Note: Always check for trail closures before setting out. Some trails may be closed due to conditions or covid.
Vancouver Island is 31,285 km² and is home to thousands of kilometres of trail. It’s world-famous for the multi-day West Coast Trail but has so many more options for quick day hikes.
Here are six spectacular day hikes on Vancouver Island that you can complete in roughly 2-6 hours. I’m not saying they’re the best day hikes on the island, but a couple of them probably are.
East Sooke Regional Park
East Sooke Regional Park has over 50 kilometres of trail. From old logging road that you can jaunt four abreast on, to the very craggy single track Coast Trail, there are options for all abilities. The park is home to petroglyphs, a heritage orchard, dozens of secluded beaches, and a wheelchair assessable picnic area at Aylard Farm.
From the bluffs, you get outstanding views over the Juan de Fuca Strait. With so many options for hiking and picnic areas, there is limitless day hiking to do here.
Wild Pacific Trail
The Wild Pacific Trail in Ucluelet is a community-led project that has been going on for over 20 years. This trail has everything you could want in a coastal trail — there’s a lighthouse, a shipwreck, old-growth forest, incredible bluffs, storm watching, and beach access.
The total length is 8 kilometres over two sections. But there are a lot of access points so you can get on and off the trail and make your own loops as needed. Another unique feature of this trail is the stroller detours. These are lower grade bypasses that makes it easier for strollers to wind their way through the rainforest.
Cowichan River Footpath
The Cowichan River Footpath was initially built by the Cowichan Fish and Game Association between 1960 and 1969 to give fishermen access to the Cowichan River. Today it is a part of the Cowichan River Provincial Park and runs a full 20 kilometres.
Because it was built for this purpose, the trail does provide excellent river access. It passes through forests, meadows and bluffs making it a really nice and diverse hike. Because the Great Trail also runs through this area and connects with the footpath in many sections, you can easily create hiking loops if you don’t want to double back.
In the past, by parking at the Skutz falls parking lot, to take the footpath out and return on The Great Trail.
Mount Benson is a bit of a grind, but also an excellent day hike. The mountain is the backdrop of Nanaimo and can reach its summit of 1,019 metres in approximately two hours. It’s a slog, but the views from the top are well worth it as they usually are. On one side you get views overlooking Nanaimo and the Gulf Islands, and on the other, you get a never-ending forested landscape.
You can start your hike at the new parking lot on Benson View Road. There are lots of trails of there to explore that will get you to the summit.
Ripple Rock Trail
Ripple Rock is a 7.7 kilometre out and back hike near Campbell River. Ripple Rock was an underwater mountain in the Seymour Narrows that was exploded in 1958 to make a safer passage for ships.
The trail meanders through the forest, has a little beach action, offers some bluffs, and ejects you out on the rocks that overlook the Seymour Narrows. Depending on the tide you can watch the water eddy and swirl in the pass.
The trail is mostly single track and in good condition but is also a bit of a grind in places.
Upper Myra Falls
Upper Myra Falls is part of Strathcona Westmin Provincial Park, which is completely surrounded about Strathcona Park. You have to drive through the working mine to get to the trail head, which is also kind of neat.
The trail itself is 7.4 out and back hike to Upper Myra Falls. The falls are great but what I love about this trail is that the terrain is nice and soft and a bit of a cushion. The path is single-track the whole way and only has about 200 metres elevation throughout the entire trek.
The trails also winds through a lush west coast rainforest that has some old-growth in it. Everything is really green and fresh, and depending on the time of year, I bet it gets pretty wet. We went at the end of September, and it was great.
Lower Myra Falls is very popular with photographers, but it doesn’t really constitute a day hike as its only 1500 metres. You could do them both in a day.
So that’s just six hikes out of the hundreds of trails on this island. I’m sure I missed some local favourites, but these are just some that I like. Let me know what your favourites are or where I should go next.