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Cathedral Grove Vancouver Island

Cathedral Grove

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Port Alberni

Cathedral Grove is a “can’t miss” stop on the way to Tofino!

Activity:
Walk, Tourism Stop
Difficulty:
Easy
Location:
Port Alberni
Time:
45 min
Distance:
2.2km (1.3mi)

Experience:

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Accessibility:

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All ages elderly Icon
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Highlights Include:

Info Map

Central Island

It is like stepping into another world. Located on the Alberi Highway (4) between Parksville and Port Alberni, this is a must-stop spot on your way to Tofino! The pristine beauty and diversity bring in more than 500,000 visitors per year. 

What You Need to Know About Visiting Cathedral Grove, Vancouver Island

The two trails that make up Cathedral Grove are located within MacMillian Park in central Vancouver Island, 25 km west of Qualicum Beach and 16 km east of Port Alberni along Highway 4, which runs right through the park. 

Gorgeous walking trails and spectacular 800 year old trees greet you at this international attraction. Visitors can also examine the fallen trees from the violent windstorm of 1997. Still incredible, these trees give a true sense of the size and magnitude of the growth within the park – and continue to provide nutrients to the soil for the next generations of plants.

H.R. MacMillian, a well-known forester, donated 136 hectares of land in 1944, he foresaw the need to preserve this land for the perpetual enjoyment of generations to come. Just three years later, the area was established as a Class A provincial park.

How to Get to Cathedral Grove

Your options are Tour Group or Car as there is no public transportation.
Located 16km East of Port Alberni and 25km West of Qualicum Beach on Hwy #4. Google Maps Link

Tips and Suggestions

Parking is available on either side of the road but is limited. There is a barricade in the center of the road.

Smoking is prohibited in McMillan Provincial Park

Biking is allowed on roads only, not park trails.

Dogs are allowed on a leash

Toilets are available on both sides of the road.

Cathedral Grove Trail Map

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North Old Growth Trail - Cathedral Grove

Highway 4 splits the north and south trails within the park. On the north trail, you will find vast groves of ancient Western Red Cedar Trees guarding nearby Cameron Lake. A clearly marked straightforward trail includes a beautifully renovated boardwalk system. The north route will keep you busy for about 1.2 km and can be comfortably accessed by wheelchairs.

The walk is an easy one, and this is where you can experience the aftermath of the 1997 windstorm up close. You’ll see many large fallen trees with younger trees taking advantage of the rich soil, springing up ready for the next hundred years. Stick to the trail and you will come across access points that allow you to access the Cameron River and a few fallen giants.

"Definitely, a place you’ll want on your bucket list if you’re in the area. There are lots of places where you can climb logs and touch trees as well as take pictures and access the creek without going off the path. They put a lot of effort into making the forest accessible without disturbing the beautiful scenery."

South Big Tree and Living Forest Trail - Cathedral Grove

After the ease of the North Trail, you may notice that when you cross the highway to access the south trail, things become slightly more challenging. Although flat and still allows for easy access, the South Trail consists of a 1-kilometre dirt trail. You’ll want to be prepped with appropriate footwear as it can often be muddy and wet. Even on dry days, this side of the park can be a little more tricky to access for individuals with mobility concerns. The path includes exposed roots and fallen trees, particularly in the “Living Forest” section of the trail. 

This trail can be a little more hands-on, as you’ll have a chance to climb logs, touch trees, and take some Instagram-worthy pictures. The oldest of the enormous growth is well over 800 years old, but the majority of the trees here are approximately 300 years old – the young growth after a major fire. 

Get out your measuring tape! The granddaddy Douglas Firs can measure as much as nine metres in circumference! These amazing views will keep you walking to the refreshing shade of the deciduous trees lining the Cameron River – the perfect photo stop. 

Make your way to the superstar of the hike. Follow “Big Tree Trail” right up to the largest Douglas Fir around. At 72 metres (236 feet) tall, this big fella stands higher than the Leaning Tower of Pisa. 

