Traversing the many Vancouver Island trails has become an extremely popular activity over the last few years. The pandemic has made people more aware of how important getting out into nature is. And because there are so many trails available, the hardest part is often choosing a place to start. If you want a shorter walk, we’ve got you covered!
This article showcases some of the best Mid-Vancouver Island trails under 4 km. And these aren’t just any old hikes. All the trails mentioned below offer the walker/hiker something spectacular to view.
A note about the trail lengths. A loop trail provides the total km needed to complete the walk. If ‘loop trail’ is not mentioned, the kms will need to be doubled to make it back to the starting point. With that being said, all of the trails mentioned below are still under 4 km, even after being doubled.
Please note, any blue highlighted text you see links to more information about the location.
Vancouver Island Trails Under 1 km
Located on Forbidden Plateau Road just north of Courtenay, this spectacular waterfall is easily accessible. This trail is a leisurely 600-meter stroll to the falls. From fall through to spring, the waters rage through this area, much to the delight of white water enthusiasts. And the Summer months bring calmer glacial waters and a great place to swim.
You can drive to the very top of this mountain near Parksville, making your walk to the spectacular view only a few steps away. Take in the expansive view and watch for hawks and other raptors soar above you. If you do want a longer hike, start at the bottom and work your way up the 2.1 km trail.
This suspension bridge spanning the Englishman River in Parksville is a must-see and easily accessible from the parking area. This portion of the river is a popular spot during the summer, as the large rock below the bridge, called “The Nose,” provides a fun place to jump into the water. If you wish to make your walk a little longer, many trails are available to you after you cross the bridge.
A short 0.9km walk takes you to a birders paradise. The estuary is part of the Parksville-Qualicum Beach Wildlife Management Areas, comprising over 1,000 hectares of land lying between Craig Bay and the Little Qualicum River. This wildlife-rich area supports over 250 bird species, 23 mammals, all species of Pacific salmon, plus several amphibians and reptiles. The estuary is also a critical staging ground for the Brant Goose.
If history is your thing, make sure to stop at this Nanaimo Provincial Park. A five-minute walk around the clearly marked trail gives you access to several petroglyphs. They are moss-covered and hard to spot, but trying to find them is half the fun! A display board at the beginning shows you what you are looking for.
This historic Provincial Park in south Nanaimo gives us a unique glimpse into the world of mining. And, as well, the ability to view one of the last remaining coal tipples in North America. The tipple can be viewed right from the parking area, however, for a longer walk, I highly suggest continuing along the 1.2 km loop trail to view other mining artifacts.
Vancouver Island Trails Around 2 km
Located in Yellow Point, this 1 km trail leads you through a grove of Douglas Fir trees to a rocky oceanfront where you will find unique sandstone ledges and small tidal pools. Although wide enough for a stroller, this trail can be quite steep at times and often muddy.
This unique attraction near Port Alberni is popular for a good reason. Not only do you get to view a historic landmark, but at only 1.3 km, it’s also easy to get to! The area is a popular cooling-off spot during the hot summer months; however, for great water flow, go during the wet seasons (late fall to early spring).
Named for a gravel bar connecting the park to a large rock out in the water, Neck Point Park in North Nanaimo offers stunning ocean views. The rock off the gravel bar is the perfect location to sit and watch sea lions and, if you are lucky, sometimes even orcas as they pass by. The 1.5 km trail that runs through the park is mostly developed and consists of a few boardwalks (with stairs), lookouts, and information boards.
The Englishman River Falls loop is approximately 1.5 km long and crosses the river twice, delighting walkers with stunning canyon views below. Viewing areas and platforms are provided at various key locations throughout the park. This Provincial Park is found just outside of Parksville.
One of the most accessible locations to find an old-growth forest on Vancouver Island is MacMillan Provincial Park, otherwise known as Cathedral Grove. On the 1.6 km loop trail, visitors can stroll through giant Douglas fir trees, some more than 800 years old.
Vancouver Island Trails Under 4 km
This 25-meter high waterfall is an easy 1.8 km walk from the parking area on a clearly marked, relatively flat and well-maintained trail. A set of steep stairs leads you to the suspension bridge and lower viewing platform, providing you with the best vantage points of this beautiful waterfall near Campbell River.
The Abyss is a very large fissure or crack in the earth found near the south Nanaimo area. It’s approximately 50 cm wide, but no one knows how deep it goes. All around the Abyss, you can find other more minor earth cracks. It’s a unique geological formation one should see. If you go on this approximate 1.8 km trek, please keep dogs on a leash and young children close at hand.
Buttertubs Marsh is a bird and wildlife sanctuary just minutes from downtown Nanaimo. Spend an hour or so meandering along the flat and easy gravel trail, making sure to stop to enjoy the view. There are several observation decks on this 2km loop trail plus a tower for bird watching and viewing the body of water buzzing with activity.
The 2km Centennial loop trail found at Paradise Meadows is fully accessible and stroller-friendly. This short loop leads along a boardwalk, passing a beautiful meadow and one pretty pond. The entire Paradise Meadows loop is 4.2 km, but totally worthwhile if you are up for a longer trek.
A well-maintained, 2-kilometre loop trail explores the riverbank in this Port Alberni Provincial Park. The path passes by fish ladders and fast-moving rapids and is a popular location during the salmon run (fall). Several lookout points along the river offer excellent views of the salmon fighting their way up the rapids.
An easy 3km loop leads you through this park to view both the lower and upper waterfalls. Strategic lookout points are located along the trail offering spectacular views. The trail meanders through old-growth and second-growth forests along the river.
This 3.4 km loop trail is found in the heart of Port Alberni, yet one feels like you are in a magical spot. Once you view the waterfall from ground level, head up the steep hill on your left-hand side to the top of the trestle. It gives you a beautiful vantage point of the trestle and waterfall from above…that is, if you dare to cross the high structure!
Another stunning area of Port Alberni is the hidden Provincial Park called Fossli. This 3.4 km loop trail has it all! Suspension bridge (yes), waterfalls (check), crystal clear creek (yes), beautiful treed forest (definitely!). And the best part? It’s tucked away and a bit more difficult to find, making it a truly peaceful spot to explore.
The dramatic landscape and topography of the Cumberland Potholes make this 2 km hike worthwhile. Tucked into the Cumberland Forest, this unique natural wonder has become quite a popular location to explore. While there, please respect the landscape and take out everything you take in.
I hope this list of (Mid) Vancouver Island trails under 4 km helps you choose shorter treks ideal for you! Have I missed any of your favourite places? Let us know in the comment section below.
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