The Cape Scott Trail offers sandy beaches, rugged cliffs, blowholes, caves, waterfalls, bogs, rainforest, lighthouses, abandoned settlements, shipwreck relics, First Nations culture, whales, sea lions, eagles, and giant trees. Our pace allows time to adjust to the demands of the trail and to fully see and explore this magnificent coastal environment. Readings and anecdotal stories help the hiker fully appreciate the dramatic and colourful history of the events and people who were a part of this coastline. There are stories from the thousands of years of First Nations history, to the settlement attempts of Danish immigrants in 1897 and American settlers in 1910, the radar defence installations of WWII and the present day challenges of the Cape Scott Lighthouse.
Vancouver Island – The easiest access to all of the Northern Vancouver island adventures is through our home area in the Comox Valley. The second largest airport on the island is situated here and has regular daily flights in/outbound (https://www.comoxairport.com/). Alternatively we can do pick ups in the port city of Nanaimo which has a ferry terminal connecting to Vancouver, BC.
Day 0: Arrival on Vancouver Island. This denotes the day or days spent on Vancouver Island before the listed start date of the trip.
Those travelling from Vancouver your ferry ride from Horseshoe Bay to Departure bay in Nanaimo takes about 1.5 hours. Next, we journey by van up Island towards Port Hardy approx. four and a half hours, with a lunch stop along the way. We may have a short stop at our base in Courtenay to pick up any last-minute items. Once we reach the trailhead, we will do a final pack adjustment and then head off for a short (with some challenges) 3km hike to our first camp in the woods at Eric Lake.
Today we will complete the 14km’s of trail through temperate Rainforest and out to the grassland lagoons and through the land’s used by the hardy adventurers who tried to settle this land. Depending on how the group is feeling, as well as the weather and wind direction we will choose to set up camp at either Guise Bay (a more private beach with generally less campers), Experiment Bight (an “unofficial” camp with no amenities) or Nel’s Bight, the largest and primary beach in the area.
Many of the areas close by are full of First Nations and later settlement history giving us lots of options for exploring. We may decide on a full day-hike out to one of the few remaining lighthouses that has not been automated on BC’s coast and/or we might visit Guise Bay or ‘Yichaledaz’ – “Where Canoes Run Ashore in Heavy Swell” to see some of the remains from the WWII facilities. The area around Guise Bay includes a unique land feature known as “the Neck”. It is a narrow grassy sand dune that allows access to either side of the Cape Scott Peninsula. Kayakers occasionally use the area as a “portage” option if the wind is blocking there way off one side of the beach! The Neck is also the remains of one hardy settler attempt to tame this windy area. Old fence posts and a gravesite are all that remain.
Today we will either have a leisurely morning and the saunter back over to Nel’s bight for camp. Having simply transitioned through this area on the way in, we will now have an opportunity to explore the largest beach in the area and pick up any news and stories from the Rangers Cabin mid-way down the beach. More time will allow for some stories read from our out of print book detailing the lives of the settlers from those who actually lived in the area! Or we will transition over to Nissen’s bight 6.5km away. This hike takes us back through Hansen’s lagoon and our shorter day allows us to explore this unique landscape of grasslands surrounded by the coastal rainforest which we pushed through on our long day in.
The destination for the night is Nel’s bight, the eastern most beach in the original Cape Scott Park. Generally, a quieter destination, it often allows for more wildlife sightings including the potential for Orca, Humpback and Grey Whales as well sea otters, seals and on land bears and coastal wolves. Or if already camped here we will do a day hike along the start of North Coast Trail section at the end of the beach. Destinations might include Laughing Loon lake or the beach on the other side of the point at Laura creek.
Today we get an early start as we retrace our steps away from this unique Northern Island ecosystem. After a steady pace we will stop at Eric Lake, the site of our first camp, for our last wilderness meal. Three km’s later we will have reached the trailhead and will start the long journey south to the Comox Valley.