Two Day 'Mountains-To-Sea Adventures' Itinerary
Strathcona Provincial Park is the oldest provincial park in British Columbia and the gateway to adventure. A couple of days dedicated to exploring the mountain top and the nearby falls at the base of Forbidden Plateau is a great getaway this autumn or winter.
Early Autumn to late autumn, the weather and activities up on Mount Washington can vary throughout the season. It’s a good idea to fuel up at a local café before heading up the mountain. May we suggest picking up breakfast from Frankie Jo’s in Courtenay? It’s a small family-owned café featuring rustic baking and hearty thoughtful cooking. Kitty-corner to Frankie Jo’s is the Local Refillery Coffee House, a planet-friendly grocer with an in-house coffee shop with weekly meal specials. If you’re not in a hurry, enjoy your order to stay at either location, they both have inviting atmospheres to sip and ease into the day.
You want to prioritize nutrition to fuel your alpine adventure and keep your muscles from cramping up. Head to Edible Island Whole Foods Market in Courtenay to pick up some trail snacks and drinks. Their market has been a local health hub since 1980, providing nutrition-conscious shoppers with an opportunity to shop locally grown produce and other BC and Canadian products. Two other great options for pre-made lunches to go are the Butcher's Block and Runge's European Deli, both located on 4th Street in Courtenay.
Located high up in the mountains and full of adventure, the elevated experiences in Strathcona Provincial Park are like nowhere else on Vancouver Island. Put on your hiking boots (or snowshoes if winter arrives early!) and enjoy a leisurely morning hike on the raised boardwalks in Paradise Meadows, where the autumn weather turns the lichen dark red. The frost turns the sub-alpine landscape into a beautiful panorama. It’s a mixed terrain trail, including both boardwalks and gravel and is suitable for most types of wheelchairs and battery-powered scooters. The trailhead is located at the parking lot of the Mount Washington Nordic ski area, 25-km from Courtenay. From the same trailhead, a massive network of overnight and day-trip hiking routes can be accessed, from beginner to seasoned expert. Beautiful, charismatic birds can be seen and heard anywhere along the trails, and it’s the best spot to gain a view of Mount Washington Alpine Resort’s impressive ski runs.
It’s time to replenish your body after your day of exploring! Atlas Café, Fluid Bar + Grill, Biblio Taco, or The Waverley are all good options. On the mountain, accommodations can be found in one of the many Mount Washington lodges or in a colourful collection of ski chalets and rad old A-frame cabins all connected by gravel walking paths. Off mountain, stay in Cumberland at Riding Fool Hostel if you want to be closest and be in quirky, fun Cumberland. If you want more amenities, go for one of the Courtenay hotels like the Best Western Westerly, Old House Hotel, or Bayview, all of which have pools for the kids and hot tubs for parents.
Day two should start with breakfast at The Hen and the Hog Café. It’s one of the best breakfast spots in town. From there, a short drive from town is Nymph Falls Nature Park, a protected 61-hectares (151-acres) forest located on the north side of the Puntledge River. Nymph Falls is a beautiful collection of waterfalls, carved stone pools, and flat rocky areas to chill out on. A short hike from the parking lot takes you through the emerald rainforest. There is a trail to the falls that is wheelchair friendly with designated parking stalls at the trailhead. Anyone using mobility aids can reach the falls and enjoy one of the most scenic views in the Valley. You can also ride a collection of biking trails, maps are available in the park outlining walking and biking trails.
Next, head nearby to Seal Bay Park, it lies within the unceded traditional territory of the K’ómoks First Nation and contains many cultural and natural values meaningful to generations of K’ómoks families. Indigenous people refer to these lands as Xwee Xwhya Luq (pronounced Zway Why Luck), meaning “a place that has beauty, beauty that is not only seen but also felt.” The park and forest cover 1,585-acres of biodiversity and treasured wildlife habitat along the coast and within the forested trails. Pick up a map at one of the many trailheads located throughout the park to map out your hiking or biking route.
Outdoor adventures and eating go hand-in-hand, for some after trail eats, head to Ace Brewing Company, the Flying Canoe West Coast Pub, or Roy's Towne Pub for a post-hike pint accompanied by a tasty meal. Before tucking in for the night, wind down into deep relaxation at the Lost Faucet Sauna & Spa in Courtenay.