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Sea Stacks San josef bay cape scott provincial park

San Josef Bay

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Activity:
Hike, Beach
Difficulty:
Easy-Moderate
Location:
Port Hardy
Time:
2-4 hours
Distance:
5-8km (3-8mi)

Activity:

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Accessibility:

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Highlights Include:

Info Map

Sea Stacks and Sand Beaches in San Josef Bay - Cape Scott Provincial Park

Where to this weekend, Vancouver Island: Add San Josef Bay to your Bucket List

Located in Cape Scott Provincial Park and touted as the most beautiful beach on Vancouver Island, San Josef Bay has garnered much attention from visitors. The road to get there is long and winding, but it will be worth every minute you spend there when you see this gem for yourself.

The journey is half the fun! Why do things feel more satisfying after a challenge? 6-hour drive to northern Vancouver Island, hop onto a gravel road for another two hours, get out of your truck and hike for 45 min to finally reach gorgeous beaches, sea caves and beautiful sea stacks. If it was a 15 min stop, would it become a bucket list goal? I’m unsure, but San Josef Bay makes the trip worth your time. When you make it to your final destination, it becomes something you look back on as a fantastic trip to reminisce about for years to come.

Located along the southern edge of Cape Scott Provincial Park, San Josef Bay is one of the most picturesque beaches on Vancouver Island, with soft white sand that you can picture being straight out of your favourite movie. The sea stacks left standing from storms and tides are also striking features in this area, making for perfect photo opportunities when exploring San Josef’s shores!

Tips and Suggestions

  • Be prepared for rain any time of year
  • Be prepared for mosquitos and bugs
  • No cell coverage
  • The best time to visit is at low tide (the lower the better)
  • Be aware of animals. bears, cougars and wolves are all in the area

Drive: 2-hour drive from Port Hardy mix of gravel public and logging roads. *NOTE: If you have a rental car, they may not allow driving on logging roads.

Restrooms: Toilets at the parking lot and the beach. No running water.

Camping: Wilderness tent camping is allowed at San Josef Bay. Bear Cache, pit toilets and creek water are all available along the beach. Leave the cash at the parking lot drop box or book at Camping.bcparks.ca > Click Backcountry> Backcountry Registration > Cape Scott

Helpful links:
Tide Information
Directions
All Trails GPS Map

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Frequently Asked Questions

HOW DO I GET TO SAN JOSEF BAY?
To get to the Cape Scott Trailhead, start by driving Highway 19 north. Just before the highway enters Port Hardy, turn left onto Holberg Road. The road quickly turns to gravel.

The remaining 60+km is on rough gravel and active logging roads, so small cars are often seen but not always recommended and be prepared for large logging trucks.
Directions – Google Maps

ARE DOGS ALLOWED?
Dogs are permitted in San Josef Bay area only and must be leashed at all times. Dogs are prohibited in all other areas of the provincial park, including the North Coast Trail.

HOW DIFFICULT IS THE TRAIL IN?
For such a remote location, the trail is wide and well-maintained—an easy hike.

SanJosefbay
Without a doubt, one of the most amazing things to see at San Josef Bay are the sea stacks. The sea stacks at San Josef Bay a...

The drive from Port Hardy to Cape Scott Provincial Parks’ only access point is mostly gravel. Although well maintained, it can be a rough ride on the mix of public and active logging roads. Expect the journey to take over 2 hours.

The parking lot is small and is the primary access for all hikes for Cape Scott Provincial Park. There is a washroom in the parking lot and another at the beach. Follow the well-marked trail down to San Josef Bay. The path is wide, well-maintained and relatively easy for all ages. You will see some great old-growth Sitka Spruce and Western Cedar trees. Once you hit the beach, head to the right, follow it until you see the famous sea stacks and look for caves. Keep going, and you will reach Second Beach.

Watch out for high tide, a section of beach is not passable during high tide, don’t worry. There’s a high tide bypass. It’s best to download a trail map just in case. All Trails San Josef Bay and watch the tide charts for the best experience. The trail is marked with hanging buoys and just before the Sea Stacks.

When the tide is entirely out, you get the full effect of what San Josef Bay has to offer. There is so much sand it seems to never end. While the tide is out, the best place to find tide pools filled with sea life, broken coral and unique rock formations is at the very end of Second Beach.

If you’re looking to extend your visit, camping is a great option. You can find cleared-out sites in the trees along both beaches to set up camp. On the second beach, there is a stream to access water for drinking (make sure you treat or filter before drinking). There are two more camping options on your drive-in just before reaching the parking lot.

San Josef Heritage Campsite and Western Forest Products – San Josef Campsite.

San Josef Bay is one of the most beautiful places on Vancouver Island, so it’s no surprise why people would add San Josef Bay to their Vancouver Island Bucket List.

San Josef trail map

Well worth the drive and hike. Beautiful beach and the stacks are very unique.

SanJosefbay
Without a doubt, one of the most amazing things to see at San Josef Bay are t...

