Hike Castle Grove of the Upper Walbran River Valley
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Added by Chris Istace
This is the largest tract of un-logged Ancient temperate rainforest on Vancouver Island and home to the "Castle Giant" (one of Canada's largest Red Cedars ) as well as the Tolkien Giant and Mordor Tree. Enjoy remote secluded camping allowing a connection with nature and wildlife.
The opportunity to travel deep into a region where ancient forests still stand, telling their story of centuries past, can't be overlooked. One of the last remaining areas of such beauty and rarity still exists deep in the heart of the southern interior on Vancouver Island. This spot is known as the Upper Walbran River watershed and what is referred to as Castle Grove, home to the last 4% of remaining ancient temperate low level rainforest on Vancouver Island.
Its remote location, which requires back-road driving, makes this location rare and seldom visited. The best starting point for your journey is the town of Lake Cowichan. From here you will head south of the lake along South Shore Rd, past the towns of Messachie Lake and Honeymoon Bay and lastly Caycusse campground.
From here the road comes to the intersection with Caycusse Main logging road, where you will turn left (not right to Carmanah Prov Park). You will travel along for roughly 10km (6.2mi), then stay to the left at the fork in the road, now traveling along McClure Main logging road. Take the opportunity to stop at McClure Lake along the way if you wish for a tranquil spot and undoubtedly great fishing.
After about 8km (5mi), stay straight onto the Walbran Main logging road, following this and avoiding spur roads until roughly 15km (9.3mi) in, at which point you will turn right down the narrow spur road into the Walbran Valley. In 2km (1.2mi), after crossing the Walbran Bridge, you will reach the trailhead.
On either side of the Walbran Bridge there is ample room for parking while you are camping or hiking. Across the bridge, you will find a beautiful handmade information sign with maps and info on the boardwalks, trails and sights not to be missed on your hike.
To the left is the Nelson Mandela Trail, which takes you to the wild and awe-inspiring Mordor tree, and down to the Emerald Pools of the Walbran River. This is a short loop which offers swimming and exploring, as well as a communal area with large fire pit and room for a tent.
To the right and down the road from the info board is the not-to-be-missed Castle Grove Trail, which leads to the Upper and Lower Walbran Falls, as well as the famous Castle Giant red cedar. If visiting the full falls, the Castle Giant, and taking time for a lunch and photos, this loop should take about 3-4 hrs and is roughly 5km (3.1mi). The majority of this trail is on boardwalk in various states of repair or on natural trail, and has some seasonal water crossings.
There are camping options along the Lower Falls in roughed out, open patches in a serene setting along the river shoreline. One could also take the 6hr trail loop out to Anderson Lake (13km/8mi) for an overnight option and additional sightseeing.
This location is completely created through the generous efforts of the many volunteers who love this special place, and I am sure after you visit you will, too.
Detailed information including history on the area and precise driving instructions can be found at the Friends of the Carmanah Walbran website. A detailed map can be found here thanks to the Wilderness Committee.
- Full day pack with 10-essentials: due to remote location, there is no cell phone reception and you will be driving off-road, so be prepared for the unexpected
- Good footwear for mixed terrain with unstable footing
- Seasonally appropriate layers, including gaiters and rain gear if conditions are wet - it is a rainforest after all
- Bring enough food for 5 hrs hike plus 4 hrs travel, ample fresh water from river (bring water treatment tabs if you wish)
- BC Vancouver Island Backroads map book (ver 6 or higher), directions, compass and GPS
- Trip details and location, plus check-in time with friend or family at home
- Good clearance 2wd (4wd in poor road conditions) vehicle to reach trailhead and fueled to full
- Overnight camping gear if choosing an extended stay
Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.
Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More
Spring, Summer, Autumn
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