Vancouver Island's Abandoned Tracks and Trestles
One of the ways to explore the sea-side forests of east Vancouver Island is by train ... or, more exactly, by paths that run along the train tracks.
Passenger rail service, as well as all other freight services virtually ceased on the Island in 2011 due to the poor condition of the tracks and general railway system (freight trains are still operational between north Nanaimo and south Duncan). As a result, over 225 kilometers from Victoria to Courtenay and 64 kilometres from the east coast to the west coast of the island are now basically unused!
For the hiker and explorer this means that there is a perfect trail system to indulge in for an afternoon trek. We did exactly that last weekend on a path beside a stretch of track north of Qualicum Beach, which included not only a leisurely stroll with beautiful views of the forest, but also a trestle bridge over Little Qualicum River.
As avid geocachers, we've also found that there are an abundance of caches along the paths veering off from the tracks too, especially closer to urban areas and rural rail crossings.
Tips For Abandoned Rail Treks ...
1. Always travel with a friend and bring a whistle along to scare off any wildlife that might be using the tracks too (we didn't see anything on our hike, however it's not unheard of).
2. If you encounter a trestle bridge, ensure you have proper footwear on and stick to the middle of the tracks while crossing, or just enjoy the view from the edge and use it as a turn around point (obviously you cross these bridges at your own risk).
3. Often there are paths alongside the tracks which are always a better trail to take. Several trail systems can be found using THIS helpful guide.
Our Adventure ...
There are several recommended locations I've been given for hiking the tracks, including ...
- Goldstream Park tracks (near Victoria) which includes two trestles and a tunnel. I'm told it's an awesome day hike, starting at Goldstream, walking under the highway, up to the trestle then over to the tunnel and back.
- Also recommend to me is the South Duncan tracks (across the highway from the Market), which go toward Cobble Hill. An out-and-back hike is about 20 kms.