Vancouver Island is one of our all-time favourite places to visit. This rugged slice of heaven in British Columbia, Canada, offers outdoor enthusiasts a diverse range of landscapes to explore, from lush rainforests to picturesque mountain vistas. In this blog post, we are going to outline 17 incredible easy hikes on Vancouver Island and why we think you’ll love them, too!
The diversity of this stunning place blows me away every single time. Where else can you hike, bike, fish, surf, chase waterfalls, ski AND observe a huge variety of wildlife? It’s absolutely surreal. Though there are countless hikes on Vancouver Island, this list is going to focus on the best easy trails.
Nestled amidst the island’s jaw-dropping landscapes, these hikes cater to every level of adventurer. They are perfect for families, couples, and solo explorers alike. From powerful waterfalls to rugged shorelines, you are sure to be blown away.
- Sandcut Beach
- Rainforest Hiking Trail
- Niagara Falls
- Hole in The Wall
- Elk Falls & Elk Suspension Bridge
- Wild Pacific Trail
- Botanical Beach
- Cox Bay Lookout
- Mystic Beach
- Little Qualicum Falls
- Avatar Grove
- Sombrio Beach Waterfall
- Kitsuksis Train Trestle
- Little Mountain Lookout
- Cathedral Grove
- Mount Douglas
- Mount Manuel Quimper
1.8 kilometres & 34 metres of elevation
Sandcut Beach, part of the famous Juan de Fuca Trail, is unusual because of the beautiful waterfall that flows right onto the beach. We had a lot of fun walking underneath it, admiring the ocean views, and playing around on the rope swing that hangs beside the falls.
From the parking lot, follow the trail through the forest for about 10 minutes. Once you’ve arrived at the beach, go left and make your way along the shore until you see the falls.
Rainforest Hiking Trail
2.6 kilometres & 45 metres of elevation gain
The Rainforest Hiking Trail is an easy and beautiful stroll along a well-maintained boardwalk in between Ucluelet and Tofino. Perfect for a quick pit stop or an afternoon walk, the 731 stairs wind through massive trees and lush old-growth forests. There are two loops, one on each side of the highway. Each is unique and well worth the journey.
1 kilometre & 45 metres elevation gain
Did you know that Vancouver Island has its very own Niagara Falls? It is located in Goldstream Provincial Park, about 20 minutes northwest of Victoria. Cascading down over 50 metres into a crystal clear river, this waterfall is one of our favourite easy hikes on Vancouver Island.
Hole in The Wall
2 kilometres & 52 metres of elevation gain
This straight-out-of-a-magazine landmark once served as a shortcut for a water reservoir which supplied Port Alberni. Today, it is a popular photo spot and one of the easiest hikes on Vancouver Island. It won’t take much time at all and is a great way to stretch your legs on the drive from Nanaimo to Tofino.
Elk Falls & Elk Suspension Bridge
1.4 kilometres & 46 metres of elevation gain
Elk Falls is without a doubt the most famous and easily accessible waterfall near Campbell River. Only 2 kilometres from downtown, Elk Falls Provincial Park offers a campground, several hiking trails, and, of course, fantastic views of Elk Falls.
This hike begins with a walk through a stunning old-growth forest as you make your way to the powerful 25-meter waterfall. Once you arrive, you can view Elk Falls from the suspension bridge and several other lookout points along the trail.
Wild Pacific Trail
up to 10 kilometres & minimal elevation gain
The Wild Pacific Trail is a path that follows the Pacific Ocean coastline in Ucluelet, offering non-stop phenomenal views. The most popular section, The Lighthouse Loop, is a 2.6 kilometres loop on the end of a beautiful peninsula.
The Brown’s Beach section is about 8 kilometres long. The trail is fairly flat with different entrances around town so you can choose to do sections of it or the entire thing.
2.9 kilometres & 63 metres of elevation gain
When we first got to Botanical Beach, we were a bit thrown off. I had certainly seen more beautiful beaches on the island. As we started making our way closer to the ocean, however, we began to understand what all the fuss was about.
There were hundreds of tide pools filled with sea life, colourful coral, and starfish. We even saw a baby eel! David and I spent about an hour admiring all the life in each little rock pool and were completely blown away.
IMPORTANT: You need to go as close to low tide as possible as the tide pools are only visible when that water is out. We got there about an hour before low tide and it was perfect. Check the times online beforehand and plan your day accordingly.
Cox Bay Lookout
2.6 kilometres & 115 metres of elevation
Cox Bay Lookout is one of my all-time favourite easy hikes on Vancouver Island. If you are passing through on a nice day, make sure to find the unmarked trailhead on the south end of Cox Bay Beach.
This hike brings you up to an incredible lookout over the coast and the sandy beach below. While the ground can be slippery and the trail is a bit overgrown, this view from the top is absolutely extraordinary!
