Fairytale forests on Vancouver Island

Vancouver Island is big: 290 miles long and 62 miles wide at its widest point. In terms of surface area, it's the largest island in the Pacific east of New Zealand—about the size of Maryland or, if European comparisons make more sense, the size of Belgium. The vast majority of its 775,000 people live in the population centers along the coast, half of them in the Victoria Metropolitan Area at the southern tip of the island.

While Vancouver Island has one of the mildest climates in Canada and the south and east coast are comparatively dry, the west coast receives enormous amounts of precipitation. In fact, North America's wettest place is located on the west coast of Vancouver Island (Henderson Lake with 261 inches a year).

Large stretches of the island used to be temperate rainforest. However, according to Sierra Club estimates, only 1/5 of the original old-growth rainforest still exists; the rest has been logged or otherwise destroyed. Much of the remaining temperate rainforest is in undeveloped areas with no public roads, but we were able to get a glimpse in several easily accessible places.

The first was in Cathedral Grove in MacMillan Provincial Park right on Highway 4 near Port Alberni. Cathedral Grove is a remnant of the ancient Douglas fir ecosystem. The largest trees are about 800 years old. If you want to read more, this is a good article.

Cathedral Grove in MacMillan Provincial Park: this has got to be the most scenic outhouse on Vancouver Island

After Halloween, residents of nearby Port Alberni bring their jack o'lanterns to Cathedral Grove so visitors can enjoy them

The dominant trees are Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii), western redcedar (Thuja plicata), grand fir (Abies grandis) and western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla)

Dense growth of moss makes the forest look like a fairytale come alive...

...the Brothers Grimm kind of fairytale

One of the oldest Douglas firs in Cathedral Grove, about 800 years old, 250 ft. in height and 30 ft. in circumference

In Ucluelet, we got another glimpse at Vancouver Island's temperate rainforest, combined with great views of the rugged Pacific Ocean and the tree-dotted islands off shore.

The dominant understory plant here is salal (Gaultheria shallon)

Another Dr. Seuss tree

And something out of a particularly grim Grimm fairytale

Gray sky, silver water—a fitting color combination

Amphitrite Point Lighthouse in Ucluelet, built wide and squat to withstand the strong westerly storms coming in from the Pacific

The weather may not be the most hospitable, but it is November and we're quite far north. I'm actually enjoying it, knowing I'll be back in the land of sunshine and blue sky in just a few days.


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  1. Wonderful photos. Pics 21 and 22 are my favorites and I think you're right - Dr Seuss would have been inspired by both.

  2. Replies
    1. I was thinking how happy my bromeliads would be there if only it were warmer :-)

  3. I've never been there but would like to visit. Your photos are almost as good being there. Great eye you have.

  4. All that moss does indeed look Dr Seusian. I love the photo of the maple leaf caught in the cedar branches.

    1. That maple leaf was such a nice contrast to the grays and greens.

  5. The forest looks very Tim Burton to me. Sleepy Hollow? Did you hear or see any birds? What a contrast to sunny CA! But beautiful.

    1. Yes! Very Sleepy Hollow. My daughter spotted several eagles from the car.


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