Vancouver Island Attraction: Gold River’s Upana Caves

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It’s quite ironic that I always end up in a cave on my travels. Whether I’m in Southern France, the Yucatan Peninsula or Switzerland, a chance at a cave exploration has always presented itself to me. I don’t even have to try to find them!

During my travels I heard about the Upana Caves near Gold River. Gold River is a pretty little town that is just ripe for a touristic theme much like the murals in Chemainus, or Leavenworth’s Bavarian village just over the border. But it flourishes regardless with its visiting nature lovers, motorcyclists, and fishers. I wonder how many of them know about Upana Caves?

How to Find Upana Caves in the First Place

Gold River is about 90 minutes from Campbell River, and once you arrive, it’s another 17 km west on a logging road called Head Bay Forest Road. Once you reach the caves, there is evidence of maintenance like marked trails and signs, wooden stairs, bridges, and benches.

There are 15 developed caves marked and labelled with cool names like Resurgence and Slither. The caves are made of limestone, so you will see some stalactites and stalagmites in some of them.

The whole of the Tahsis/Gold River region is home to some of the deepest caves north of Mexico. If you are brave enough to check out one of the caves that is about 2,000 ft. deep, then be careful and dress warmly.

Many of the tours are self-guided, so basic precautions should be observed for the safest and best caving experience. After all, you’ve come all this way!

Use these Handy Safety Tips for this Vancouver Island Attraction

  1. Bring at least 2 sources of light per person.
  2. Bring food and water.
  3. Wear warm, waterproof clothing and sturdy boots.
  4. Don’t go alone. If you have to go alone, please tell someone.
  5. Don’t smoke or light fires.
  6. Wear a helmet – this is optional, but recommended. 

One can expect to see some wildlife along the way as well, and if there has been dangerous animal sightings in the area, a notice about it will immediately be visible. There will be a lot of insects in the Insect Cave, so if you have a child with you, brief them before entering.

Maps of the caves can be picked up at the Visitor Information Centres in the Campbell River and Gold River offices. Campbell River’s office is open more often, so you’ll have better luck there.

What are some Highlights of Visiting the Upana Caves?

One of the best highlights will be the “White Ridge” caverns named after the river that flows through one of them. The cave route system includes a little hiking through the woods to get to the next cave, but it’s not extreme.

There are over a thousand caves on the Island, and many of them are in the Northern Vancouver Island region. There has been a flow of traffic since 1975, thanks to the filming of the TV show “Huckleberry Finn and His Friends” where underground scenes took place in these very caves.

To me, the Upana Caves are definitely one of those ‘off the beaten path’ spots that’s fun for all ages.

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Amazing Vancouver Island and a clickable link back to this page.

Publisher of Amazing Vancouver Island. Doug grew up in Kamloops and Vancouver. He is also the President of KIAI Angency, an Internet Marketing and Branding agency in Vancouver. He is an avid photographer and you can see his many pix of Vancouver Island on Flickr.

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