You would need
over a week to hike the trails and see everything in Cape
Scott Provincial Park, located 60 km west of Port Hardy on a well-maintained
San Joseph Bay, Cape Scott
A good one-day
hike may be made to San Josef Bay (2.5 km one way), where
most backpackers set up on the sandy beach fronted by sea stacks.
"San Jo" is beautiful, with its wildlife marshes and acres
of sandy beaches - great wilderness exploring.
Hikers venturing further in should be properly equipped with backpacking
gear and food. More experienced hikers face an eight-hour slog through
some of the muddiest, most tortuous terrain of any trail in British
Columbia to reach Cape Scott, a distance of 27 km from the
parking lot. The heavier your pack, the less likely you are to be
swept away by the winds that brew around the cape, but don't count
on it. A storm once blew so hard that it turned the lighthouse here
No matter what time of year you choose to visit this park, come
equipped for storms. Carry a pair of high-top rubber boots in addition
to wearing waterproof hiking boots. Expect to spend considerable
amounts of time changing between the two. Be particularly careful
on boardwalk sections, which can be quite slippery. In winter months,
average rainfall is 22 to 35 cm per month, while in summer the average
lightens to 8 to 10 cm. A good map to carry is NTS # 1021/09 and
hydrographic chart # 3624 (Cape Cook to Cape Scott).
From the park's main parking lot, historic trails traverse the upland
areas in two directions, either north to Cape Scott or southwest
to San Josef Bay. In order not to be cut off from hiking routes
by incoming tides, be sure to carry and consult tide tables if you
are engaged in extended exploration along the shoreline. There are
more than 60 km of ocean frontage within the park, composed of rocky
headlands and promontories interspersed with wide, sandy beaches
such as at Nels bight.
The north coast extends about 18 km from Cape Scott to the park's
eastern boundary. It features three large bays at Experiment
Bight, Nels Bight, and Nissen Bight, where backcountry
explorers will find white sandy beaches interspersed with smaller
bays that have steeper gravel beaches.
The western (Pacific) coast is vulnerable to southwesterly storms,
which makes it a more rugged, exposed shoreline. The three sandy
beaches here at Guise, Hansen and Lowrie Bays
are smaller than the northern ones and are separated by long stretches
of rocky coast.
Shellfish occur in abundance and can be harvested at low tide from
the beach. Dig for razor, sand, mud, butter, and littleneck clams.
A feast on these and a taste of hot clam broth will help ward off
the chill while softening the memory of the trek. This park is home
to both wolves and bears; food should be well cached and the Safety
Guide to Bears should be observed.
Cape Scott's strategic location means that it is a natural gathering
place for migratory birds, particularly waterfowl, and sightings
include sandhill cranes, trumpeter swans, pelagic cormorants, snipes,
sandpipers, and plovers. Hansen Lagoon stretches for 5 km
inland from the west coast and forms a large saltwater marsh and
tidal mudflats where large numbers of birds gather.
The whole park is a naturalist's paradise, and is an area with an
immensely interesting history. Opened up by sturdy Danish Settlers
in the late 1890s, the remote and rugged area was the scene of much
toil, disillusion and hardship, as the settlers were gradually defeated
in their efforts to tame and homestead the land.
BC Parks has made a trail leading to the top of Mount St. Patrick,
which affords a magnificent view of the natural scenery. From here
the trail leads down to Sea Otter Cove, approximately 10 km (about
2-1/2 hours). Lowrie Bay is about 2 km further.
Numerous other trails exist to Hansen Lagoon, Fisherman Bay, Nissen
Bight, Nels Bight and Guise Bay. The Cape
Scott Lighthouse Trail and the Lowrie
Bay Trail are briefly described separately, as is the North
Coast Trail, which runs along beaches and through forest from
Shushartie Bay to Nissen Bight. At Nissen Bight it links up with
the original Cape Scott Trail
Hardy you can reach the start of these trails in 2 hours, travelling
west on the Holberg Road (Hwy 19) - about 65 km over rough roads.
From Holberg drive 3 km
to where the old road to CFB Holberg intersects, then follow San
Josef Main to the end, which is 500m past the entrance to the campground.
Click for companies that offer Hiking
& Backpacking services, or visit our Recreation
section for more information on Hiking and Backpacking in British
for Vancouver Island is provided in three superb Hiking Trails guides
by the Vancouver
Island Trails Information Society.