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Carmanah Walbran Provincial Park
Attention Visitors – Important Notice!
Conditions as of March 2020
- Boardwalk damaged, use caution: Every winter, the Carmanah Valley experiences major flooding and changes to the river channel, damaging and in some cases washing away the boardwalk. Trail clearing is ongoing. Damaged sections are slippery – please use caution and walk around damaged sections
- Trail closures: Due to significant storm damage and hazardous trees, the trail south of Heaven Tree (to the Stoltmann Commemorative Grove) is closed. Trails are not maintained north of Three Sisters.
- Three Sisters: One of the trees the site is named after fell naturally during the winter of 2018/19. Two of the giant spruces remain standing. Visitors are asked to continue using the viewing platform around both the standing and fallen trees to protect the vegetation, root system and all the organisms making use of the fallen tree.
- Road access: Road access Carmanah Walbran is very rough; access cannot be guaranteed. Resource companies may be hauling timber or doing other activities that may make road passage difficult or impossible at times, especially during weekdays. Natural events can result in the road becoming impassable. Proceed with caution at all times. Two-wheel drive vehicles with high ground clearance may be able to travel on the road systems, but four-wheel drive is recommended.
Drinking Water Currently Unavailable
Visitors must be prepared and bring their own drinking water with them to the park. Please monitor this page for updates.
About This Park
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.
Date Established: March 13, 1991
Park Size: 16,365 hectares
Know Before You Go
- Carmanah Walbran is remote and rugged. Access to the park is via private logging roads. Great care must be exercised while traveling these roads as they are at times narrow, bumpy, and used frequently by industrial logging trucks. Always drive with your headlights on as visibility may be limited due to dust and adverse weather. Logging trucks have the right of way at all times; other users are expected to pull off onto the nearest shoulders when encountering a truck.
- Visitors should make the trip in an appropriate vehicle with adequate clearance for bumpy terrain; at least one spare tire should be carried. Park visitors should carry a first aid kit at all times.
- The closest emergency telephone is located at the Didtidaht Reserve. In the case of an emergency you should contact either Enquiry BC at 250 387-6121, the RCMP in Port Alberni or Lake Cowichan, or dial 911. The closest hospitals are located in Port Alberni and Duncan. Enquiry BC is available 7:30am to 5:00pm PST, Monday through Friday, excluding designated holidays.
- Visitors to Carmanah Walbran Provincial Park are reminded that the park is a wilderness area. Trails are primitive and very muddy. Carmanah Walbran has no gas, food, roofed lodging, telephone or medical services. Gas, food and telephone service are available at the Didtidaht Nation Centre located in Nitinat, approximately 20 km from the park. The primary destination point of visitors to the park is the Park Facility Operator’s station, located at the lower Carmanah Valley Trailhead. This area offers parking, pit toilets and walk-in camping above the valley.
- National Topographic Series map number 92, sheets C/10 and C/15 cover the Carmanah Valley area. These maps are available from most map retailers in British Columbia.
- There is active logging in the area. Visitors should carry a full-sized spare tire and be aware that they are driving in an active hauling area.
- Be bear aware, as bear sightings are frequent in the park. More information on bear safety.
Location and Maps
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.
Maps and Brochures
Activities Available at this Park
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.
Pets on Leash
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.
Facilities Available at this Park
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.
Pit or Flush Toilets
Wilderness camping is allowed at several locations upstream from The Three Sisters in the Carmanah Valley, with walk-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, and campers are expected to adhere to “Leave No Trace” camping practices.
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.
A backcountry camping fee is charged at Carmanah Walbran; self registration vaults are located in the parking lot at the Carmanah Valley Trailhead.
BC Parks Backcountry Registration System allows you to purchase a backcountry camping permit before leaving home. Although the system does not reserve a campsite, the system provides visitors the convenience of prepaying for their 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.