coastal british columbia  

Cape Scott Trail Guide - photos & guide by Lonny Barr  

Cape Scott Trail Guide

Campsite on Nels Bight - Cape Scott Trail Guide by Lonny Barr
Campsite on Nels Bight

Cape Scott Provincial Park is home to over 100km of beautiful coastline, consisting of deserted white sand beaches, sea caves, estuaries, and rocky outcrops. The trail to the Cape Scott Lighthouse is great as a hike on its own, but could also be tied into a larger excursion of the North Coast Trail, which is over 50km long.

[slideshow:click here to see images full size / or hit any thumbnail to resize images to fit your screen] keyboard shortcuts: arrows = Fwd & Back | F11 = full screen

Black Bear - Cape Scott Trail Guide by Lonny Barr
Black Bear
Boardwalk - Cape Scott Trail Guide by Lonny Barr
Buoys in the Trees - Cape Scott Trail Guide by Lonny Barr
Buoys in the Trees
Campfire - Cape Scott Trail Guide by Lonny Barr


Experiment Bight - Cape Scott Trail Guide by Lonny Barr
Experiment Bight
Fisherman's River Bridge - Cape Scott Trail Guide by Lonny Barr
Fisherman's River Bridge
Giant Sitka Spruce - Cape Scott Trail Guide by Lonny Barr
Giant Sitka Spruce


Group on Driftwood Log - Cape Scott Trail Guide by Lonny Barr
Group on Driftwood Log
Hidden Beach - Cape Scott Trail Guide by Lonny Barr
Hidden Beach
Old Tractor - Cape Scott Trail Guide by Lonny Barr
Old Tractor
Ranger Cabin - Cape Scott Trail Guide by Lonny Barr
Ranger Cabin

Day 1

I did this hike on May Long weekend and we lucked out with great weather the entire time. We took 3 days to complete the hike, camping at Nels Bight both nights and doing the Lighthouse as a day hike on the second day. We arrived at the parking lot at about noon on Saturday ready to go after the long trek up the island highway. Along the highway we were lucky to see some Roosevelt Elk and a couple Black Bears. The Parking Lot at the trailhead has been completely re-done, and is just beautiful with new gravel, lots of space, and a big covered area with picnic tables underneath.

The trail leads into the woods, and in less than a kilometer you come to a junction. Going left takes you down the relatively short trail to San Josef Bay, and going right takes you towards Cape Scott. There are some fairly muddy sections between this junction and Eric Lake, and near the Eric Lake Campground there is a nice gravel beach on the lake; which makes a good place for a quick rest. Just past the north end of Eric Lake on the right hand side of the trail is a gigantic Sitka Spruce, which measures 7.2 meters in circumference. It is one of many giant trees in this old-growth area.

After quite a few more kilometers of trail, you arrive at the area that used to be the Cape Scott settlement in the early 1900s. There are various remnants of the settlement along the trail and off some small side trails, including an old tractor, the site of the community hall, granite gravestones, and telegraph lines. Also near the settlement area is another junction. Going right here takes you to Nissen Bight and the North Coast Trail, and going left takes you to Nels Bight and Cape Scott.

After the Settlement you pass through some coastal bog area and then come to a big grassy area, which is at the end of Hansen Lagoon. Again the trail leads into the forest that leads to Nels Bight. This is a great beach for camping, with beautiful sand, sunset views, a ropeswing, and tons of room for everyone. This beach also has one of the better water sources in the area, located at the southwest end close to the ranger station. With our boots off and bare feet in the warm sand, we set up camp, got a small fire going and had dinner watching the sunset.

Ropeswing - Cape Scott Trail Guide by Lonny Barr
Sand Dollar - Cape Scott Trail Guide by Lonny Barr
Sand Dollar
Sand Dunes Jump - Cape Scott Trail Guide by Lonny Barr
Sand Dunes Jump
Sea Caves - Cape Scott Trail Guide by Lonny Barr
Sea Caves

Day 2

We woke up to the sounds of Eagles and Stellarís jays and a beautiful sunny morning. As we ate breakfast a grey whale came in very close to shore to feed, and we watched it spout and dive for over an hour just a few hundred feet offshore. After breakfast we set out on our trek to see the beaches in the area as well as visit the lighthouse.

The trail leading towards the lighthouse begins at the southwest end of Nels Bight near the Ranger Cabin. It goes over a hill through the forest before descending down to Experiment Bight, which is another nice sandy beach. We found cougar tracks in the sand along this beach. After walking down the beach for a while the trail heads into the forest again to cross over to Guise Bay. Guise Bay is a beautiful moon-shaped bay lined with driftwood. Along the inside of the bay is a big area of sand dunes, which also has a large field of wild strawberries. After heading into the woods again after Guise Bay, there are various side trails off of the lighthouse trail that bring you to some small beaches tucked away between the rocky outcrops.

Following the main trail leads uphill to the lighthouse on the end of the peninsula. The Lighthouse was built in 1960 and is important for guiding boats around this treacherous stretch of waters, which has had more than its share of shipwrecks overt the years. When we got to the lighthouse, we were just in time to see the Canucks beat the San Jose Sharks in game 4 of the Western Conference Finals. There were lots of people up there that day, so we hung out in the yard in the sun for a good part of the afternoon before heading back.

We took a different route on the way back, descending the hill below the lighthouse to a beach with sea caves and sea stacks. This route took a bit of bushwhacking through some steep terrain, but was definitely worth it. We followed the coastline back towards Guise Bay until we got to a small beach that led back in to meet up with the main trail. We ended up getting back to Nels Bight by 6pm to have dinner and get another campfire going.

Signpost - Cape Scott Trail Guide by Lonny Barr
Sunbeams - Cape Scott Trail Guide by Lonny Barr
Sunset Day 01 - Cape Scott Trail Guide by Lonny Barr
Sunset Day 01
Sunset Day 02 - Cape Scott Trail Guide by Lonny Barr
Sunset Day 02

Day 3

We had a long day of traveling ahead of us, since some of us had to get back to Victoria and Vancouver, so we got up at sunrise and started packing up. We ended up hitting the trail by 8am, and made better time on the way back as our packs were lighter and we had already had a chance to stop at all of the interesting spots along the trail on the way in. We stopped for lunch at the beach on Eric Lake and went for a swim, as it was a warm sunny day. We got back to the trailhead by 1pm and had cold beers waiting for us in the cooler, which was possibly the best idea we had that weekend. After that it was a long drive home full of good stories and lots of photos to look through.

Trail - Cape Scott Trail Guide by Lonny Barr
Trail - Cape Scott Trail Guide by Lonny Barr
Wave - Cape Scott Trail Guide by Lonny Barr
Cape Scott Brochure map.pdf
Cape Scott Brochure map.pdf

View Larger Map