A 3-Day Trip to Tofino, BC during Christmas Holiday Season: Hiking, Sight-seeing, Food

Happy Holidays, folks. After a year’s hard working, everyone deserves a nice and lovely vacation. This holiday season, me and my wife wanted to escape from Alberta’s coldness and snow and spend some quality time in a warmer and greener place – Tofino and Ucluelet on Vancouver Island, BC definitely meet our needs, although it would be nice if we had time to go there in the summer. The good thing is that we lived in a guest house surrounded by rain forest, with a wood stove that gave us extremely nice and cozy holiday atmosphere. Oh, my goodness, I just love it!

For a PDF map of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve of Canada, please check here.

How we got there and where we lived

We flew with Air Canada from Edmonton to Vancouver on Dec. 23rd night and spent one night at St. Regis Hotel (602 Dunsmuir St., Vancouver), located about 2 minutes from the nearest Sky Train Station (City Centre, and Buses 257 and 250 are nearby as well). The hotel room was nice, but a bit small compared to those I use in Fort McMurray for work. Yeah, location, location, location! The housing prices of Vancouver are much higher than those of major cities in Alberta. I guess I won’t move to Vancouver anytime soon. LOL.

The next morning, we took the ferry at Horseshoe Bay to Departure Bay at Nanaimo. It takes about 1 hour and 40 minutes to cross. Check here for the official ferry schedules. The boat was really nice, huge and very stable. People bring their vehicles and pets with them. After we arrived at Nanaimo, we took a free ride with Enterprise Rent A car and rented a vehicle, with which we drove to our guest house in Tofino. We found the guest house (49.131279,-125.894765, Tibbs Place and Abraham Drive) on VRBO. We shared the kitchen, the living room and the Man’s Cave (a garage with a wood stove) with another nice and kind tenant.

Where to buy grocery

There’s a T&T supermarket near the St. Regis Hotel and we bought some food and seafood there, just in case no grocery store is open in Tofino during the holiday. Actually, there’s a nice Walmart in Port Alberni, about 1 hour driving away from Nanaimo. So, you can get your grocery there as well.

It’s time to have fun!

Incinerator Rock on Long Beach

Our first stop in the morning on Dec. 25th, a beautiful sunny day, was Incinerator Rock on Long Beach in Pacific Rim National Park. The Incinerator Rock is a giant tidal rock, which is a perfect spot for you to stand on and enjoy the view. If you don’t have a National Park annual pass, it’s $7.8 per adult. See here for more information about the fees.

RVs are not allowed in the parking lot in front of the beach at the Incinerator Rock. However, we did see people stayed in their small van campers (or, small RVs). I thought it would be nice to camp here and go surfing, kayaking, hiking, or fishing around. Actually, we did see one guy carrying a bucket, a fishing rod and his tackle walked onto a smaller rock and caught a fish a short moment later. Yeah, this location is a good one for shore fishing around Tofino and Ucluelet on Vancouver Island.

Shore/Beach Fishing around Tofino and Ucluelet on Vancouver Island
Shore/Beach Fishing around Tofino and Ucluelet on Vancouver Island

In addition to sight seeing and shore fishing, we saw people came here for surfing in as well, yeah, in the winter with we suits. I would imagine that more people could be here in summers. For myself, I don’t do surfing, but I kayak regularly in summers in Alberta. I thought it would be fun to kayak on the ocean sometime.

Hiking Light House Loop, Wild Pacific Trail in Ucluelet, BC

After seeing the Incinerator Rock, we went on to hiking the Light House Loop trail (30 – 45 minutes walking, 2.6 km). You can see beautiful mossy rain forest and nice coastal line. Do enjoy the frequent benches along the trail.

Sight seeing along Lighthouse Loop Wild Pacific Trail
Sight seeing along Lighthouse Loop Wild Pacific Trail
The 100+ Year Old Landmark - Lighthouse.
The 100+ Year Old Landmark – Lighthouse.
Hiking Half Moon Bay Trail in Pacific Rim National Park

On the way leaving Ucluelet back to our guest house in Tofino, we hiked the Willowbrae Trail and Half Moon Bay Trail. There are wood stairs on the trail. Use caution when the stairs are wet or icy. They could get very slippery.

Halfmoon Bay Nice Sandy Beach
Halfmoon Bay Nice Sandy Beach
Cox Bay Beach: surfing, walking, and sight seeing

We wrapped up the day by visiting the Cox Bay Beach Resort, where we could see the cooks preparing food for their guests on Christmas, and the Beach itself.

