Getting Wild on North Vancouver Island – In the Woods!

January 2014

Hiking North Vancouver Island

Our last full day on North Vancouver Island was slated to be spent hiking. When we awoke, the skies were gray and it was drizzling over Ecoscape Cabins, where we were staying… not the ideal hiking weather. Cathy, with North Island Daytrippers and our guide for the day, arrived to pick us up and asked if we had rain gear with us. “No,” I replied, being optimistic. I sincerely hoped that the rain would hold off!

After an hour or so drive along bumpy logging roads deep into the forest, we arrived at Cape Scott Provincial Park. The destination for our day’s hike – San Josef Bay and the sea stacks.

San Josef BayCathy led the way, and the hike was pretty easy. The trail is very well-maintained, with few inclines and lots of foliage upon which to gaze. Cathy works part-time in the park, and is very knowledgeable of the different life that lives within the park – both plant and animal. Prior to embarking on our hike, she warned us of bears, and what to do should we come upon one.

During our walk along the trail, we came upon the remains of one of the island’s first settlements, and the park’s namesake. As Cathy described the buildings that once stood where trees and plants have taken over, I just couldn’t imagine living in someplace so remote. Today, North Vancouver Island is pretty remote, with little people living full-time in the area, and spotty cell phone service. Now, think back about 100 years…

We kept on, though, making our way to San Josef Bay. We didn’t pass anyone on the trail, but once we reached the bay, happened upon a handful or so people enjoying the scene, and some were camping in for the (chilly) night. The clouds had broken, and it really was quite spectacular. We popped a squat on a few logs someone had arranged around a camp fire pit, and ate the lunch Cathy had packed for us.

Sea Stacks Vancouver IslandThe sea stacks just around the bay’s bend were our main attraction. Christy from was especially keen on photographing the landscape – they truly are photogenic. I even grabbed a few shots I can be proud of!

After some time, we started on our way back to the car for the ride back to civilization. This time on the trail, we happened upon three German men, one of whom lives on the island, and the other two his friends visiting for a few days. We chatted a bit, and let them go on so that they – and we – could enjoy the scenery on our own.

I’ll never forget the look on one of the German’s faces as they approached a bend – stunned shock. “Bear!” he mustered as he pointed ahead.

Naturally, I had to take a look. And sure enough, there was a large black bear standing in the middle of the trail, taking a look at the six people in front of him. (Afterwards, it struck me as funny – it seemed as if the bear were standing there waiting for his to take his picture, which no one did…I think we were all too stunned!)

My instinct upon seeing the bear – look him in the eyes, turn around and start walking back from whence we came. Exactly opposite of everything one should do when encountering a bear! Fortunately, Cathy, the pro, came to the front and scared the bear off with shouts and stick waving to make herself look bigger – nothing aggressive, nor physical. “I don’t carry bear spray (like mace),” she said later. “You have to be too close for that to work.” Upon her approach, the bear scampered off into the woods and we all breathed a sigh of relief and we continued on our way.

Our hike to San Josef Bay held a bit more adventure than I could’ve imagined, and was just a peek into North Vancouver Island’s true wilderness. I can’t wait to get back and explore the island more, both by water and by land!


Ecoscape Cabins, in Port Hardy, are the area’s newest accommodations and offers cozy, contemporary, tastefully decorated cabins complete with WiFi and the feel of a wilderness getaway.

Susan B. Barnes is a travel writer and photographer. A proud Army brat, she was born on a military base in Belgium and has been on the go ever since. While Susan has traveled across the United States and into Canada, she has also managed to visit such European cultural hot spots as Paris, London, Ireland, Athens and Rome, and has even explored the second largest reef in the world off the coast of Belize and the cloud forest of Venezuela, among many other exotic locales. Having learned to rock climb in Yosemite National Park, surf in La Jolla and swim with whale sharks in Mexico, she’s always looking forward to her next adventure. Be sure to follow Susan on Twitter to keep up with her latest adventures @travlin_girl.

2 thoughts on “Getting Wild on North Vancouver Island – In the Woods!

  1. It’s been 30 years since I’ve hiked the trail to San Josef Bay & I can’t wait to do it again! We used to jump or crawl over the logs but since then it has been made much more accessible. I’ve been trying to get there for the last few years; hopefully this will be the year!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.