Exploring Cape Scott

The Cape Scott Provincial Park is situated on the North West extremity of Vancouver Island. The Park covers 55,100 acres and was established in 1973. The area receives heavy annual rainfall and is known for its violet storms. When the wild weather comes in from the Pacific there is nothing to stop it. The park is dominated by old growth forest on terrain which is often rugged. The only current inhabitants are in Strandby which is a coastal village.

The vast Nels Bright Beach

The area was first occupied by the Kwakwaka’wakw indigenous people who created trails through the area to trade and to harvest. The former village of Nahwitti used to stand in the park. In 1786 the area was given the name Cape Scott after David Scott had backed James Strange’s fur trade voyage to the area. Despite man trying to settle in the park it is very much an area of outstanding wilderness and a major attraction for back packers. The southern end of the park is connected to Port Hardy and Holberg by a logging road, but aside from this if people wish to visit the park they have to do this by boat or helicopter.

The most popular walking route is the 16.8km hike from Cape Scott Trail to Nels Bight. Although often muddy it is a fairly flat and manageable route. The North Coast Trail which is 43.1km long is an extension of the Cape Scott Trail. Throughout the area there are many campsites with pit toilets, metal food caches and wooden tent platforms. Another impressive feature of the park are the amazing beaches. Of the 115km of ocean frontage 30km belong to spectacular remote white sand beaches. Nels Bright is most probably the most outstanding beach stretching out for 2.4km and 210 metres wide. The beach is home to one of the parks most popular camp sites.

In fact most of the activities available in the park are found on the coast. People are encouraged to camp on the beach areas if they can. On the beach people are able to kayak in San Josef Bay and experienced kayakers can make the trip from Port Hardy to Coal Harbor. There is naturally a great deal of fishing available but those who do must obtain the necessary permits. Those who enjoy viewing coastal wildlife will see river otters and mink in the river estuaries plus Canadian Geese and Trumpeter Swans. Just looking from the beach could give a view of a Killer Whale, a Seal, or even a Sea Lion.

Those who do hike the trials are encouraged to stick to the trails. This is as a result of the area being home to rare and fragile ecosystems. Hikers walking into certain areas could have devastating effects on the flora in a particular area. The old growth forest is also home to numerous animals. Cougar, black bears, black tailed deer, elk and wolves are all to be found in the forest. If hikers visits are not managed properly then there is certainly going to be a conflict between man and beast.

The British Columbia Parks website gives hikers all of the necessary information if they are to visit Cape Scott. As well as suggesting various trails of different lengths and difficulty levels the Parks website goes to great lengths to warn visitors about the potential dangers to themselves if hikers do not plan and are not vigilant.

There is no doubt that meeting a bear, or a wolf or a cougar at the wrong time is life threatening but that is part of the beauty of exploring the wilderness.  The government run British Columbia Parks continuously attempts to educate those who visit Cape Scott Park, in order to strike the right balance for visitors of exploring the wilderness but doing so in a safe and environmentally friendly fashion.


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