 

Add it to The List: Nanaimo to Tofino

Vancouver Island offers a lifetime of experiences. Highway 4 is a popular route for visitors is Nanaimo to Tofino.  Cathedral Grove is a great addition to our list we’ve compiled of some of our favourite stops heading to Tofino from Nanaimo.

Beaches:

Blueback Beach: A lesser-known beach that offers beautiful sand beaches. Be prepared for a long staircase to gain access but it’s worth it at low tide.
Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park: A popular park to visit. When the tide is out, the cove turns into a wonderful 1km of sand to walk along.

Waterfalls:

Englishman River Falls: Just a short easy walk from the parking lot is a dramatic waterfall worth visiting.
Little Qualicum Falls: Ony 15 minutes from Cathedral Grove, Little Qualicum Falls offers a great 2km hike along the canyon, reaching lower and upper Qualicum Falls.
Hole In The Wall: This spot is a little more off-grid. This unique stop can be found on the edge of Port Alberni. Not much for a waterfall, but you will find a large hole in a large wall.

Other Stops Along the Way:

Coombs: Probably already on your list as this is a popular stop known for having goats on the roof.
Sproat Lake Provincial Park Petroglyphs: A short trail from the parking lot, you will find ancient petroglyphs barely visible carved into the stone cliff along Sproat Lake.
Taylor River Rest Area: Beautiful blue-green river with a rope swing. Washrooms, charging stations, and picnic tables make this a great stop.

FAQ:

What is Cathedral Grove?
Cathedral Grove is a popular tourist stop with two walking trails located within MacMillan Provincial Park on Vancouver Island.

How Long Does it take to walk through Cathedral Grove?
Expect to take 45 minutes to complete bot trails. Each trail takes about 20 minutes, depending on how interactive you want to get.

How tall is the tallest tree in Cathedral Grove?
Over 800 years old, the tallest tree in MacMillan Provincial Park is a Douglas Fir measuring 72 meters or 236 feet and 9 meters in circumference.

Can I bring my Dog to Cathedral Grove?
Pets are allowed but must remain on a leash.

How much does it cost to walk in Cathedral Grove?
There are no entrance fees for MacMillan Provincial Par or Cathedral Grove

Photo Gallery:

Couple walking on one of the best beaches in Nanaimo
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Blueback Beach

Visit this lovely beach during low tide to get the most out of the soft sand and expansive area
Goats on the roof in Coombs BC. The perfect quick stop when heading west from Nanaimo to Tofino.
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Coombs Goats on ...

Coombs is a charming stop on your drive to Tofino and is well known for its iconic goats that live on the roof of the local grocery store
Cathedral Grove Vancouver Island
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Cathedral Grove

Cathedral Grove is like stepping into another world. A popular stop with 2 walking trails located within MacMillan Provincial Park on Vancouver Island

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We love this Island, and want to keep the natural beauty please respect the places you visit and pack out what you pack in and leave the area better than when you arrived. We all know how much trash can spoil an experience and the environment, so please help us keep it clean!

Wildlife:
Vancouver Island is a land of natural beauty and abundant wildlife. Please be aware of your surroundings and take the usual precautions for personal and wildlife safety.
Black bears, cougars and even wolves are common on Vancouver Island for more on Wildlife Safety Click Here 

Tide and Seasonal Safety:
Changing seasons and tides can have a drastic effect on most locations on Vancouver Island. Please be cautious as the information in this post may vary depending on the time of year and weather. Make sure to check for current weather and tide information before you make your journey!
When visiting the beach, it’s essential to pay attention and stay safe! Please be cautious walking on the shore during high tide. At this time, some areas may not be accessible. Click here for the tides in your area. Be aware of ocean currents before swimming, paddle boarding or kayaking.

Land Acknowledgement:
We would like to acknowledge the land we appreciate daily within the 50 First Nations that make up the traditional territories of the Coast Salish, Nuu chah nulth, and Kwakiutl–the first peoples of Vancouver Island .

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