Cathedral Grove, located in MacMillan Park, is one of the most accessible stands of giant Douglas fir trees on Vancouver Island. The park protects and preserves an internationally significant representative example of Douglas fir old-growth forest within the Coastal Western Hemlock Biogeoclimatic Zone.
Here visitors can stroll through a network of trails under the shadow of towering ancient Douglas fir trees, majestic pillars untouched by the modern world, some more than 800 years old.
Trails on either side of the highway lead visitors through the mighty stands of this coastal forest. On the south side you will find the largest Douglas firs, one measuring more than 9 metres in circumference. On the northern side of the road you’ll find groves of ancient western red cedar standing sentry over nearby Cameron Lake.
A severe windstorm on New Year’s Day in 1997 changed the look of the park forever. The storm toppled hundreds of huge trees and obliterated sections of the trail system. Some sections of the trail system were so badly hit that they have never been reopened.
Restoration and clean-up began almost as soon as the winds stopped, and although visitors will now find many of these huge trees lying on the ground, their value has not diminished. These fallen trees open the canopy to provide light, space, shelter, and nutrients for the next generations of plants. Natural regeneration is beginning to restore the grove’s pristine beauty and the park’s diversity, making a visit to Cathedral Grove all the more intriguing.
Improvements to MacMillan Park can be supported by 'feeding' the donation tree next to the main trail. Your contributions will be used for youth team trail projects, volunteer projects, revegetation projects, and new signs.
The park’s small size and ease of access has left it vulnerable to impacts from high visitor use. Please stay on designated trails, where you will find ample opportunities to view and photograph this piece of living history.
Two pit toilets are located on either side of Highway 4, next to the parking lot.
Trails on either side of Highway 4 lead visitors through the mighty stands of this old-growth coastal forest. On the south side you will find the largest Douglas firs, one measuring more than 9 metres in circumference. On the northern side of the road you will find groves of ancient Western red cedar. Trails are well marked and maintained and some are accessible.
Loop trails lead through the old-growth forest and a raised viewing platform on the south side of the park offers a unique perspective of the surroundings.
Please obey posted signs and stay on designated trails to help reduce the impact of high visitor use.
This easily accessible park offers awe-inspiring views of old-growth ecosystems throughout. Many species of wildlife use the old-growth forest as their home including several types of woodpeckers, owls, insects, reptiles, amphibians, deer, elk, black bear and cougar. The Cameron River, which flows through the park, contains rainbow, brown and cutthroat trout.
Pets and all domestic animals must be on a leash and under control at all times. You are responsible for their behaviour and must dispose of their excrement. Garbage cans are located at the parking lot. Backcountry areas are not suitable for dogs or other pets due to wildlife issues and the potential for problems with bears.
Cycling is permitted on roadways only, not on park trails. Bicycle helmets are mandatory in British Columbia.
Please note that this rule applies to electric assist motors (e-bikes) as well. 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.
MacMillan Park (Cathedral Grove) is located on central Vancouver Island, 25km west of Qualicum Beach and 16km east of Port Alberni on Highway 4, which runs right through the park. From Highway 19 and Highway 19a take the exit to head west on Highway 4 toward Port Alberni. Nearby communities include: Port Alberni, Coombs, Qualicum, and Parksville.
R.L.C. Enterprize Ltd.
The name Cathedral Grove appeared in correspondence to the provincial government in the 1920s. This colourful description of the stately trees is reputed to have originated from the Governor General Viscount Willingdon in April 1928. Cathedral Grove was a well known tourist stop on the Alberni Road in the 1920s and 1930s when the timber was owned by the Victoria Lumbering and Manufacturing Company.
For 15 years the public encouraged the provincial government to acquire the lands within Block 35, Cameron Lake area. The citizens’ organizations, The Associated Boards of Trade of Vancouver Island, petitioned the government in 1929 to preserve forever, for the public benefit, the well known stand of timber at Cameron Lake, known as Cathedral Grove. In 1944, H.R. MacMillan, a well-known forester, donated the 136 hectares of land for the perpetual enjoyment of the public in recognition of the unique stand of trees. Three years later, the area was established as a Class A provincial park.
The park protects and preserves an internationally significant representative example of Douglas fir old-growth forest on east Vancouver Island and the Coastal Douglas fir Biogeoclimatic Zone.
Many species of wildlife use the old-growth forest as their home, including several types of woodpeckers, owls, insects, reptiles, amphibians, deer, elk, black bear, and cougar. The Cameron River, which flows through the park, contains rainbow, brown, and 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.