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Sunrise at Wild Pacific Trail, the Coast of Vancouver Island in Ucluelet. The waves crash long the rocky shoreline and several small rocky outcrops are in the water.

6 Forest Bathing Hideaways on Vancouver Island

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Wild Pacific Trail | Tourism Vancouver Island/Ben Giesbrecht

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It’s no wonder experts call it forest bathing. Time spent retreating in British Columbia’s temperate rainforests will cleanse your mind and spirit, and relax you as you let the nourishment of soothing surroundings seep in. We call this the British Columbia Effect, and as soon as you immerse yourself in the wonders of our rainforests, you’ll understand what we mean. 

On your next visit to the provincial capital of Victoria, consider stepping out of the city and onto one of the hundreds of trails that weave through the natural glories of Vancouver Island. Forest bathing in this area will enliven a new perspective that comes from the deep somatic experiencing of lush landscapes and the life they support within. Discover new vistas, get intimate with hundred-year-old Douglas firs, and be on the ready for wildlife sightings (the odd bear cub and mama bear, maybe?), as you mindfully make your way on a forest walk, taking in BC’s unique natural scenery. Here are our top forest bathing spots to consider on your next trip over to Vancouver Island. 

Mount Douglas at sunset with the town on the hillside. Tall blades of grass are in the foreground of the image.
Mount Douglas | @rhyslawsn

Mount Douglas Park

Located 20 minutes northeast of downtown Victoria, the park boasts thick forests, lots of ferns, and a variety of wildflowers in the spring, as well as a Garry Oak meadow. Hike up to the summit for gorgeous 360-degree views of the surrounding area, and follow the trail to the shores of scenic Cordova Bay for a deep and refreshing breath of ocean air.

Cathedral Grove | Graeme Owsianski

MacMillan Provincial Park

You’ll likely want to visit the town of Coombs, 176 kilometres (109 miles) north of Victoria along the Island Highway, to see the ever-popular “goats on a roof,” but know there is much to be missed if you don’t explore farther. Just fifteen minutes west, you’ll find MacMillan Provincial Park. Stop by aptly named Cathedral Grove, a sacred place that commemorates the natural history of Vancouver Island. Spend time in the company of 800-year-old Douglas firs and fragrant cedars, and be moved by a certain timelessness that big nature evokes in us all.

A person walks across a metal suspension bridge high above the forest floor at Elk Falls Provincial Park in Campbell River. The sun is setting. A rocky outcrop with trees is on the other side.
Elk Falls Provincial Park | Jordan Dyck

Elk Falls Provincial Park

Feel the mind-opening effects of nature by taking a walk through the old-growth forests of Elk Falls Provincial Park, a few hours north of Victoria via The Island Highway. Traverse the park on the Millennium Trail toward the suspension bridge and a gushing waterfall, a great place to pause and reflect on the scale and power of nature’s influences.

San Josef Bay | Shayd Johnson

Cape Scott Provincial Park

Travellers exploring the island as far north as Port Hardy, may want to go a tad farther to Cape Scott Provincial Park. Follow the road for about 70 kilometres (44 miles) to the northwestern tip of the island to the Cape Scott Trail, a challenging 48-kilometre (30-mile) return-trip hike that follows the route of an old telegraph line to the Cape Scott Lighthouse. Hike through old-growth Sitka spruce forests and past rocky promontories, salt marshes, jagged headlands, and white sand beaches that punctuate the rugged coastline. See the remains of 19th-century Danish settlements along the way, and keep an eye out for sea birds, seals, sea lions, and sea otters. The area’s scenic contrasts are sure to stop you midstep and remind you to take it in all the more deeply.

Sunset at Amphitrite Lighthouse at the Wild Pacific Trail in Ucluelet. The lighthouse has a red top level and two white levels. The spray from the ocean is crashing into the shoreline.
Amphitrite Lighthouse | Ben Giesbrecht

Wild Pacific Trail

Less than an hour from the island’s surf mecca of Tofino, the spectacularly scenic Wild Pacific Trail in Ucluelet, which will most definitely leave you with a fuller understanding of the concept of “wild.” The trail offers diverse options for experiencing forest bathing—at various levels of physical intensity.

Start with the Lighthouse Loop Trail, a gentle 2.6-kilometre (1.6-mile) walk that passes by—you guessed it!—an old lighthouse, at Amphitrite Point, which dates back to 1915 and still remains active (the area gets more than 260 cm (69 in) of rainfall a year and is a well-known spot for storm-watching). When you get there, take a moment to consider the sheer power of nature’s forces, before you continue on. The next, more challenging section of the trail, runs one way along the edge of dramatic rocky cliffs, offering fantastic views of the powerful Pacific Ocean pounding the shore. The final section of the trail includes a short loop through an old-growth forest of Sitka spruce, western hemlock, and giant red cedars. Notice your energy settle as you bask in the presence of these old-growth trees, many of which have witnessed the coming and going of seasons for more than 800 years.

China Beach | Tourism Vancouver Island/Jordan Dyck

Juan de Fuca Marine Trail

You can access the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail by car from several points on Highway 14, along the rugged west coast of Vancouver Island. The 47-kilometre (29-mile) trail feels quite remote despite its accessibility, making even a small section of it a worthwhile forest bathing endeavour. This extraordinarily beautiful trail features pleasing ocean and mountain views, waterfalls, grottoes, old-growth forests, curious rock formations, and estuaries, and there are many opportunities to see a wealth of intertidal life at close range if you stay present and keep your eyes open. It’s also a great alternative to the world-renowned, considerably more challenging (and far less accessible), West Coast Trail trek that runs along the same side of the island.

Know Before You Go

No matter what outdoor activity you are planning, you must be prepared. Remember to follow the three Ts—trip planning, training, and taking the essentials. AdventureSmart is a great resource to get informed before heading outdoors.

Road work and wildfires can affect travel plans during the summer. Check DriveBC and BC Wildfire Service before you go to plan your journey.

Originally published in August, 2019.

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