Carmanah Walbran Provincial Park is a luxuriously forested sanctuary that is without a doubt one of the most remarkable wild places on Vancouver Island. The lower Carmanah Valley was declared a provincial park in 1990, and the Walbran and upper Carmanah Valleys were added in 1995. The park offers protection to diverse forest ecosystems, including a large Sitka spruce ecosystem that represents 2% of BC’s remaining old-growth forest.
Carmanah Walbran is home to some of the world’s largest spruce trees, some reaching heights in excess of 95 metres and living for 800 years or more. The park is also home to ancient, gnarled cedars – estimated to be well over 1,000 years old – clinging to the side hills. Nestled beneath these awe-inspiring trees is a diverse variety of flora and fauna possible only in an ecosystem that has remained undisturbed for hundreds of years.
The recent addition of the Walbran and upper Carmanah Valleys completes the protection of the Carmanah Creek watershed and the southern portion of the Walbran Creek watershed. The park provides unique opportunities for forest research and education in the areas of biodiversity, wildlife and fisheries habitat. It is a majestic forest capable of inspiring all visitors who come here, and offers unforgettable recreational opportunities for hikers and wilderness lovers.
This coastal fringe of mainly Sitka spruce, with its associated plants and animals, is truly a special place to discover. Sitka spruce forests are typically coast-hugging – they are rarely found more than 80 kilometres inland and at elevations greater than 30 metres. The park’s extensive groves of spruce attain a biomass (weight of plants per hectare) that is nearly twice that of a tropical forest. This dynamic system has developed over thousands of years and functions perfectly if left undisturbed.
Several hiking trails in the Carmanah Valley provide access to many of the park’s notable natural features, including some of the area’s largest trees. Many sections of the trail are extremely muddy and difficult. Be equipped with appropriate clothing (including adequate rain gear) and good hiking boots.
Campers need a permit for backcountry camping at Carmanah Walbran.
The BC Parks backcountry permit registration service allows you to purchase a backcountry camping permit before leaving home. Although this does not reserve a campsite, it provides the convenience of prepaying for your trip and not having to carry cash. We encourage all visitors to register online so we can reduce the need to collect fees in the field.
Self-registration vaults are located in the parking lot at the Carmanah Valley Trailhead.
Wilderness camping is allowed at several locations upstream from The Three Sisters in the Carmanah Valley, with hike-in camping available above the valley where the Carmanah Valley Trailhead is located. This is the only area in the park where campfires are permitted.
Camping is also permitted during the summer months in the valley on the Carmanah Creek’s exposed gravel bars. Campfires are prohibited here.
Campsites with tent pads, picnic tables, and fire rings are provided beyond the parking area on the service road. Short-term vehicle camping is permitted in the parking lot.
All campers are expected to adhere to Leave No Trace camping practices.
Backcountry camping is also available, with a permit, at Carmanah Walbran.
Campfires are only allowed in the steel fire rings located in the campsites along the service road and in the area near the Carmanah Valley Trailhead. Campfire time restrictions are in effect: Cooking fires are allowed from 7:00 am – 9:00 am; 11:00 am – 1:00 pm; and 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm; small campfires after 7:00 pm. Campfire rings are provided.
Fires are NOT PERMITTED elsewhere in the park.
To preserve vegetation and ground cover, please don’t gather firewood from the area around your campsite or elsewhere in the park. Dead wood is an important habitat element for many plants and animals and it adds organic matter to the soil. You can conserve firewood and air quality by keeping your campfire small. Be prepared to bring a portable stove for cooking and/or your own firewood.
The Carmanah Valley offers spectacular opportunities for wilderness hiking. Many sections of the trail in the Carmanah Valley are extremely muddy and difficult. Be equipped with appropriate clothing (including adequate raingear) and good hiking boots. Several of the Carmanah hikes are described below – please note that hiking times may vary depending on trail conditions and weather. Distances are one-way and the approximate hiking times are based on good weather conditions.
For your own safety and preservation of the park, obey posted signs and keep to designated trails. Shortcutting trails destroys plant life and soil structure.
The old-growth setting of Carmanah Walbran Provincial Park is awe-inspiring no matter where you go. Trails from the Carmanah Valley Trailhead lead to a variety of park highlights.
Viewing platforms are located at Coast Tower, Three Sisters, and Heaven Tree. An elevated platform at Three Sisters offers visitors a different perspective of this majestic old growth forest. These viewing platforms also help to protect the vegetation surrounding these natural wonders.
Portions of this park (see Purpose Statement and Zoning Plan [PDF]) are open to hunting for specific species. Hunters must have valid licences and tags. Please refer to the current Hunting & Trapping Regulations Synopsis publication for closures and regulations.
