Looking for an unforgettable outdoor experience? Alberni Valley parks offer hiking and walking trails through majestic old-growth forests, camping alongside vast lakes and salmon-streams, quiet picnic areas, and almost every type of water sport.
Enter the Alberni Valley on scenic Highway 4, which passes through Cathedral Grove (MacMillan Provincial Park). Several paths wind among towering Douglas fir and Western red cedar, along the banks of the Cameron River and the shores of Cameron Lake. The oldest trees in this world-famous park sprouted about 800 ago, and measure 76 meters (250 ft) high and 9 meters (29 ft) in circumference. In the City of Port Alberni, enjoy a quiet moment at Rogers Creek Park. Turn left off Johnston Road on Adelaide to reach this little gem, which has a sheltered picnic area beneath beautiful old trees. The adjacent Kiwanis Water Park lets youngsters expend energy while cooling off on a hot summer day.
If you’re traveling in the late summer or fall, don’t miss the salmon run at Stamp Falls Provincial Park, where a short hiking trail skirts rushing rapids, tumbling waterfalls, and fish ladders, mounting to a high bluff where you can watch salmon swarming up the river to the ladders, as more ambitious fish jump the falls the old-fashioned way. Picnic or camp in the rainforest right beside the Stamp River, but keep an eye out for black bears that come to the river to fish. Turn right off Highway 4/River Road onto Beaver Creek Road, and drive several kilometers until you see the signs for Stamp Falls.
If you love water sports, you’ll love Sproat Lake Provincial Park, a few kilometers west of Port Alberni. The lake is shaped like a giant starfish, with four “arms” flowing out of its centre, and over 320 kilometres of forested lakeshore. A large day-use area includes beaches and picnic areas, and the boat launch gives access to kayakers, sailboarders, pleasure boats and water skiers. A short path leads to the site of prehistoric petroglyphs depicting various sea creatures. The park affords a close-up view of two huge Martin Mars water bombers, which can hold up to 27 tons of water, that are “parked” on the lake. The extensive campground accepts reservations.
Enjoy a quieter view of Sproat Lake minus the crowds at Fossli Provincial Park, on the other side of the lake. Hikers will enjoy a 30-minute walk from the parking area down to the beach through a lush old-growth forest, along the mossy banks of St. Andrew Creek. If you like peace and quiet, you’ve got a good chance of having the place to yourself, but the total absence of signage makes the park somewhat tricky to find. Access is via Stirling Arm Road off Highway 4 – best bet is to stop and ask the locals for precise directions, or get a backroads map.