You can find the most concentrated collection of rock art on Vancouver Island at Petroglyph Provincial Park. At this small two-hectare park, visitors get a glimpse of traditional First Nations carvings created more than 1000 years ago. Petroglyph Provincial Park is located in the Snuneymuxw First Nation territory.
Quick Park Facts
- Features: This day-use park has petroglyphs that are easy to access
- Length of Trail: Less than a 5-minute walk
- Suitability: Everyone
- Hazards: Located on busy Hwy 1; Petty crime area.
- Bike Trails: No
- Camping: None
- Washrooms: None
- Dog Friendly: There are no signs indicating you can’t bring your dog, but please stay on the marked trails to protect the petroglyphs. As always, please pick up after your dog. Unfortunately, there are no garbage cans available at this park.
A clearly marked trail leads you through the park to view the petroglyphs. You’ll find information boards near the beginning of the trail giving you details about the history of the area, as well as information about the petroglyphs. Petroglyph replicas are also available to view, in case you have trouble finding the real ones.
Tip: Make your own petroglyph souvenir! Bring a large piece of paper and pencil with you and choose one of the replicas to make a petroglyph rubbing. Please don’t do this with the real petroglyphs!
The real petroglyphs are scattered around the park and are often hard to see. The highest concentration is near the end of the short paved trail, but again, you really have to search for them. Many are moss-covered or hidden by greenery. However, the search is half the fun! Please remember to stay on the marked trail when searching.
Cultural Significance of Petroglyphs
Petroglyphs were made by aboriginal people of the region by pecking and abrading rock surfaces with stone tools. The locations chosen for these rock carvings were done with intention, and are usually marked by significant natural features such as rock formations, caves, waterfalls or nearby water.
The carvings were made for a variety of reasons, including commemorating special events, such as coming of age ceremonies or to show territorial ownership. They are essentially records of a people with no written language and a rare link to the past native cultures of British Columbia.
In BC alone, more than 500 examples of either petroglyphs or pictographs (ancient rock paintings) have been discovered. This is more than any other province in Canada.
Getting to Petroglyph Provincial Park
- Petroglyph Provincial Park is found off Hwy 1 in South Nanaimo, near Chase River.
- Access the park via a pull-off from Hwy 1. Please watch for signs along the highway.
- A large parking area is found at the trailhead.
Things to Note
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention a few of the hazards about Petroglyph Provincial Park. This area of Nanaimo is known for its petty crime. Please don’t leave anything of value inside your vehicle when exploring the park. As the park is located just off of Hwy 1, vehicle noise is heard throughout the park. The heavy nearby traffic is another reason to keep your dogs on a leash.
You can find petroglyphs at several other Vancouver Island locations.
- Sproat Lake Provincial Park in Port Alberni (follow the signs)
- East Sooke Regional Park
- Quadra Island (a great spot is around Cape Mudge Lighthouse)
- Gabriola Island (Sandwell Provincial Park has several)
Have you been to this Provincial Park? Let us know about your experience in the comments below.
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