, you will experience the stunning views of Big Interior Peak and Mount Tom Taylor that make this such a popular trail.
- Mt. Albert Edward: An iconic part of Vancouver Island’s hiking and climbing history, Mt. Albert Edward can be found at the edge of the Forbidden Plateau and features breathtaking views across Strathcona Provincial Park. This is a very long and grueling day hike, but at least your efforts will be rewarded.
- Lady Falls: This is a great family-friendly trail if you find yourself camping in Strathcona. Visit a picturesque waterfall that is set in an idyllic forest setting.
- Elk River Trail: The Elk River Trail is a classic hike in Strathcona that can be completed as a day hike or broken up into a multi-day adventure. While out on this amazing hike you will have a breathtaking view of Mount Colonel Foster.
- East Sooke Coast Trail: In close proximity to Victoria, this awesome trail will truly immerse you in nature. Beautiful views, wildlife viewing opportunities, and some exciting scrambles await on this spectacular adventure.
- Jocelyn Hill from Caleb Pike: This trail traverses some undulating terrain that is surrounded by stunning views, eventually taking you on a steep climb to reach an amazing lookout that is the perfect location for a picnic. Multiple starting points are available for this hike, although Caleb Pike offers the best views along the trail.
- Mount Work from Ross Durrance Road: Hiking this short trail is an intense experience that will take you up a steep route through the forest to a stunning vantage point at the summit of Mount Work. This is a popular route, so make sure to arrive early to beat the other outdoor enthusiasts up the mountain!
- Thetis Lake with Mckenzie/Phelps: This laidback hiking route near Victoria will expose you to some beautiful scenery, visiting the Upper and Lower Thetis lakes. Easy to navigate and well-maintained trails make this a suitable adventure for hikers of all skill levels.
- Sombrio Beach Trail: This short out-and-back route in Juan de Fuca Provincial Park features beautiful sections of temperate rainforest, a suspension bridge, amazing beaches and a charming waterfall. With the option to camp out on the beach, this miniature adventure makes for a perfect weekend getaway.
- Chinese Mountains Loop: Located on Quadra Island, this route will lead you uphill to the summit of the Chinese Mountains for gorgeous views that sweep across the Strait of Georgia from mainland BC to the coast of Vancouver Island.
- Ripple Rock Trail: This historic trail will take you up to a spectacular lookout with views over Menzies Bay and the Seymour Narrows. Waters in this area were extremely dangerous, forcing the Canadian government to utilize one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history to reshape the waterway for safe passage by ship.
- Elk Falls Loop: Hiking this short lollipop trail in Campbell River is a fantastic route that will provide stunning views overlooking the plunging falls. Easy to navigate paths through the forest and amazing views make this quick hike a fun, family-friendly adventure.
- Little Huson Caves: This trail is an interesting adventure through the forest that will lead you to a series of natural karst caves. A short and well-maintained trail, this route is perfect for a family excursion where you can get up close and personal while checking out the caves.
- Fort Rupert Trail: The Fort Rupert Trail can be found in the northern part of Vancouver Island and takes you through a gorgeous rainforest setting. Trailheads located at either end of the route mean that you can complete this hike in either direction.
- Englishman River Falls Trail: With a fairly easy trail and stunning views, this quick hike near Nanaimo will take you through Englishman River Falls Provincial Park for views overlooking several beautiful waterfalls. This adventure is suitable for hikers of all ages and skill levels.
- Nanaimo River Trail: This fantastic hiking route will take you along the edge of the Nanaimo River for some amazing views of the picturesque woodland landscape. Less-travelled than other routes in the area, you will have a great feeling of solitude on this hike as you make your way through the forest.
- Ammonite Falls Regional Trail: Hiking the Ammonite Falls Regional Trail is a short excursion near Nanaimo that will take you through a charming forest to visit a waterfall. There is a bit of climbing if you want to get up close to the falls; however, the majority of the route is suitable for walkers of all experience levels.
- Hole in the Wall: This short trail near Port Alberni will take you through a wonderful rainforest setting to reach a cascading waterfall that passes through a unique rock formation known as the Hole in the Wall. Located just off the highway, there is no reason to pass this trail by if you are driving through the area.
- Little Qualicum Falls: The Little Qualicum Falls Trail is a fun hiking route that will take you to a torrenting waterfall set in the rainforest. Well-maintained and easy to navigate trails make this a suitable adventure for all skill levels, including families with children.
When is the Best Time to Hike on Vancouver Island?
Vancouver Island is a big place with many remote areas that will see drastically different weather conditions, meaning that there isn’t really a best time to plan a hiking trip to the island. If you are looking for the most comfortable temperatures for exploring the island’s many hiking trails, the March-May and September-November windows are great options. During these times you might experience a bit of rainfall; however, you won’t see the hotter temperatures that come with the mid-summer months. Additionally, the trails will still be in great condition during these windows and you will miss out on sharing the trails with the throngs of tourists that often flock to areas like Tofino for the beach season. If you are looking to plan a more rugged adventure on the higher elevation routes of the interior, summer will be the best option to ensure that the trails are dry and in good condition.
Other Outdoor Activities on Vancouver Island
In addition to a wealth of amazing hiking routes, Vancouver Island also offers countless other activities that will ensure your next trip in the region is a successful one. From mountaineering expeditions in Strathcona Provincial Park, canoe trips on the many lakes of the interior, surfing the coast in Tofino, and mountain biking in the dense West Coast rainforests; there are so many amazing things to do on the island in the summertime. And if winter sports are more your thing, you will find plenty of opportunities for ski touring, snowshoeing, downhill skiing/snowboarding, heli-skiing, and so much more. With an all-season approach to outdoor adventure, there is no reason to limit your time on Vancouver Island to just one time of year!
Frequently Asked Questions About Vancouver Island
How do you get to Vancouver Island?
The most common way to reach the island is by ferry. There are several different terminals that will shuttle you across the Strait of Georgia, with the most popular setting out from Horseshoe Bay and Tsawwassen.
Will I need a car on Vancouver Island?
Although urban areas like Victoria and Nanaimo are fairly accessible without a vehicle, if you are planning to fully explore the island you will need a car to access the more remote areas.
Best Hikes in Vancouver Island
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