The Road To San Josef Bay

Just before Port Hardy on Highway 19 the road to San Josef Bay and Holberg is well marked. It starts off as pavement but it doesn’t last long, quickly turning into gravel.

road to Cape Scott Provincial ParkThe road beyond that point is quite dusty and seems to go on forever. It’s narrow in some parts and serves as the primary artery for logging roads in the area. The truck drivers are considerate of the tourism industry and coordinate with each other during heavy traffic, and take weekends off.

There are all types of vehicles and driving skills along the logging road, from small cars to rugged 4×4’s and everyone has their own speed they feel comfortable with. Pull over to let people pass when it’s safe to do so and always be careful around tight corners.

If you aren’t planning to stop in Holberg there is a short bypass road following the truck route sign just before the town.

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Stops Along The Way

The Shoe Tree

Yep, a tree full of shoes. Some websites give credit to the tree starting in the ’80s but the tradition started long before that in the early ’70s.

Prepare for the Unexpected Car

There is a noticeable landmark that you can’t miss, situated almost precisely at the midpoint between Port Hardy and Holberg. You’ll know you’ve found it when you see a large yellow sign that warns you about the potential dangers on the road ahead but does so with a bit of humour.

The ‘Be prepared for the unexpected’ car on your way to San Josef Bay has had both the sign and the car have had upgrades over the years, it’s no longer the original car under the tree.

Scarlet Ibis Pub

Scarlet Ibis Pub HolbergTouted as Vancouver Islands’ most remote pub, and I believe it. After driving 4okm on a logging road with nothing in sight, it’s hard to believe it when you drive into Holberg, with a population of just 35, the Scarlet Ibis Pub has small-town charm with a taste of British pub and is worth the visit.

Gear Tips For Vancouver Island

THE NORTH FACE women's waterproof antora jacket sq
THE NORTH FACE Women's
Waterproof Antora Jacket
North face mens antora Rain Hoodie black sq
THE NORTH FACE Men's
Antora Rain Hoodie
Helly Hansen Mens seven J waterproof rain coat sq
Helly Hansen Men's
Breathable Rain Coat
Polygon 32 oz waterbottle sq
32oz Water Bottle
for Fitness and Outdoor
Osprey Sportlite 20 Hiking Backpack sq
Osprey Sportlite 20
Hiking Backpack
adventure first aid kit
Adventure Medical Kit
Ultralight and Watertight

When you’re gearing up for an outdoor adventure on Vancouver Island, the key is to dress in layers, no matter the season. The island’s weather can throw curveballs, with conditions varying significantly from the sheltered forests to the breezy coastlines.

For those cool winter escapades, your go-to should include quality rain gear, topped off with a cozy beanie or toque, and a pair of light gloves to keep the chill at bay.

Summer explorers, don’t be fooled by the warmer temps; that same waterproof shell that kept you dry in the winter will be your best friend against the cool ocean breezes.

Remember, the right clothing and gear can make or break your outdoor experience on Vancouver Island, ensuring you enjoy every moment, come rain or shine.

Photo Gallery:

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Discover new places and find your way around Vancouver Island. Many areas do not have cell service so maps and guidebooks can be very helpful for the curious.

FAQ:

HOW DO I GET TO SAN JOSEF BAY?
To get to the Cape Scott Trailhead, start by driving Highway 19 north. Just before the highway enters Port Hardy, turn left onto Holberg Road. The road quickly turns to gravel.

The remaining 60+km is on rough gravel and active logging roads, so small cars are often seen but not always recommended and be prepared for large logging trucks.
Directions – Google Maps

ARE DOGS ALLOWED?
Dogs are permitted in San Josef Bay area only and must be leashed at all times. Dogs are prohibited in all other areas of the provincial park, including the North Coast Trail.

HOW DIFFICULT IS THE TRAIL IN?
For such a remote location, the trail is wide and well-maintained—an easy hike.

Experience The Area
Dakota-576-airplane-crash-hike-north-vancouver-island
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Dakota Crash Site

A challenging 2-hour hike to a WWII airplane crash hertiage site with rope sections and lookout points along the way. Take a sombre visit to this protected heritage site as a memorial to the pilots lost that fateful night.
Sea Stacks San josef bay cape scott provincial park
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San Josef Bay

Touted as the most beautiful beach on Vancouver Island, San Josef Bay is a must for any north island visitor
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Little Huson Caves

Little Huson Cave Regional Park, nestled on Northern Vancouver Island. This hidden gem boasts a large unique river cave and rock formations
SanJosefbay
Without a doubt, one of the most amazing things to see at San Josef Bay are the sea stacks. The sea stacks at San Josef Bay a...

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Original Author:

Modified: January 3, 2024
Last Visit: June 11, 2023

Thank you for visiting – I hope you found the information you were looking for at VIBL (Vancouver Island Bucket List) please continue to discover all of the great places that makes Vancouver Island so great! 

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We love Vancouver 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! 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 .

Disclaimer:
The information on this website should not be taken as accurate, complete or up-to-date. Please check and look into the information yourself. We do not assume any liabilities for the use of this information. It is unreasonable to rely solely upon the information from this website. 

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