Run the Alberni Inlet Trail

Rate this Adventure Canada Alberni Inlet Trailhead

Added by Sarah Seads

Point to point coastal singletrack heaven. The most beautiful secret on Vancouver Island is hidden in the Alberni Inlet.  

I have lived on Vancouver Island my entire life yet I had never heard about this world class trail until last summer.  A 24km point to point coastal trail that travels the length of the Alberni Inlet from the coast right to the town? Through paradise meadows, along sun drenched bluffs, past waterfalls and over aqua marine rivers?  Yup. That's right.  It turns out that one of Vancouver Island’s most beautiful secrets is hidden in the Alberni Inlet.  

There are 3 stages to the Alberni Inlet Trail. From Port Albernin, Stage 1 starts right in town and follows the Inlet southwest. Stage 2 starts at China Creek and continues down the Inlet. Stage 3 is intended to continue towards the coast, however, it is incomplete and needs some maintenance at this time.  So, for the time being, stick to Stages 1 and 2.  Although it takes a bit more planning, I highly recommend exploring these trails as a point to point!  Set up a shuttle- it is way more fun and you can cover double the terrain when you are only going one way!

Alberni Inlet Trail Stage 2

Distance: 10kms

Run and Photos Time: 1 hour 10mins

Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

Terrain: Undulating single track with some short technical sections requiring scrambling over rock.  Mostly easy, flowy beautiful singletrack.

Surface: Dirt, rock.

Users: Hikers, runners.

Highlights: Beautiful coastal forest, inlet views, rocky bluffs, wildflowers, waterfalls, coves, rivers, bridges, wildlife.

Access: North end China Creek Park.  South end Franklyn River Road - Detailed directions found here.

What an absolutely beautiful trail!  Very few people on Vancouver Island know about this trail network and ever fewer tend to make it out to this Stage of the Alberni Inlet Trail.  

There is nothing quite like running a point to point route, and this leg of the Alberni Inlet trail was absolutely breathtaking.  With very little elevation gain, this leg of the trail was on mostly flat terrain but had a few small ups and downs and twists and turns to keep things interesting.  No major climbs.

The trail travels through mixed coastal forest of mature second growth hemlocks, douglas firs and cedars draped in 'Old Man’s Beard' and surrounded by a lush floor of sword ferns. Within a few minutes you get your first glimpse of the Inlet and the action of a working ocean- with logging operations bustling about along the shores.  The trail follows part of the CNPR grade and it makes for a very enjoyable run or walk in the woods.  Early morning sunlight comes streaming through the branches to the east.  The sounds of industry and activity come from the Inlet to the west.  All the while the trail rolls northward towards Alberni town, past dancing waterfalls, over wild creeks, into tiny coves and through gorgeous sun drenched meadows filled with spring wildflowers. Gorgeous!

The trail was constantly surprising us with it's changing ecosystems.  In a matter of minutes it switches from cool, lush fern gulley’s to hot, dry rocky bluffs home to red twisted arbutus groves.  The variety and beauty took us by surprise and we had trouble running for more than a kilometre before being forced to stop and take out our cameras...again.  And again...and again!  Don't plan on setting any records on this trail because you will need to stop over and over to take it all in.

The Stage 2 trail connects with the Stage 1 trail at the China Creek Regional Park parking area so it is possible to leave a car here if you are keen to explore one Stage at a time.  

Alberni Inlet Trail Stage 1

Distance: 14kms

Run & Photos Time: 2 hours 30 mins

Difficulty:  Moderate with some steep climbs

Terrain: Undulating single track with some technical sections requiring scrambling over rock or using a rope. A couple of good climbs including one big trek up 300metres to 'The Lookout'- well worth the climb!  Mostly undulating beautiful singletrack.

Surface: Dirt, rock.

Users: Hikers, runners.

Highlights: Big 'lookout view', beautiful coastal forest, inlet views, rocky bluffs, wildflowers, waterfalls, coves, rivers, bridges, wildlife.

Access: North end Ship Road.  South end China Creek Park - Detailed directions found here.

Once the world finds out about this trail, it won't be a secret for long!  Most of this trail travels through working forest, with only three very short sections of logging road.  It really is point to point, single track heaven.  This Stage has more elevation change than Stage 2, but the views are always worth the climbs.

The Stage 1 trail (continuing from south to north) begins by touring through the lush forest of China Creek regional park.  Wow!  Dropping down to the Creek is a magical journey through more fantastic coastal forest, waist deep ferns and an explosion of green life.  The spring show is spectacular on this trail!  Soon the trail arrives at China Creek and crosses a bridge over to the other side.  What a beautiful river.  Deep pools of aqua marine water, and easy access to perfect swimming holes, make this a must 'dip' spot on a hot summer day.

Another view point, another wildflower meadow, another babbling brook another photo shoot...we spent half of our time taking photos it seems!

At a narrow point on the Inlet (Stamp Narrows), the trail pops out at 'Lone Tree Point' a lovely spot beside a lighthouse marker.  We stopped to take a photo, of course, and hit the deck when a massive young eagle nearly grazed the tops of our heads en route to his fishing hole.  Swooping down right in front of us with talons out to reach for his catch.  A-Mazing.  Again.  Geez, this trail doesn't know when to quit.  Love it!

After Lone Tree Point, the trail passes an old abandoned Boy Scout camp before reaching it's only real 'choice' in the route.  Head left and continue along the Inlet and a moderately steep, but longer, climb, by-passing 'the lookout'.  Head right and go directly up the guts to the top.  If you have come this far, you must go up to ‘the lookout’!  Once on top, you will receive a panoramic view of the Inlet, Port Alberni town and the giants of Strathcona Park including the Comox Glacier and Red Pillar.

The final stretch of trail offers brand new views of the town of Port Alberni, far far below.  Looking down, you can see how much elevation you are about to lose in a very short period of time (or gain if you are coming up the other way:).  For downhill lovers, this final stretch of Stage 1 is a dream- down down down on hikers switchbacks the trail flows on and on forever it seems.  So fun!  Maybe not so fun from the other direction hahaha!  But the climb up to the look out would definitely be worth it either way.  Once you reach the flats, the trail suddenly pops out at the Ships Creek Road trailhead and hopefully your car or a friend is waiting there for you.

The Alberni Inlet Trail is truly a world class adventure that showcases the beauty of coastal life on Vancouver Island.  This is only one of many fantastic trails in the area and there are many more adventures waiting in the Alberni Valley and beyond on Vancouver Island.  

Happy Trails!

SS

Pack List

  • Camera and a friend!
  • Hiking or running gear
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Activities:

Fitness, Hiking, Photography, Running

Skill Level:

Intermediate

Season:

Year Round

Trail Type:

Point-to-Point

Distance:

14.9 Miles

Elev. Gain:

3937 Feet

Features:

Dog Friendly
Forest
Scenic
Wildflowers
Wildlife

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Added by Sarah Seads

I love to play in the woods and climb to the top of things! Living wild on #vanisle. Let's go on an adventure!

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