5 Relaxing Vancouver Island Hikes (with Sights to Thrill!)
Fresh air and scenic views—without the steep terrain.
Let’s face it: we can’t all be the Timberland-wearing, backpack-carrying, spend-a-night-on-the-mountain types, but that doesn’t mean we don’t love a good hike (er, walking trail). Lucky for us, the eastern coast of Vancouver Island is chock-full of old growth forest, sloping mountain and coastal paths to tread on…without breaking a sweat!
Round-Trip 2 km
Location MacMillan Provincial Park (30 km from Parksville)
Head west from Parksville on Highway #4 to MacMillan Provincial Park, where you’ll need to choose between northern and southern routes. Old Growth Trail (north) will lead you through groves of ancient red cedar, while Big Tree Trail (south) features giant Douglas fir. Both paths remain flat, making it all the more easy to gaze up at the towering forest canopy.
Fun Fact The largest Douglas Fir in the park is more than 800 years old and measures approximately 9 metres in circumference.
Cable Bay Trail
Round-Trip 4 km
Location Cedar (14 km from Nanaimo)
This well-maintained trail begins just north of Barnes Road and winds its way through the forest to the coast, where views of Gabriola Island and seaside exploration await. Although steep in some sections, it’s suitable for hikers of all skill levels (and as a designated off-leash dog park it’s accessible for four-legged companions). For an extra challenge, follow a 1 km path along the beach to Joan Point Park where you can witness the spectacle that is Dodd Narrows.
Fun Fact For reasons unknown, dozens of toy dinosaurs have been scattered throughout the trail, making for a fun mid-hike scavenger hunt.
Round-Trip 5 km
Location 46 km from Nanaimo
The trailhead on this former ski hill may be difficult to find (research and GPS highly recommended), but the breathtaking views make it well-worth the trouble. Lush meadows filled with bright wildflowers abound, and it’s not uncommon to spot Roosevelt Elk or Vancouver Island Marmots. Take time to explore the summit and be rewarded with sweeping views of nearby lakes and mountain peaks.
Fun Fact A small piece of history—rubble from the old A-frame ski lodge—can be found at mid-point.
Little Qualicum Falls
Round-Trip 6 km
Location 23 km from Parksville
Six kilometres of trails wind through this provincial park, leading hikers to a viewpoint overlooking two cascading waterfalls. It’s likely the park will be busy (camping and picnic facilities make it a popular spot for families), but the rushing waters and cool, shaded trails will make you so relaxed you’ll hardly notice.
Fun Fact Feeling the heat? Take a dip in the shallow rock pools found throughout the park (or head to nearby Cameron Lake for a post-hike swim).
Arrowsmith CPR Regional Trail
Round-Trip 10 km
Location 25 km from Parksville
The trail gains 1,000 metres in elevation, but a series of switchbacks throughout the climb keeps it from being too strenuous. About two-thirds of the way up, you’ll come to a fork in the road: left will take you directly to the lookout while the right will follow a longer path. Make sure you make it to the top (even if you take the short route) for a birds-eye-view of Cameron Lake.
Fun Fact Built by the Canadian Pacific Railway company in 1912, it’s now the oldest hiking trail on Vancouver Island.