Pacific Rim National Park Reserve – Ucluelet, BC

After gallivanting around Ucluelet we focused our activities on Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, the only national park on Vancouver Island.  A parade of rental RV’s driving around its 120,000+ acres every day proved how popular it is.  The  park resides within the traditional territory of the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations.

The park’s management has been working collaboratively with First Nations, who have inhabited the coast for thousands of years.  They partnered to continue the age-old practice of welcoming and sharing Nuu-chah-nulth history, traditions, and culture with folks visiting the island.

With the many pictures we took, it was a challenge picking the ones for this post, so be prepared – there are a bunch of them 🙂

This unique park is comprised of three separate geographically distinct units; Long Beach, the Broken Group Islands and the West Coast Trail.  Of the three, we spent our time at the Long Beach Unit.  Broken Group Islands is accessible only by boat and the West Coast Trail is a 47-mile challenging backcountry trail (a little out of our league!).

Long Beach showcases the rich marine environment on the west coast of Vancouver Island, and a portion of Canada’s coastal lowland forests.  It’s only a small section of the coastal temperate rainforest that spans from California all the way to Alaska.

A morning at Long Beach

This area is known for its awe-inspiring coastal landscapes that stretch between the villages of Tofino and Ucluelet.  We followed all of the hiking trails at Long Beach, combining them to create a decent trek.  We thought it would be an easy walk, but several elevated boardwalks had lots of stairs that warmed up our muscles as we negotiated twists and turns through lush green rainforest, shore pine bogs and massive old-growth trees.  Some side trails had long flights of stairs leading steeply down through the forest, ending on pristine beaches.  Loved it!

Just like on the mainland, we found pairs of iconic red chairs in the national park
Nuu-chah-nulth Trail
The park ranger reminded us to be alert after spotting this fresh bear scat right on the trail
Rainforest Trail A

Walking under an ancient downed tree at Rainforest Trail B
Rainforest Trail B
The Bog Trail featured stunted bonsai-like shore pines that grow only a few feet high over hundreds of years
An 800-year-old Cedar
Looking up at the gigantic arms of an 800-year-old tree
A dwarf exits a tree on the Willowbrae Trail
The same dwarf came out of some roots on Nuu-chah-nulth Trail
Moss-covered trees on Combers Beach Trail
An amazing tree on Tonquin Trail

At one point Steve determined that 7 steps equaled 5′ of elevation gain to figure out how much elevation we were gaining.  The hundreds of steps of ascent and descent gave us a good cardio workout!

Counting the steps while returning from Halfmoon Bay
At Florencia Bay, some steps weren’t in such good shape
Descending to Tonquin Beach

Some areas of the park were logged before it was established, so the trees we saw had grown since then and were called “second growth.”  The rainforest scenery was unique and stunning, like something you might see in a movie or storybook.  The raised boardwalks in many areas only added to the mystique!

Not to be ignored were the beauties beneath our feet:

Most of the time in the early mornings it was warm but foggy with mist or rain.  Due to the coastal mountains, the area receives a lot of precipitation, which results in the catchment areas being flooded with continual moisture.  After all, moisture is a main ingredient required for dense lush temperate rainforests, marshes and bogs.  But it was also nice when sunshine cut through the forest later in the day.

I called this a “fogbow”
On this morning, surfers headed out to the water we couldn’t even see
Ravens hard at work during low tide
Foamy waves crashing on Wickaninnish Beach
Some beaches were littered with driftwood brought in by crashing waves…
…others were covered by decaying bulk kelp that emitted that “sea smell” aura

At South Beach, I had a little excitement during my “touch the water” ritual, which gave my honeybunch a good laugh as he snapped away:

At the Wickaninnish Center, we learned about the interesting natural and cultural heritage of the Nuu-chah-nulth (meaning “along the mountains and the ocean”) people.  They are comprised of many nations, and the nine nations that work with the park have living languages that are still spoken by some people today.  Whale hunting was central to the people’s life and culture, and harpooning a whale was a high honor:

Humpback Whales were the Nuu-chah-nulth’s catch of choice

We discovered new things about the wildlife and special ecosystem that Pacific Rim National Park Reserve protects.  Waves here travel in sets, with extra-large ones hitting every 5-30 minutes, and occasional exceptionally large waves roll beach logs and flood the shoreline.

Long beach is a surfers haven.  At least this time I could see where they were going!

I had always wanted to do tide-pooling on the west coast, but kept missing the low tide while we were at Olympic National Park in Washington.  So I was excited to find living treasures close up here:

We managed a quick visit to the village of Tofino on our way to Tonquin Trail, but would have liked to spend a lot more time there.  Now we have a great excuse to revisit Vancouver Island’s west coast in the future!

Tofino crab dock
Tofino marina

Back at home, Steve once again did a good deed when he noticed that our neighbor’s class-C rental rig would not move.  A specialist was required to fix it, but the folks were so nice that we invited them over for a happy hour and learned that they were Wilbert and Katarina from Holland.  They spoke halting english, but we got along great as they told us about their brief stay on the island and their other travels.  Meeting cool folks from places near and far is one of the best things about RV’ing!

The sunset on our last day did not disappoint:

We enjoyed every moment of our 10-day stay in Ucluelet, so much so that we’re considering flying up for a summer stay in the future.  It’s lush, green diversity is unique and breathtakingly beautiful!




  1. What a magical place!!! I can see why you’ll return 🙂 and as always, you’ve taken gorgeous photos.

  2. Another beautifully photographed post. What a spectacular spot with something to see at every turn. I loved the lilac mushrooms, the leafy, impossibly green trails and the forest dwarf. I really miss her!

  3. I still always find it a bit shocking to see such astoundingly green and lush forests way up in Canada… Of course it all makes sense, but in my weird little mind, forests that dense and that green belong in the Amazon, not in the Brrrrrr north. Ha! Just goes to show how hard it is to get over these preconceived notions about what places will look like.

    In any case, your photos are beautiful and I’m glad you climbed all those stairs so the rest of us don’t have to. The beach photos are wonderful as well. I can certainly see why the surfers love Long Beach. Glad you got to see (and photograph!!) some colorful critters in the tide pools!

  4. Oh yay!!! You got to see your Pacific Northwest tidepool critters! I’m so glad you enjoyed the beautiful trails at Pacific Rim National Park. I remember zillions of stairs on all of the trails there and your beautiful photos are proof. Can you imagine how much work it took to build that trail system?

    I’m disappointed we didn’t see the cute little forest elf while we were there. More reason for us to return. 🙂 And I love those lilac mushrooms (surprise, surprise!).

  5. Boy does this remind me of our trip around the OP. Of course it should since both are rain forests along the coast. We don’t mind lots of photos of interesting beautiful scenery. While we don’t usually enjoy forest hiking (no views), the rain forest was absolutely captivating. All the ferns, moss covered everything, slugs and mushrooms. Such a unique little world of its own. I loved it! So glad you found neat sea creatures at low tide. I’ve never heard of or seen a Turkish Towel. Cool! That little dwarf you discovered in the trees is so cute! I can’t wait to visit this island.

  6. Did you put that stick in the bear poo?

    Purple mushrooms?! Those are beautiful! I’m not much of an ocean person, but I did love the tide pools on the west coast. Aren’t they filled with the most colorful creatures? So glad you got to see them! Those green anemones look like jelly candies.

    Oh dear, your water-touching ritual went hilariously awry — better there than atop a waterfall! Glad you weren’t hurt — you weren’t hurt were you?

  7. I am continuing to get amazed at your beautiful pics. It’s keeping us motivated for future travels! Wonderful post! Glad you’re having an awesome summer

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