Cathedral Grove is a wilderness area in the MacMillan Provincial Park in central Vancouver Island. It is a magnificent old growth forest that is part of the Costal Douglas Fir Biogeoclimatic Zone. It is a very impressive example of a west coast rain forest that fortunately has been preserved for future generations to explore and enjoy.
As an old growth forest Cathedral Grove is composed of both live and dead trees. The tree tops form a ceiling high above the forest which can certainly be called cathedral like. The forest floor has many layers with ferns, grasses, wild flowers and lots of moss.
The park forest is right off the highway so there is no long hike to get to the trailhead.
West Coast Rainforest
Cathedral Grove now attracts about one million visitors a year but every time I have been there it hasn’t been super busy or crowded.
The trees are impressively large with a rainforest scent. Just breathing the moist air is special. The forest floor feels alive with leaves and deadfall trees providing nourishment for the many species that call the park home.
The south loop of the park has one of the most accessible stands of the giant Douglas Firs in BC. The north loop of the park takes you through groves of Red Cedars to the shores of Cameron River.
Big and Old
The majority of the trees in the park are Red Cedar and Douglas Fir and they both are massive and old. Some of the trees have been there some 800 years. There is a grand old Douglas Fir that measures some 9 meters (30 feet) in diameter. A car could fit in there!
For those wanting to see other giant tress you can check out Avatar Grove in Port Renfrew (North of Victoria on the south western part of the Island), Carmanah Walbran Provincial Park (northwest of Port Renfrew) and Big Tree Trail, near Tofino on the western coast of Vancouver Island.
Short Hiking Trails
There are short hiking trails that take you through the park and offer close up viewing of this massive . The park is in two parts – one on each side of the highway. The trails are well groomed and have handrails where needed. There are no large hills to climb or rivers to cross so it is quite accessible.
Getting to Cathedral Grove
From Port Alberni take Highway 4 East. The park is right off the highway.
From Victoria or Nanaimo take Highway 19 north, then exit west on Highway 4 towards Port Alberni. From Nanaimo it is about a half hour drive.
There are washrooms in the park but there is no overnight camping at this location.
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