The Great Outdoors
Extraordinary Parks and Mountains
The Campbell River area has an abundance of parks and wilderness and you don't have to go far to enjoy them.
Elk Falls Provincial Park
Elk Falls Provincial Park is just outside Campbell River's city limits on Highway 28. The park is named after an impressive 25 metre (80 foot) waterfall that plunges into the steep Campbell River canyon. A network of forest trails lead to a waterfall lookout and along the Campbell River and Quinsam River. A short trail also leads to the Quinsam Salmon Hatchery. There's also Canyon ViewTrail, a favourite for walkers, joggers and mountain bikers, with a suspension bridge that overlooks our namesake Campbell River. Trails wind amidst 60 metre tall (200-foot-tall) old-growth trees, crosses natural wetlands, and skirts the edge of the river canyon. Nearby Snowden Demonstration Forest blends silviculture with recreation and wildlife management, and is popular for mountain biking, too.
Strathcona Provincial Park
Forty-five minutes from Campbell River on Highway 28, Strathcona Provincial Park offers swimming, picnicking, hiking, rock climbing, boating, fishing, and camping. During the summer, the park has excellent hiking, ranging from strolls through alpine meadows to strenuous overnight ascents. Advanced hikers can view wildlife and scenic highlights like the glistening Comox Glacier; Della Falls, the highest waterfall in Canada; and the Golden Hinde, which at 2200 metres (7219 feet) is the tallest peak on Vancouver Island. For further information on Strathcona Park, please visit the Strathcona Wilderness Institute website.
Another way to experience the park for a day or longer is at Strathcona Park Lodge Wilderness Resort. It's located on Highway 28 approximately halfway between Campbell River and Gold River. There are many activities at the resort, including rock climbing, canoeing, whitewater kayaking, rope climbing, and more. The resort also hosts leadership development camps for youth and adults.
Paradise Meadows and Mount Washington Alpine Resort
Paradise Meadows, on the eastern edge of Strathcona Provincial Park, is an alpine environment featuring walking trails accessed from the paved Strathcona Parkway road south of Campbell River, just follow the signs to Mount Washington. There are a number of small lakes stocked with Rainbow trout that are great for fly fishing during the summer months.
Your next stop after Paradise Meadows is the Mount Washington Alpine Resort. Visit during the summer and challenge yourself with the mountain biking trails, the well-known Monster Mile among them. Take the Mile High Chairlift up the mountain, where you'll be breathless from the panoramic views of Vancouver Island and Georgia Strait below.
In the winter, Mount Washington has downhill and cross-country skiing, snowboarding, snow tubing, and snowshoeing. There are 55 km, track set and skating cross country trails, partially located in Strathcona Provincial Park. Downhillers and boarders are whisked to the top and have a choice of 60 runs (20% easier, 35% intermediate, 45% advanced) and two terrain parks. Night skiing is available on weekends and holidays.
Mount Washington is a full-service ski destination with accommodations, restaurants, lounge, shops, lessons and equipment rentals. There are special classes for children and skiing programs for seniors and the disabled. Special events take place throughout the year. Visit www.mountwashington.ca for more information. Weather forecasts for Mount Washington can be found on Snow-Forecast.com.
Vancouver Island has thousands of caves and many of them are close to Campbell River. Head south along the Oceanside route to explore the Horne Lake Caves. Go north to spelunk in the Artlish River Caves or the Little Huson Cave. To the west, the Upana Caves are near Gold River. Further west, in Nootka Sound, there are more than fifty caves, some of which are several miles long. For details about caving in our region visit the Vancouver Island Abound website.
In and On the Water
With its ocean coastline and multitude of rivers and lakes, it's no surprise that water activities are some of the most popular pastimes of all in Campbell River.
Beaching and Boating
Pack a picnic lunch and head along the Oceanside Route Highway 19A to one of our low-tide sandy beaches or raft or whitewater kayak down the Oyster, Nimpkish, or Gold Rivers. The ocean and many of our lakes are great for swimming. Nearby McIvor Lake is the locals' choice for swimming and water skiing. Buttle Lake provides good freshwater fishing while Upper Campbell Lake and Roberts Lake are excellent spots for windsurfing.
Desolation Sound Provincial Marine Park is British Columbia's largest marine park. Its scenery, relatively sheltered waters, and warm summer climate make it a sailing, kayaking, and pleasure boating mecca. You'll also find many other marine parks in our area, such as those on Quadra and Cortes Islands. Skippered and bare boat charters are available if you're not bringing your own vessel, and there are numerous safe overnight moorages and anchorages, too.
Kayaking and Canoeing
Campbell River is the gateway to the Discovery Islands group, an unparalleled paddling area. There's nothing quite like a saltwater kayak for exploring remote islands and uninhabited coves. This quiet mode of travel often allows you to get much closer to marine and land wildlife than if you were on foot or in a motorized craft. Bring your own kayak or rent one from a local shop, lessons and guides are available. You can chart your own journey or sign up for an eco-tour. Canoeing is also popular-the Sayward Forest Canoe/portage route is a 50 kilometre (30 mile) circuit encompassing eleven lakes, and takes approximately 3-4 days to complete the full circuit. We recommend doing the route counter-clockwise from summer to early fall. Numerous B.C. Forest Service Recreation sites are located along the route that provide adequate overnight camping facilities. Popular put-in spots are: Gosling Bay on Campbell Lake, Morton Lake, Strathcona Dam, Loveland Bay, Forbes Landing and McIvor Lake.
And then there's the diving. The Jacques Cousteau Society rated diving in Discovery Passage as second only to diving in the Red Sea! As well as enjoying clear water and abundant sea life, divers can explore the 110 metre long (366 feet long) HMCS Columbia, a decommissioned navy ship that was sunk as a diving attraction in 1996. More on scuba diving in Campbell River.
Snorkeling with Salmon
One adventure that is truly unique to the Campbell River area is the now fabled "Snorkel with the Salmon". Rent a mask, fins snorkel and wetsuit or go on a guided tour and witness face to face the migration of the 5 species and the hundreds of thousands of salmon that come home to the Campbell River system to spawn. Start your adventure at the old logging bridge and float 2 1/2 kilometers to the estuary, keep your eyes peeled because you are likely to come face to face with some of the biggest Chinook in the world or perhaps if the timing is right you may see tens of thousands of Pink salmon wrestling their way upstream to spawn in their ancestral gravel beds. There is no other place in the world that offers this adventure. The best time to witness the spawning runs is from late July to late October.