Monday, 27 January 2014

Vancouver Island - Highway 4, The West Coast Run

 Vancouver Island  – Highway 4, The West Coast Run

View Vancouver Island Highway 4 in a larger map

The West Coast Run begins on the east side of Vancouver Island at the beach in Qualicum Beach where Highway 4 and the Island Highway meet.  The run ends 132 km (82 miles) later at the Pacific Rim Visitor Center, which is at the junction of the Tofino Ucluelet Highway and Highway 4.  At this point, Highway 4 is also known as the Pacific Rim Highway.

Qualicum Beach, British Columbia
Your journey will begin with a spectacular view of Strait of Georgia and the coastal mountains of mainland British Columbia.  You’ll ride through the village of Qualicum Beach.  Feel free to stop here and look around.  Be careful though as many have stopped and have chosen to stay.  Once you’ve left Qualicum Beach, about 11 km (6.8 miles) up the road, on the left side of the road, is Mid-Island Co-Op, known as Whisky Creek Store by the locals.  Fill up your tank and then enjoy one of the many flavors of ice cream on the outside deck.  Sea Salt Caramel is my favorite.
Once you’ve filled up and indulged in ice cream, the riding fun begins.  The 28 kilometers (17.4 miles) of Highway 4 that runs west from Whiskey Creek Store to Port Alberni is a beautiful combination of sweeping corners and elevation changes that offer spectacular views of Cameron Lake and the old growth trees in MacMillan Provincial Park, which is also known as Cathedral Grove.  There are plenty of places to stop, walk around and enjoy the view, however I would suggest riding the road without stopping on the way to Port Alberni.  Unless you have and adventure bike, you’ll be returning to the east side of the Island on Highway 4 and can stop at the scenic areas on the return trip.
From Port Alberni, continue west on Highway 4.  In 93 kilometers (58 miles) you’ll arrive at the Pacific Rim Visitors Centre.  Along the way you’ll encounter scenic lakeside views, mountain vistas, a rambling river and a challenging stretch black top that climbs, dives and twists to the Pacific Ocean.
Not long after leaving Port Alberni you’ll be riding alongside Sproat Lake.  This section of road is smooth and relaxing.  The views of the lake and the coastal mountains are spectacular.  Enjoy the view, but be alert as this two-way road is busy, especially during the summer and you’ll encounter vehicles of all sizes and speed.  Take your time and enjoy the ride to the coast.
After leaving Sproat Lake, which is long, you’ll be riding up toward Sutton Pass.  This section is filled with tight twists and turns and will be a fun challenge.  The road can be “bumpy” and often gravel will be on the corners so watch where you’re riding.  As you near the summit, there will be “pull-outs” where you can stop and take photos, hike around or simply enjoy the view.
Coming down from Sutton pass is another series of tight turns that drop you quickly towards the west coast of Vancouver Island.  About 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) from the summit of Sutton Pass, you’ll see a large “pull-out” or parking area that’s alongside the Kennedy River.  This is a MUST STOP area.  Enjoy the view that the river provides and if it’s warm enough, dip your toes (or more) in the water.

 The Kennedy River
From this point it’s a short 40 kilometers (25 miles) to the Pacific Rim Visitors Centre, the gateway to the Pacific Rim and Vancouver Island’s West Coast.  Here you’ll be able to load up on information about the area and places you may wish to visit.  If you plan on spending any time in Pacific Rim National Park (I highly suggest that you do) permits to the park can be obtained here.  I would suggest that you plan on spending a day or two exploring this awesome part of the world.

The Pacific Rim Visitors Center
From the Pacific Rim Visitors Center you have a choice of turning left towards Ucluelet, BC, which is a short 8-kilometer (5 mile) ride, or right towards Tofino, BC, which is 32 kilometers (20 miles) away.  

There are plenty of things to see and do while on the West Coast of Vancouver Island and they range from hiking the Wild Pacific Trail in Ucluelet, the beaches in Pacific Rim National Park, including Long Beach and the shops and restaurants in Tofino.

The West Coast of Vancouver Island near Ucluelet, BC
Tofino, BC
On the return trip to the East Coast of Vancouver Island, take the time to stop and see the sights along Highway 4 between Port Alberni and the Inland Island Highway (Highway 19).  The first point of interest on the return trip will be MacMillan Provincial Park, otherwise known as Cathedral Grove.  The park is small in size, however it does hold some of the largest old growth trees on the Island.  Another place to stop is along Cameron Lake.  There are plenty of pullouts that offer great views of the lake and the surrounding mountains.  If the weather is warm, there is a nice beach at the east end of the lake that is popular on hot days.  Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park, which is a short distance from the end of Cameron Lake, is another place to stop and hike around.
Cathedral Grove
Cameron Lake in January
To finish your trip, head right at the junction of Highway 4 and Highway 4A towards the community of Coombs.  The junction is easy to spot as it’s at a set of stop lights (rare on rural roads) and it’s well marked.  Shortly after turning on the 4A you’ll see a group of shops on your right this is The Old Country Market (  A visit to this unique group of shops is a must.  The main market has unique foods and goods from around the world and a restaurant / café with a variety of items, including fresh baked goods.  During the summer, goats inhabit the grass roof of the main market.
If you’re in need of any supplies for your motorcycle or want to look around stop at Spunky’s Motorcycle Shop, one of Vancouver Island’s largest motorcycle dealerships.  It’s located at the corner of Highway 4A and Fairdown Rd., on your left as your heading east.  The entrance to Highway 19 is just a short distance away.
Gerald Trees
Dream Your Ride

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