Carmanah Walbran Provincial Park is located 20 km northwest of Port Renfrew on the southwestern coast of Vancouver Island. There are three different routes leading to the Caycuse River Bridge, which is the only way to access the park.
Visitors traveling from Port Alberni should follow the Bamfield Road for approximately 40 km to the Franklin River Junction. At the junction, turn left onto South Main and proceed eastward, past the logging camp buildings and toward Nitinat Lake. Continue on South Main for approximately 23 km to the Nitinat River Bridge. Stay on South Main until reaching the Caycuse River Bridge.
Travelers from Port Renfrew should follow the Lake Cowichan Connector Road north to Honeymoon Bay. At Honeymoon Bay, turn left and proceed along South Shore Road, which becomes Nitinat Main, continuing to the junction of Nitinat Main and South Main. Turn left onto South Main and proceed to the Caycuse River Bridge.
Those accessing the park via Lake Cowichan should follow South Shore Road past Gordon Bay Provincial Park to the Nitinat Main, or follow the North Shore Road through Youbou to the Nitinat Main. Continue along Nitinat Main till it connects with Junction South. Turn left onto South Main and proceed to the Caycuse River Bridge.
Once you have crossed the Caycuse River Bridge, turn right immediately and proceed on Rosander Main for approximately 29 km to the park.
Communities near the park include: Port Renfrew, Port Alberni, Cowichan Lake, Duncan, and Victoria.
This park proudly operated by:
K2 Cowichan Park Services Ltd.
1 877 559-2115
In Carmanah Valley, a spectacular grove of Sitka spruce has been named after Randy Stoltmann, a renowned conservationist who died in 1994. On a trek to Carmanah in 1988 Randy and a friend discovered the “legendary giants” of the Carmanah Valley and brought international recognition to the plight of the rare ancient trees, which were scheduled for logging.
In 1990, Randy’s tireless work resulted in the creation of Carmanah Pacific Provincial Park. Today the Walbran and the upper Carmanah Valleys have been added and Randy’s dream became complete. The park was then renamed Carmanah Walbran Provincial Park.
Climate, topography, geology and other environmental factors have shaped a tremendously complex and productive ecosystem. The orientation and relief of the valleys result in a very wet climate for much of the year. Weather systems approaching Vancouver Island are funneled by the valleys and result in heavy downpours. Periodically, the upper watershed has a snow pack.
Old-growth forests consist of trees of a variety of species and age, a mix that is only possible in a forest that has been undisturbed for hundreds of years. As old trees die and fall over, they are replaced by younger ones that grow beneath the canopy. Dead and dying trees are essential in old-growth systems for the habitat and nourishment they provide. The death of a forest giant means the beginning of new life for many organisms over a long period of time. Initially, thick moss often builds up, helping to retain moisture.
Micro-organisms are quick to attack the dead tree and begin to soften the wood. Bark beetles chew their way in, introducing fungal spores and bacteria which secrete wood-digesting chemicals. Attracted by fermenting sap, ants tunnel in. A multitude of invaders such as mites, termites, sow bugs, centipedes and salamanders enter. Black bears and raccoons use their sharp claws to grub for dinner. If the tree remains standing, woodpeckers begin hunting the insect hordes inside, inadvertently creating cavities that become nesting sites for a variety of forest birds, bats and other cavity users.
The openness created by fallen trees and their high acidity and water content provides an ideal growing site for hemlock seedlings and huckleberry. Hemlock roots, like grasping arms, extend around the “nurse log” as they reach for the soil below. All of the nutrients stored in these logs are eventually released and made available to plants and animals in forms they can use. In this way, the energy of the forest is recycled and nothing is wasted.
Carmanah Walbran abounds in wildlife. Mammals that live in the park include squirrels, mice, voles, martens, raccoons, black-tailed deer, wolves, cougars and black bears. Bird species include the Hair and Pileated woodpecker, northern flicker, red-breasted sapsucker, winter wren, varied thrush, pigmy owl and the Marbled Murrelet. The lower reaches of Carmanah Creek and Walbran Creek support coho and Chinook salmon, steelhead, trout, sea-run Cutthroat and sculpins, while the upper reaches contain small resident Cutthroat trout.
BC Parks honours Indigenous Peoples’ connection to the land and respects the importance of their diverse teachings, traditions, and practices within these territories. This park webpage may not adequately represent the full history of this park and the connection of Indigenous Peoples to this land. We are working in partnership with Indigenous Peoples to update our websites so that they better reflect the history and cultures of these special places.