Nestled within the heart of Vancouver Island, Port Alberni is more than just a gateway to the Pacific; it’s a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. With its unique blend of majestic mountains, serene lakes, and verdant forests, this region boasts a myriad of outdoor activities awaiting every type of nature lover.
The Allure of Alberni Valley
Centuries ago, glacial movements sculpted what we now recognize as the Alberni Valley, crafting a natural playground for outdoor adventurers. Today, this valley stands as a cornerstone in British Columbia’s outdoor tourism, beckoning travellers with its untamed beauty and diverse activities. From hiking, kayaking, fishing, river tubing, camping under the stars, mountain biking, wildlife viewing, rock climbing and bouldering, there’s an adventure waiting in Port Alberni for everyone and anyone. This article will outline each of these awesome outdoor activities and where you can find them in our very own Port Alberni.
Hiking and Trekking
Popular Hiking Trails
Fossli Park: Nestled on the south side of Stirling Arm on Sproat Lake, Fossli Park is a serene oasis located just west of Port Alberni on Vancouver Island. Wander through ancient trees and revel in panoramic views. This 30-minute scenic trail guides visitors to a historic homestead site beside the lake. Once there, a sprawling grassy expanse and a gentle pebble beach offer the perfect respite.
Mount Arrowsmith: Mount Arrowsmith, the tallest peak on Southern Vancouver Island, is a haven for hikers who crave both challenge and beauty. A challenging 6.0 km hike with a 1,007m elevation gain, Mount Arrowsmith rewards hikers with a stunning view. Although the trail can be enjoyed year round, snow makes the ascent difficult and should only be attempted by experienced winter hikers.
Log Train Trail: Immerse yourself in a gentle, historic route perfect for families. The Log Train Trail is a testament to the region’s rich logging history. Originally designed for transporting massive logs by rail, this trail has since been transformed into a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. Spanning approximately 25 kilometers, hikers, bikers, and horse riders can traverse gentle terrains dotted with remnants of old rail infrastructure, providing a unique blend of nature and history.
Hiking Safety Tips
- Be wildlife-aware; travel in groups in bear country.
- Familiarize yourself with trail etiquettes. Stay on the trail to preserve the local fauna.
- Always pack essential gear: map, compass, water, and a first aid kit.
Sproat Lake Activities
Dive into the pristine waters of Sproat Lake. Located in the central part of Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Sproat Lake was traditionally called “Kleecoot” by the local indigenous population, a name signifying “wide open.” The lake, with its unique cross-like shape consisting of four arms, stretches for more than 25 kilometers and boasts a shoreline of nearly 91 kilometers. Whether you’re kayaking amidst the morning mist, paddleboarding under the midday sun, or taking a rejuvenating swim, the lake promises tranquility and excitement in equal measure.
Fishing in Port Alberni
Port Alberni, often dubbed the “Salmon Capital of the World,” is a dream destination for anglers. Its location at the head of Alberni Inlet makes it a prime spot for salmon runs, particularly during the summer months when chinook, coho, and sockeye salmon are abundant. Beyond salmon, the freshwater lakes and rivers around Port Alberni teem with trout and steelhead, providing year-round fishing opportunities. Whether you’re casting off from the shore, venturing out on a boat, or fly-fishing in serene rivers, the rich waters of Port Alberni promise both novices and seasoned fishermen unforgettable experiences, all against the backdrop of British Columbia’s breathtaking landscapes.
River Tubing on Stamp River
From July to August, when the sun casts its warm glow and the water runs at the perfect pace, Stamp River becomes a favorite destination for river tubing. Both residents and tourists delight in launching their tubes into its inviting current, letting the gentle flow carry them on a picturesque journey down the scenic river. Kick off your floating adventure at the Alberni Fish and Game Club on Sportsman Road and conclude downstream at Paper Mill Dam Park. While adventurers have the freedom to start or end their float anywhere between these markers, it’s advisable to stick to this established path. Straying could expose them to rapid currents and other potential dangers.
Camping Under the Stars
Best Campgrounds and RV Parks
China Creek Campground: Experience an immersive Vancouver Island camping experience on the Alberni Inlet with stunning oceanfront to forested tent and RV sites. Guests enjoy an expansive and peaceful natural beach. World class fishing and hiking is just around the corner. Campground amenities include a playground, bike park, onsite washrooms with showers, coin operated laundry services and a full service marina for those seeking more waterfront adventures.
Arrowvale Campground & Riverside Retreat: Dive into farm life and riverside camping. Guests can pick from scenic riverside camp-sites and two luxurious cedar cottages on Arrowvale’s stunning 67 acres of land. The campground is located near Collins Farm, which produces grass fed beef, local polyfloral honey, as well as fresh pumpkins and delectable Maple syrup seasonally.
Tips for First-time Campers
- Essentials first: waterproof tent, sleeping bag, and a portable stove.
- Prioritize campfire safety; always douse flames before sleeping.
- Store food correctly, away from wildlife.
Discover mountain biking in the Alberni Valley. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned exert, Port Alberni’s 150 km of mountain biking trails has something for everyone.
