Cameron Lake Trestle Trudge

Region

Central Vancouver Island · Qualicum First Nation

Distance / Elevation

56 km / 759 m

Terrain

Gravel, Pavement, Rail

Length

2 Days

Cameron Lake — nestled between Mount Arrowsmith and Mount Wesley on Central Vancouver Island — is home to a series of train trestles which have been dormant since 2001. The rail line, which runs along the north side of the lake, has long been adopted by hikers, but I thought, what the heck? Let’s see if we can get our bikes up there for a night of camping, and loop the lake!

We began our journey on Highway 19a — the Old Island Highway, which runs along the ocean — and rode north to Kinkade road, where we turned left on to access the riverside trail. Eventually the trail deviated from the river and climbed up to Claymore Road, a long and winding gravel road which crosses Little Qualicum River and a fish hatchery. After reaching the junction under the power lines we took a left onto Melrose Road and followed it for about 8 km until reaching Highway 4 (the Alberni Highway). Melrose Road is a quiet, gravel service road with a few nice viewpoints along the way. The only folks you will likely see out there are those enjoying recreational motorsports.

As we headed inland on Highway 4 the climbing picked up and we found ourselves surrounded by mountains. Since the highway skirts around the edge of Cameron Lake, the views are pretty amazing, but the road is very windy and narrow, with no shoulder at times! Take caution during peak summer.

At the west side of the lake the highway became more bike friendly as we entered Cathedral Grove which is home to some of the oldest and largest Douglas Fir trees in the world. If it’s not overrun by tourists, I recommend taking a break here to walk amongst the giants. After passing the Cathedral Grove parking area we took our first right down an unnamed gravel road with a yellow gate. Prior to heading down this road we were in an adventurous mood so we actually continued west on Highway 4, rode to the top of the Port Alberni Pass and explored some very overgrown logging roads. Riding back down the pass was fun as we reached speeds of over 75 km/h. After arriving back in Cathedral Grove we headed down the aforementioned unnamed road. The road is gated so it’s car free and a peaceful escape from the highway side of the lake.

After passing about a dozen of the off grid lakeside cabins, the road became narrow and rough so we had to hike the remaining distance to the trestle. Eventually the trail cut straight up the embankment towards the trestle. It was so steep we had to leave some of our gear at the bottom and do two trips. There was a wasp nest in an old stump at the bottom of the hill and we accidentally disturbed it and ended up with a handful of stings each. Luckily we didn’t swell up into balloons so we pushed on.

After we arrived at the top, we hung our legs over the trestle, took in the beautiful view of Cameron lake and the surrounding mountains and enjoyed a well deserved cucumber, cheese and balsamic vinegar wrap. We hiked our bikes east along the train tracks for about 20 minutes until we found a flat opening overlooking the lake which made for an excellent camp spot. We spent the remainder of our night enjoying a small campfire, some hearty freeze dried meals and a little bit of rye. The trestle just east of where we were camping was an excellent place to hang our food away from animals.

We didn’t hang out at camp for very long in the morning as we were nearly out of water (there were no water sources nearby camp). We continued hiking our bikes east along the train tracks for about 3 km until we met up with Highway 4 and Little Qualicum River. We took a break by the river to top up our bottles and made a second coffee.

We headed back on Highway 4 and turned left onto Melrose Road. However instead of continuing all the way down Melrose Road, we veered left onto an unnamed road which winded its way down to the river, where we crossed an old wooden bridge that is closed to vehicle traffic. The unnamed road eventually met up with Corcan road, a windy, paved road which crossed under Highway 19 and connected up with some community trails. The trail spat us out on a dead end road which led us Highway 19a. After riding about 3 km south down Highway 19a, we reconnected with the railbed and walked our bikes across the Little Qualicum River trestle. From there we continued along Qualicum Beach’s rail trail until we were back where we started.

2 Responses

  1. This is awesome, guys. Thanks for the detailed info. on the trestle location.

    My wife and I are travelling to V.I. next month from Ireland and will be passing Cameron lake on our way to Tofino. We’re definitely going to spend a few hours hiking along this railway.

    All the best.

    1. Hey Colin! Glad you found us. You’ll love the the trestle hike. Give us a shout through our Instagram if you want any more tips while your out by Cameron lake or Tofino! Cheers

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