In celebration of National Forest Week, we’re taking a walk through one of the most significant, rare and breathtaking forests in British Columbia, found on Meares Island off the coast of Tofino
Vancouver Island is covered with lush forests and is home to the incredibly rare old-growth coastal temperate rainforests, which cover less than one percent of the earth’s surface.
Unfortunately, the future of these forests is at risk, and more than three-quarters of the productive ancient rainforest on Vancouver Island has been lost due to logging. These forests are extremely important as they provide habitats to species such as bears, cougars and wolves, as well as endangered species such as the marbled murrelet seabird and northern pygmy owl. They also play a critical role in the fight against climate change due to their ability to store more atmospheric carbon per hectare than almost any other forest on earth.
One of the best spots to experience these ancient old-growth forests is on Meares Island, and my family and I visited here this summer to skip the crowds of Tofino and immerse ourselves in nature.
A 10-minute water taxi ride from Tuff City, Meares Island feels like another world. The island is made up of lush vegetation and unspoilt nature, and offers a chance of spotting wildlife like seals and bald eagles nearby. But the main attraction at Meares Island is its forest, featuring some of the largest red cedar trees on Earth.The forest on Meares Island hasn’t always been in the clear of logging threats, and in fact, it was designated to become a logging zone in the 1980s. Fortunately, the local Tla-o-qui-aht and Ahousaht First Nations of Clayoquot Sound fought against the logging plans and the court ruled to keep the area protected. It was named Canada’s first Tribal Park as of 1984, and we can thank these communities for allowing us to experience this beautiful natural site today.
Meares Island is fun for the whole family, and mine took on the trails with my 10-year-old niece leading the way and my three-year-old nephew strapped onto my brother’s back and admiring the trees (which were “so tall!"). We ventured along the Big Tree Trail, which begins with a wooden boardwalk meandering through the forest and continues on to loop around the island.The full 4.2-kilometre loop is for those feeling a little more adventurous (which my family was, whether my parents consented to it or not) as it involves a less-maintained trail, some muddy sections, and a bit of navigating over, under and around the fallen trees. It’s a lovely way to spend an afternoon in nature and work off some of those calories courtesy of Tacofino.
The trees are the stars of the show on Meares Island, and we were constantly stopping in awe to take in the gigantic trunks towering into the sky and the fascinating root systems revealed from fallen trees. Some of the standout trees are given names such as Cedar of Life or Hanging Garden Tree, the latter being the largest of them all at 18 metres wide, estimated to be up to 2,000 years old, and named for the plants and trees that have begun growing off of it.
Destinations like Meares Island allow us to experience forests as nature intended them, maintaining their ancient wonder, isolated from the hustle and bustle of civilization, free from logging. The giants on Meares Island show the potential of how large these trees can get and how small and insignificant we are compared to them, so we must treat them with respect. I’m grateful my family and I were able to spend a day here and hope families will be able to continue to visit for generations to come.