Fir Baby Trail: For beginners or intermediate bikers, this trail has everything you’re looking for. This winding 2km forested trail crosses several creeks and is known for its fast turns. Bikers can find the best access from the top of the Ship Creek Trail.
Log Train Trail: This trek ranges from beginner to advanced. Located along the foot of the Beaufort Range, the main section of the trail stretches for 25 kilometers. If you’re looking for a shorter journey, The Roger Creek section offers several entry and exit points, so you can pick and choose which section you prefer.
Citizens Climb & Resurrection: These two trails offer an experience for intermediate to advanced bikers. The Citizens Climb, as the name suggests, is mostly uphill and can be accessed from the Log Train Trail. Bikers journey 3km and climb 184m. Once you complete the Citizens route, you will see a sign for Resurrection. After climbing Citizens, Resurrection is a satisfying 1.5km loop with lots of ups and downs, several ladder bridges, rock rolls and some fun flow.
If you’re excited to experience mountain biking but you don’t have your own equipment Take Off Adventure Rentals is here for you. Located in Coombs in central Vancouver Island, Take Off Rentals is right on the way to Port Alberni and just about anywhere else on the island. Take Off doesn’t stop at mountain bikes; if you’re looking for kayaks or paddleboards, they have them too.
Port Alberni Wildlife Viewing
Bird Watching Hotspots
With over 200 species in the region, enthusiasts can spot species like Pacific Wrens, Northern Pygmy Owls, or even the majestic Bald Eagle and many, many more. Some top bird watching spots include the Somass Estuary, Burde Street Ponds, McCoy Lake, and the Taylor River Estuary, which flows into the west end of Sproat Lake.
Alberni Inlet Marine Excursions
Board a boat and set sail! From playful seals to majestic orcas, the inlet is teeming with marine life. Check out the Lady Rose Marine tours to sail along the majesty Port Alberni Inlet to historic Bamfield and experience the spectacular sights. Bring your binoculars!
Best Times and Places for Wildlife Photography
Port Alberni offers abundant opportunities for wildlife photography, capturing the essence of British Columbia’s rich biodiversity. One of the prime spots is the Sproat Lake area, especially during early mornings and late afternoons, when animals are most active and the light is soft and golden. Golden hours, dawn and dusk are prime. Here, birdwatchers can capture images of diverse species, from eagles to songbirds. The banks of the Stamp River, particularly during salmon spawning seasons, present chances to photograph bears and other predators attracted by the fish. The lush forests surrounding Port Alberni are also teeming with deer, raccoons, and even elusive cougars. For the best results, photographers should consider visiting during transitional seasons like spring and fall, when wildlife is on the move and the backdrop is painted with vibrant colors.
Rock Climbing and Bouldering
Mount Arrowsmith: Tackle Vancouver Island’s highest peak just south of Port Alberni. The Time Machine route combines face climbing with a fun gymnastic overhanging crux pitch.
Williamson’s Lake: Ideal for bouldering aficionados. Williams Lake’s Esler Bluffs Rock Climbing offers free climbing on the bluffs. Most of the bolted routs are along the more north facing walls with some longer, sport multi pitch along the backside. Although its mainly sport climbing, some crags can be top-roped.
Beginner’s Guide to Climbing in Alberni
Remember, safety first. Always use helmets, harnesses, and ropes. Understand basic techniques, from grip to body posture. If you are new to rock climbing, go with an experienced friend or guide.
Snowshoeing and Cross-country Skiing
The snowy embrace of Port Alberni’s winters offers a unique perspective. While Port Alberni on Vancouver Island is traditionally celebrated for its lush landscapes, waterways, and warmer climates, it does offer some opportunities for winter sports enthusiasts, particularly in the colder months.
The highest peak in the southern part of Vancouver Island, Mount Arrowsmith, offers some trails for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Though it’s primarily known for hiking, the upper altitudes receive a good amount of snowfall, making it suitable for winter sports. Parts of the Log Train Trail can be suitable for snowshoeing during the winter, especially after a heavy snowfall.
Winter Wildlife Viewing
In the absence of the green foliage of summer, wildlife enthusiasts can spot the brown or grey coats of animals much easier as they contrast against the white snow. In the winter, keep an eye out for a diverse array of wildlife. You might spot bald eagles, waterfowl like cormorants, herons, peregrine falcons, and even snowy owls. Terrestrial creatures such as lynx, wolves, marten, sea otter, bighorn sheep, snowshoe hare, cougars, deer, elk, and moose might also make an appearance. And if you venture near the water, there’s a chance to see Orcas, various whale species, porpoises, dolphins, sea lions, as well as harbour and elephant seals.
Concluding Thoughts on Outdoor Adventures in Port Alberni
Port Alberni, with its untamed landscapes and myriad adventures, is more than a destination; it’s an experience. Are you looking for hiking? Water activities like kayaking, fishing, or river tubing? Camping under the stars or mountain biking? Hoping to commune with nature through wildlife viewing? Needing some rock climbing or bouldering? Whatever you’re looking for, there’s an adventure waiting for you in Port Alberni. As we tread its paths or sail its waters, a gentle reminder to always respect nature ensures that this paradise remains unspoiled for generations to come.
Looking to make Port Alberni home? Don’t hesitate to contact our team.