Cape Scott Provincial Park. Hiking Trails Cape Scott Provincial Park, BC

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Cape Scott Provincial Park
British Columbia

Located at the northwest corner of Vancouver Island is an area that has been set aside as a wilderness park which also has historical significance. It's known as Cape Scott Provincial Park, so named after the site of a lighthouse that opened in 1960, and the Cape was named for David Scott, a Bombay merchant who was one of the principal backers in trading voyages in the late 1790's in this area. Two different attempts to settle this area failed and today only the names remain. The few old buildings and some man-made relics that dot the landscape help tell the story of their endurance and the hardships that made settling here almost impossible. This was due to the extreme weather conditions, poor market access and sheer isolation.

Cape Scott Provincial Park was established in 1973, and is a 21,849 hectare (53,967 acre) rugged west coast wilderness area. The only way in and out of this park area, are hiking trails. From Victoria, take Highway 1 to Nanaimo, from here it becomes Highway 19 and will take you all the way to Port Hardy, some 390 km (242 miles) up island, along the east coast of Vancouver Island. From Port Hardy its 46 km (28 miles ) by logging road to the settlement of Holberg, where you turn right and continue on to the end of the road to San Josef Bay campground. If you make this your base, there are several options that you can explore.

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Along with the hiking, if you're willing to do some kayaking and/or canoeing, then make plans to hike to Sea Otter Cove and Laurie Bay, by way of Mount St. Patrick. From here you can kayak or canoe around Cape Scott. Another option is to canoe or hike down the San Josef River, which is a short jaunt that should take you approximately 45 minutes to an hour. Or hike out to Cape Scott, which is a distance of 23.6 km (14.6 miles) and will take about eight hours.

When you hike the trail to Cape Scott, you will find many interesting and historical points along the way. From the trail head, it's only an hour or so to Eric Lake ( a popular day-trip) where you will find an old wharf, near the campsite. At this camp site, and at Nels Bight, Nissen Bight and Guise Bay you will find food hangers that have been installed, to safeguard food against bears and other scavengers. If you continue hiking, it should take you about another two hours to reach the Fisherman River Bridge. Here is where you leave the rainforest and begin hiking the lowlands and the bog. This route has been upgraded with bridges and boardwalks to protect the vegetation and the trail. It also makes the hiking easier.

When you reach the Nissen Bight cutoff, the trail splits in two, one leads to Nissen Bight's and the other to Nels Bight. The trail to Nissen Bight from the Fisherman River Bridge is 3.7 km (2.2 miles) and will take about two to two and a half hours to reach the rocky shoreline, where you will find a campsite. When you take the trail leading west from the cut off you'll be heading to Cape Scott, hiking right through the old community and coming out at Hansen Lagoon. At the lagoon, you can head to Fisherman River, where it enters Hanson Lagoon, and do some fishing. To reach Nels Bight, turn right at the lagoon signpost. Nels Bight is a 2 km ( 1.2 miles) stretch of beach. It is the largest and most popular of the beaches in the park.

The last leg of the hike to reach Cape Scott Lighthouse starts at the west end of Nels Bight and is a 16 km (9.9 miles) return hike. This trail that leads to Experiment Bight, Guise Bay and the cape, follows an old jeep road that dates back to World War Two, when a radar station operated in this area. Here the Sand Neck is so narrow that from a height of land you can see both the east side and the west side of Vancouver Island. From Guise Bay, there's a plank road that leads up to Cape Scott Lighthouse.

Before you start hiking in Cape Scott Provincial Park, remember this is a wilderness area, which means you must go in completely equipped and self sufficient. Your need to be prepared for the weather in Cape Scott cannot be stressed enough, as this section of Vancouver Island is well known for torrential rains, the violent storms, the wind and surf. Items that are essential include a good tent with a waterproof fly, a small primus-type stove, sealed hiking boots that are broken in with good traction and support, proper rain gear, first aid kit, and insect repellent. It's recommended that clothing, sleep bags and food be kept in waterproof bags. To help maintain and preserve this wilderness area and for your safety, please keep to designated trails. Do not take shortcuts, skirt mud holes, walk across meadows and bogs, as this could destroy plant life and soil formation, which would lead to the deterioration of the trails and park wilderness. Remember, garbage in, garbage out!

For more information on Cape Scott Provincial Park contact:
BC Park District
Box 1479
Parksville, B.C. V9P 2H4
Phone: (250) 954-4600
Fax: (250) 428-8584
BC Parks
1812 Miracle Beach Drive
Black Creek, B.C. V0R 1C0
Phone: (250) 337-5121
Fax: (250) 337-5695
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Cape Scott Provincial Park. Hiking Trails Cape Scott Provincial Park, BC