Why are there so many boardwalk trails on Vancouver Island? Vancouver Island is covered in a dense temperate rainforest, and if you’ve ever tried making your way through it, you know to stick to trails and paths. Unlike dryer forests, you can’t see the ground, let alone guess what you’re stepping on. Boardwalks are not only easy to maintain, but they also help protect the forest around them, discouraging hikers from straying off the beaten path. Not to mention that they look amazing in photographs!
The other bonus for boardwalks is that they can make trails more accessible to hikers with mobility concerns. While quite a few of the boardwalk hikes on Vancouver Island include stairs, we’ve listed the wheelchair accessible trails on our last blog.
Tip: While boardwalk trails eliminate the need to dodge banana slugs and protruding roots, they can be slippery when wet, and icy when cold and wet. Make sure you’re still wearing correct footwear.
Exploring the Boardwalk Trails of Vancouver Island
There’s everything from short jaunts to long traverses when it comes to the boardwalk trails on the Island. Most cut through the rainforest, skim over muddy marshes, and end at stunning vistas. There’s an ease to the boardwalk trail that makes for a relaxing walk.
Out on the west coast of Vancouver Island, there’s an abundance of boardwalk hikes; just know that there are often sections of gravel and beach.
- Big Tree Trail (Meares Island Tribal Park) | 3km + stairs: Located on Meares Island, this trail has some of the largest trees in BC. The trail is accessible only by a 10-minute water taxi ride from Tofino or by kayak.
- Hot Springs Cove (Maquinna Provincial Park) | 1.5km + stairs: A popular day trip from Tofino, your journey begins by taking a boat or seaplane flight to Maquinna Provincial Park. Once you’ve arrived, walk the boardwalk through old-growth rainforest until you reach the hot springs located along the ocean.
- Combers Beach Trail | 0.5 km + stairs: While this trail is very short, it’s also very steep. At the end is another beach, great for surfing or storm watching.
- South Beach Trail | 1.6 km + stairs: The start for this path is right in the heart of Pacific Rim National Park, at the Wickaninnish Interpretive Center and it provides impressive view points along the way down to the water.
- Nuu Chah Nulth Trail | 3.8 km + stairs: To start this hike, you’ll walk the South Beach Trail, then follow the signs for the Nuu Chah Nulth trail. You’ll see wetlands, rainforest, and beach.
- The Rainforest Trail | 2 km + stairs: For a feeling of being deep within the rainforest wood, this trail is for you. The loop ducks through the stunning trees, making it a must-see on your trip.
Central Vancouver Island
From beachfront to high up in a glacier, central Vancouver Island boardwalks guide you through some of the best terrain.
- Waterfront Walkway at Parksville Beach | 1 km + wheelchair accessible: A favourite for locals and visitors, the waterfront walkway in Parksville runs along the beach. In the winter it’s covered with a grey fog, and in the summer the blue skies hover over the ebbing tide. Most stray off the walkway to take a look in the gnarled driftwood or along the beach to find Tidal Treasures.
- Paradise Meadows Loop | 4.2 km + wheelchair accessible: This wheelchair accessible loop in Strathcona Provincial Park is just a short drive from the Comox Valley, but offers big time view all year long. It’s home to a myriad of wildflowers, lending pops of colour to your photographs.
- Carmanah Valley Three Sisters | 2.7 km one way + logging roads: The drive for this trail requires a sturdy vehicle comfortable with unpaved logging roads. Once you arrive you’ll adventure through the provincial park to find views of three towering Sitka trees.
South Vancouver Island
Located deep in the old growth forest, this boardwalk is surrounded by ancient giants.
- Avator Grove | Less than 1 km + logging roads: Like many parts of Vancouver Island, access is through an unpaved logging road. It’s just a short trek once you park to the grove and the trees’ famed burls.
From large parks to community trails, Vancouver Island North is home to many boardwalks that wind through forest, over beach, and by wetlands.
- Quatse River Nature Trail | 2.5 km: Port Hardy’s Quatse River loop crosses the river, explores the banks, and even includes the Quatse Salmon Stewardship Centre.
- Fort Rupert Trail | 3.7 km: A traditional trail for First Nations, this boardwalk ends at Bear Cove. It’s a prime spot for widlife viewing.
- Alert Bay Ecological Park | 1.8km one way: Located on Cormorant Island, Alert Bay’s trail has both towering trees and wetlands, making it a birder’s paradise.
- Cape Scott Trail | 18 km: This bucket list adventure crosses boardwalks, but also other terrains, and the trail is wheelchair friendly up until San Josef Bay. Take it slow as you explore the stunning views, spend the night on a tent pad, and experience remote Vancouver Island.
Remember to respect the terrain, environment, and other users while you are enjoying the trails. Follow the three Ts—trip planning, training, and taking the essentials. AdventureSmart is a great resource to help you get informed before heading outdoors.
When you are hiking, biking, and camping in BC, you are in bear habitat. Make sure you are informed, prepared, and aware at all times. Wildsafe BC is a great resource for making any bear experiences you may have in BC positive and conflict free.