Cox Bay Beach - Great Open Area for Gathering, Surfing, Walking
Cox Bay Beach – Many People Go for Surfing and Walking (with dogs!)

The Cox Bay Beach is very wide open and it’s a popular place for surfing, family gathering, dog walking, and so on.

Hot Springs Cove in Maquinna Marine Provincial Park

On Dec. 26th, we went to Maquinna Marine Provincial Park for hiking the Hot Springs Cove trail and then we enjoyed the hot spring. Use caution while getting to the cove or the hot spring water falls, as the rocks could be very slippery. It was freeing stepping on the rocks with our bare feet. However, once we get to the host spring water, we were very happy that we made it. It was a very unique experience compared to the “landscaped” hot springs in Banff and Jasper National Parks. You get hot spring water falls! With the water coming down onto my shoulders, I felt very comfortable and relaxing. It was like having a water spa – with hot spring water!

Hot Springs Cove and Water Falls
Hot Springs Cove (hidden behind the trees) and Water Falls
Movie Nights

After hiking and having fun all day, we spent the nights watching movies with the wood stove on – nice and cosy, isn’t it?

How time flys – heading back

In the morning on Dec. 27th, we started driving back to Nanaimo. Before reaching Nanaimo, we have a short tour of the giant Douglous Firs in MacMillan Provincial Park.

Giant Douglas Fir - 800 Years Old
Giant Douglas Fir – The Oldest was 800 years, more than 70 meters high, in the Park

For food lovers

In Tofino, we enjoyed great sea food in the beautiful restaurant: Shelter. At the Departure Bay ferry in Nanaimo, we really enjoyed the fresh, delicious tuna sandwiches. And, before we get back to Edmonton, we bought a full backpack of smoked salmon at Sea Drift sea food market in Nanaimo, not far away from the Departure Bay in Nanaimo. In addition, we also bought some nice spaghetti at the market on Granville Island. Oh man, the spaghetti could be one of the world’s best. We took the sea bus to get on Granville Island. It was a very short, fast, and convenient way to get on the Island.

Sea bus to Granville Island: short and fast
Sea bus to Granville Island: short and fast

Kayaking, fishing and hiking in Waterton Lakes National Park

“Waterton Lakes is like the Banff 30 years ago”, a friend of mine told me. And I like it exactly for that reason – the crystal clear lakes, the great waterfalls, the magnificent mountains, and the wildlife and so on, without too much human interference.

During the May 2015 long weekend, we went camping at Townsite Campground in Waterton Lakes. We enjoyed kayaking and fishing on Cameron Lake and Upper Waterton Lake, hiking (or snowshoeing without snowshoes, LOL) to Forum Lake, to Lineham Creek, and to Bears Hump (where you can have a nice bird-view of the town of Waterton Lakes).

It was rainy on the day we went kayaking and fishing on Cameron Lake (parking lot GPS coordinates: 49.020079, -114.045095). But the weather didn’t stop us from having fun. Actually, I and my wife loved paddling our new Pelican Unison 136T tandem kayak all the way from the boat launch to the CANADA-US boarder, where we noticed thin ice covering the US part of the lake (is this why they call it glacier park? LOL). We intended to have our friends kayaking together if the boat rental was open. Unfortunately, the boat rental was closed until June 15.

Read my review of the kayak here.

Kayaking on Cameron Lake
Kayaking on Cameron Lake May 2015 (features a tandem kayak Pelican Unison 136T)

The Cameron Creek outflow reportedly is a good spot for fishing brook trout and rainbow trout. But the water at the outflow was very shallow and the water temperature around 5 degrees C. I knew that trout generally like around 10 degrees C, so that might explain why I didn’t have a bite, haha. My Eagle Lowrance sonar fishfinder detected water depth at 20 to 30 meters most of the time at the center part of the lake. But I have read articles saying that the maximum depth of Camera lake was over 40 meters. For your information, you can buy National Park fishing licenses at the information center. The park gate doesn’t carry fishing licenses.

Read my post: how to use fish finders to help you catch more fish

The above video: 360 degree view of Cameron Lake while kayaking.

One the driveway back to Waterton Lakes Townsite from Cameron Lake, we were lucky enough to see a cinnamon black bear (yes, a black bear can be cinnamon in color). See below a youtube video of the cinnamon black bear eating along the driveway. In the beginning I thought it was a grizzly, but I was convinced that it was actually a cinnamon black bear due to the lack of a hump on its back and the “Roman rose” face.

