The best in Canada. That is one way to describe the cave resources of Vancouver Island, home to more than 1,000 caves. At Horne Lake Caves Provincial Park you can experience the magic of the underground world in the many caves protected within this unique park. The park was established in 1971 at the request of public caving groups on Vancouver Island who were concerned about the potential damage of the caves and the fragile crystal formations they contained.
The park can be enjoyed above or below ground. For those that prefer their adventures above-ground, the park also offers a Cave & Karst Education Centre that features geology information, a small museum and fossil display in addition to Canada’s only Cave Theatre, so visitors can learn more about this unique environment without having to venture underground. Other above-ground opportunities include a self-guided walk through the amazing surface geology on the “Phil Whitfield Interpretive Trail” that highlights interesting surface features detailed in a self-guiding brochure.
Spelunking is the art of cave exploration and Horne Lake Caves Provincial Park is the perfect place to discover this unique activity. From educational family-oriented tours to deep, dark adventure, the caves protected within this park offer something for everyone. Knowledgeable guides can lead visitors through the caves to discover this magical world of crystal formations and ancient fossils firsthand. Though the park has two small caves visitors can explore on their own, a guided tour of one of the larger caves offers more variety and a chance to learn about the cave’s unique geology and history.
Whichever method of exploring the caves you choose, you are bound to be fascinated by this amazing underground world in the heart of Vancouver Island.
Park Size: 158 hectares
Date Established: January 26, 1971
BC Parks, the Canadian Cave Conservancy, BC Speleological Federation and the Vancouver Island Cave Exploration Group are working together on a variety of projects to enhance conservation of the unique features of the caves and improve the visitor experience. Park visitors are advised that work on these projects may be occurring in the park during regular hours. Please stay alert for further information on the park during the next few months.
This park has a day-use/picnic area with 2 picnic tables and pit toilets. The Horne Lake Regional Park is located adjacent to the provincial park. The Regional Park allows access to Horne Lake which provides recreation opportunities for camping, swimming, fishing and picnicking nearby.
A short trail takes you from the Visitor Centre across a suspension bridge over the Big Qualicum River and uphill to the cave systems. The Phil Whitfield Interpretive Trail leads hikers through lush rainforest past interesting limestone karst/cave geological features with interpretive signage that tell the story of the caves’ origin. Disappearing streams, fossils, banded outcroppings and the cave entrances can be seen on a 950m loop that starts and ends at the Visitor Centre.
Please note: the trails and caves are not wheelchair-accessible. For your own safety and the preservation of the park, obey posted signs and keep to designated trails. Shortcutting trails destroys plant life and soil structure.
The day-use area, located next to the Big Qualicum River, offers a shallow area suitable for swimming or wading. There is no safe access to the river. The Horne Lake Regional Park is located adjacent to the provincial park. The Regional Park 900 metres away allows access to Horne Lake which provides recreation opportunities for camping, swimming, fishing and picnicking nearby.
There are opportunities for canoeing or kayaking in this park. Big Qualicum River runs approximately 1 km downstream into Horne Lake. Please note there is no easy access to the river and during the summer season, the river becomes very shallow or dries up.
The Horne Lake Regional Park is located adjacent to the provincial park. The Regional Park 900 metres away allows access to Horne Lake which provides recreation opportunities for camping, swimming, fishing and picnicking nearby.
The Cave Visitor Centre offers a variety of regularly scheduled and guided tours and educational programs for individuals and school groups. Short videos and interpretive displays provide alternative opportunities to enjoy the park without having to venture underground.
More information available at: https://hornelake.com
Cycling is permitted on roadways only. Bicycle helmets are mandatory in British Columbia.
Please note that bicycles with electric assist motors (e-bikes) are not allowed on the trails within Horne Lake Caves Provincial Park. E-bikes are restricted to park roads and areas where motorized use is permitted. The only exception to this policy will be for authorized and identified trail maintenance bikes conducting work on behalf of BC Parks.
From educational family-oriented tours to deep, dark adventure, the caves protected within Horne Lake Park offer something for everyone. Knowledgeable guides can lead visitors through the caves to discover this magical world of crystal formations and ancient fossils firsthand. Though the park has two small caves visitors can explore on their own, a guided tour offers more variety and a chance to learn about the cave’s unique geology and history.
The lower cave gates are locked every night and re-open for self-exploration every day at 10am. The first 20 metres of Main Cave, Lower Main Cave, and all of Andres Annex are open for self exploration.
Riverbend Cave and Main Cave beyond the gate are only accessible by guided tour.
The easiest tour is the Riverbend Cave Explorer Tour (age 5+) that highlights the beautiful crystal formations while navigating the larger passages without having to squeeze or crawl. The shortest tour is not the easiest considering the narrow vertical-squeeze entrance, but the 1 hr Main Cave Adventure (age 5+) features rock scrambling and a ride down Canada’s only Cave Slide! The Multi-Cave Experience (age 8+) provides 3 hours of cave exploring that combines the best features and challenges for adventurous families and novice cave explorers including a climb up an underground waterfall! Those wanting maximum adventure can sign on to the Extreme Cave & Rappel (age 13+), a five-hour excursion that has explorers rappel down a seven-storey waterfall that leads into the “China Shop Passage” to reach the very end of this amazing cave with a climb out on a cable ladder. Not for the faint of heart! An outdoor rappel training session is included in the price or available as a stand-alone adventure (age7+).
All caving equipment is included on the guided tours with certified cave guides. See what park visitors have to say about their experience by checking out popular Trip Review sites. Best to reserve your tour ahead of time online or by phone 250 248-7829.
More information available at: hornelake.com
Horne Lake Caves Provincial Park is located 60 km north of Nanaimo and 26 km west of Qualicum on central Vancouver Island. The park can be accessed via the Horne Lake exit off Hwy #19 or Hwy #19a. Follow signs for 12 km to Horne Lake.
Hidden Realm Adventures Inc.
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.