4 kilometres & 157 metres of elevation
This trail begins at the parking lot for China Beach, where you embark on the first 2.0-kilometres of the Juan de Fuca Trail. You will wind through massive trees, across a suspension bridge, and down several wooden steps before coming out onto Mystic Beach.
Once you arrive, soak up the phenomenal ocean views and then turn left. A little way down the beach, you will arrive at a waterfall cascading into the ocean. If you visit at low tide, you can even walk to the cave on the other side of the falls.
Little Qualicum Falls
2.9 kilometres & 66 metres of elevation
This gorgeous easy hike on Vancouver Island includes a couple of impressive waterfalls cascading into a rocky gorge. The trail winds along the river, offering fantastic scenery the entire way.
The falls, a swimming area, and picnic facilities make Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park a popular family recreation destination and an excellent place to stop. It can get busy in the afternoons so I would suggest it as a morning adventure.
1 kilometre & 85 metres of elevation gain
Avatar Grove is located about 20 minutes past Port Renfrew on the southwest coast of the island. The two trails that wind through diverse sections of old-growth forest are known collectively as Upper and Lower Avatar Grove. You access both trails from the same spot. There is no parking lot, so hikers typically park on the side of the gravel road.
Upper Avatar Grove is a 300-meter out and back trail. It includes some steep sections that bring you through massive cedars, across a stream, and to “Canada’s Gnarliest Tree”. Lower Avatar Grove is on the other side of the road. This loop trail is about 600 meters with less elevation gain, winding you past a massive Douglas-fir and several other green giants.
Sombrio Beach Waterfall
2 kilometres & 33 metres of elevation gain
Sombrio Beach is a popular surf spot that offers one of the most unique easy hikes on Vancouver Island. From the parking area, it is about 500 meters down a well-maintained path to the beach.
This next bit can be a little tricky to navigate but I need you to trust me and follow along. It is incredibly worth it! If you are looking at the water, start walking to your left along the beach for approximately 10 minutes. You are aiming for the end on the beach where you can see a large rock cliff that extends out into the water.
A few hundred feet before you get there, you will see a stream coming onto the beach with several large fallen logs around it. Walk up the stream. Yep, you heard me. Prepare to get your feet wet and make your way up the rocky stream.
As you go, the walls on both sides of you will grow taller and taller. Before you know it, you will be standing in a smooth rock canyon looking up at an incredible hidden waterfall. Make sure to bring shoes you don’t mind getting wet and don’t forget your camera! For your convenience, here are GPS coordinates of where you enter the stream.
Kitsuksis Train Trestle
2.7 kilometres & 35 metres of elevation gain
Port Alberni is a charming little city located about one-third of the way between Nanaimo and Tofino. Known as the salmon capital of the world and one of the World Fishing Network’s “Ultimate Fishing Towns”, it is also home to many scenic pathways.
One of my personal favourites is the Kitsuksis Train Trestle. A short and easy walk will bring you along the river, past a series of small waterfalls, and to this historic bridge. You can hike up to the trestle for fantastic views down over the river. Just make sure not to get too close to the edge!
Little Mountain Lookout
4.2 kilometres & 118 metres of elevation gain
Little Mountain Lookout is an excellent easy hike on Vancouver Island, located on the perimeter of Parksville. You can either hike the 4.2km or choose to drive to the top. Once you reach the summit, you will be greeted with incredible views of the forest and surrounding mountain ranges.
There are several viewpoints along the ridge at the top, so you are almost guaranteed to find a secluded little area to claim for yourself. If you’re interested in a beautiful spot for a picnic with a view—you just found it.
1.6 kilometres & 50 metres of elevation gain
Cathedral Grove is the rare and endangered remnant of an ancient Douglas fir ecosystem on the west side of Cameron Lake. Some of the largest trees are over 800 years old and 250 feet tall with a circumference of nearly 30 feet.
This mystical grove was named because of the “cathedral-like” appearance of the trees as you walk through. There are two loops here, one on each side of the highway, that take around 20 minutes to explore. They have recently redone the wooden boardwalk, adding to the beauty and helping to preserve the forest further.
4 kilometres & 205 metres of elevation gain
Mount Douglas offers breathtaking 360-degree views of Victoria and the surrounding area. This 4km round trip journey will bring you up 205m of elevation through a series of trails in this well-maintained park. From the top, you can see the entire city as well as a huge chunk of spectacular coastline.
Not feeling up for the hike? No worries! You can also drive to the top of Mount Douglas. If you get the chance, visit at dawn or dusk on a clear day for remarkable views.
Mount Manuel Quimper
10 kilometres & 478 metres of elevation gain
Mount Manuel Quimper is one of our go-to hikes on Vancouver Island and I would highly recommend adding it if you itinerary. While it is more of an intermediate hike, it only took about 2.5 hours to complete.
From the top, you will have views of Victoria, the ocean, peaks in the distance, and the mountains inland. 360 degrees of pure bliss. The hut provides shelter from the wind or rain if needed, and an additional few meters of height to take in the scenery. For more trail details, click here.