If you love forest-bathing and spending time in nature whenever you can, this list is for you. While Metro Vancouver has plenty of urban forests to explore, we’re also just a stone’s throw away from some of the oldest trees in North America. So with that in mind, here are 9 ancient forests you can explore in BC this summer and beyond.
We’re starting off with undoubtedly one of the most well-known ancient around – the Great Bear Rainforest, which happens to be one of the largest temperate rainforests on the planet. What’s more, the region is home to some of the most biodiverse plants and animals on Earth, which means visitors may get a glimpse of everything from thousand-year-old cedars to diverse marine life, to the rare white-coloured ‘Spirit Bears,’ for which the rainforest is named.
Where: Kitimat-Stikine C, BC
Ancient Forest/Chun T’oh Whudujut Provincial Park might be one of the newest provincial parks out there, but it’s home to some of the oldest trees funnily enough. Located between Prince George and McBride, the park offers visitors the chance to hike the Ancient Forest trail, bringing you past towering thousand-year-old western redcedars, in addition to a biodiverse range of plants, mosses lichens, and fungi.
Park visitors can choose between the 450-metre-long universally accessible boardwalk and the 2.3 km boardwalk leading to the magnificent “Big” Tree, Tree Beard, and Radies Tree. Oh, and a beautiful cascading waterfall to top off the magical experience.
Where: Prince George and McBride on Highway 16, BC
Spanning a total of 250,000 hectares, Strathcona Park offers nature enthusiasts and adventurers plenty of rugged mountains, ancient forests, alpine meadows, and crystal-clear lakes to explore. Hikers can backpack through an extensive network of trails along riverside paths, or challenge themselves at summit ascents, like Golden Hinde. The latter offers the most daring explorers stunning panoramic views from its summit.
Where: Westmin Road, Comox-Strathcona D, BC
This park is truly a forested sanctuary, and home to some of the world’s largest spruce trees, some of which reach heights of over 95 metres! There are also ancient, gnarled cedars to take in that are estimated to be well over 1,000 years old. And nestled below? A diverse array of flora and fauna that can only flourish in an ecosystem that’s remained undisturbed for hundreds of years.
Where: 20 km northwest of Port Renfrew, BC
From high upland plateaus to the exciting rapids of the Grand Canyon – there are plenty of natural wonders to enjoy at Scatter River – but its old-growth spruce forests remain at the top of the list. Here, visitors may spot moose, grizzlies, Rocky Mountain elk, and even long-eared bats.
In addition to being ideally located along the Liard River, the park is also adjacent to one of the most significant hot springs in Canada: The 1082-hectare Liard River Hotsprings Provincial Park.
Where: Liard River Corridor, BC
If you’re up for a more remote adventure, Dall River Old Growth Park along Dall River (300 km west of Fort Nelson) is home to ancient white spruces, situated in the stunning Cassiar Mountains. Visitors can explore the area on foot, horseback, or by pursuing fishing opportunities. The ultimate backcountry adventure.
Where: Dall River, BC
As the first Tribal Park in BC, Big Tree Trail holds special significance in our province. The trail was originally created by Tofino artist Adrian Dorst and his friends back in 1984 in an effort to prevent Meares Island from being logged.
Now, the trail is under the stewardship of the Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Parks Guardians, who have ensured that the island’s ancient red-cedar forests remain protected. Along the 3 km trail, hikers will find towering red cedars dating back 1,500 years, as well as the famed Hanging Garden Tree, which measures over 18 metres in circumference.
Where: Meares Island, BC
Situated inside MacMillan Park is Cathedral Grove, a majestic old-growth forest featuring ancient Douglas fir and cedar trees with international significance – some of which are over 800 years old! Walking through this enchanting forest, you’ll feel like you’re travelling back in time.
Note that the park is currently closed to visitors.
Where: 452 Alberni Hwy, Nanaimo, BC
Last but certainly not least, we come to Juan de Fuca Park on the southwestern coast of Vancouver Island. While it might be more well-known for its botanical beach and rich tide pools to uncover, the park also has over 47 km of wilderness trails to explore, and some of them lead to some of the most spectacular protected old-growth in the province.
Where: Near Port Renfrew, BC
And that’s a wrap on some simply breathtaking ancient forests to explore in BC. Make sure to leave no trace behind during your visit, and hug a tree while you’re there!
For more info on the preservation of old-growth forests in BC, you can visit the province’s 2020-2024 roadmap.