The first thing we wanted to do was to start a fire and get warm and dry after we came back to the campsite. Luckily, we have kitchen shelters at Townsite camp. So we bought some firewood from a general grocery store in the town and started a fire. While cooking with gas stoves, we got our clothes and ourselves warm and dry, which was and is very important for a day like that.

Townsite camp kitchen
Townsite camp kitchen in Waterton Lakes National Park May 2015

Check below for a youtube video of how I started a fire with a magnesium alloy (reportedly a mixture of about 7 metals?) firestarter and a Gerber Bear Grylls knife, which I carry everywhere with me for my hiking, kayaking, fishing, and camping trips. I actually used the knife as an axe to split firewood into kindle and make tinder or “wood feather”. To use the knife or any other tough knives as an axe, you need to put the knife on one end of a firewood log and hammer it all the way down to the other end. Of course, you can just use a piece of firewood log to serve as a hammer instead of carrying a real hammer with you. To some extent, I’m a minimalist.

On the second day, a group of us went hiking to Forum Lake, while the others went hiking to Bears Hump, which took them about 30 minutes to get to the top (yes, they are good hikers). I went hiking to Forum Lake, which was a little surprise as there was thick and loose snow on the trail in May in southern Alberta and British Columbia… Anyways, it was a great hike and we enjoyed throwing snowballs to each other.

Forum Lake in Waterton Lakes
Forum Lake Hiking Trail in Waterton Lakes National Park

The Bears Hump hiking trail, where the second group of us went, is fairly short but a bit steep. That being said, it worth all the efforts as it’s a good peak to see the town the the lakes. After the hiking, we got wet again. So, we went back to the wood stoves in one of the kitchen shelters and started another fire. Isn’t it nice to have a fire in a cold day!

In the evening, I went kayaking and fishing at Cameron Creek mouth where it meets Upper Waterton Lake. I saw two motor boats fishing there as well.

Upper Waterton Lakes May 2015
Upper Waterton Lakes May 2015

One of the gentlemen caught a good sized fish jigging around the creek mouth. But I didn’t even have a bite this time. I was thinking I should come back to the same spot when the weather gets warmer. After kayaking, I and my buddy saw three white tail deer having dinner at the shore. During one of the nights, my friend Joey Qin took a picture of the stars at Upper Waterton Lake. Great thanks to Joey for his generous support with his great photos.

Upper Waterton Lake May 2015
Upper Waterton Lake May 2015

On the last day, we drove to Red Rock Canyon. The scene was great and it was quite relaxing, after two days of activities. The end of the scenic Red Rock Canyon drive was of course the Red Rock Canyon. One can take a short walk along the two sides of the canyon, connected by a bridge.

Thanks for reading 🙂

Acknowledgement:
Most of the photos were taken and provided by my good buddy Mr. Joey Qin. So, great thanks to Joey!

A 3-Day Trip Plan to Banff, Jasper and Yoho National Parks

Back in 2012, I had a 3-day trip to the National Parks in Western Canada. My schedule was very tight and I wanted to visit as many places as possible, with a mixed activities of hiking, canoeing, and sightseeing. The trip was actually organized by a friend of mine in Edmonton and it was very successful. So, I decided to share some photos and the places I and my friends visited. Hope this will help you plan for your next trip 🙂

A. 1. Beauvert Lake: calm and peaceful in early mornings, almost like a mirror.
B. 2. Patricia Lake: not far from Beauvert Lake, you’ll pass by Patricia Lake before you reach Pyramid Lake.
C. 3. Pyramid Lake: the lake and the Pyramid Island is one of the most visited destination in Jasper National Park.
D. 4. Maligne Canyon: a wonderful deep canyon and a good hiking trail.
E. 5. Athabasca Falls: great water falls that you never want to miss.
F. 6. Columbia Glacier Icefields: not many glacier icefields are left in the world, be sure to check this one out. Bring a water bottle with you and try the glacier water.
G. 7. Lake Louise: a beautiful lake and very popular place for visitors.
H. 8. Takakkaw Falls: the waterfalls and the mountains make great pictures.
I. 9. Emerald Lake: a peaceful lake that is great for canoeing.
J. 10. Natural Bridge Yoho National Park: come and see the nature’s carvings.
K. 11. Moraine Lake: nice lake and nice hiking.
L. 12. Johnston Canyon Water Falls: one of the most popular and best hiking trails.
M. 13. The Fairmont Banff Springs (Castle): luxury historic resort and conference centre.
N. 14. Sulphur Mountain: great hiking trails, Banff gondola, sight viewing platforms, panorama and bird view of Banff Town, Bow River, Minnewanka Lake, and many more.