Hornby Island – Helliwell Park and Mt Geoffrey Park

Welcome to our first blog posting as Go Hiking Vancouver Island. We are super pleased to begin with our rendition of a trip to Hornby Island, Helliwell Provincial Park, Mt Geoffrey Nature Park and thrilled to be able to post our first TRAIL MAP of both Mt Geoffrey, Helliwell and Tribune Bay.

Enjoy and I  hope your trip is as successful as ours was.

Helliwell Provincial Park on Hornby Island…

is a true jewel for hiking with the whole family.  Indeed we  found three jewels on Hornby Island, Helliwell Park, Tribune Bay and Mt Geoffrey Park, the latter would be best for mountain bikers. However, all are a must visit, but don’t forget the kids of all ages on these hiking or biking trips, this is a classic and a must do. 

Ensure you have a full day as you are going to need it.

We found the best time to visit was out of season for Helliwell, and Mt Geoffrey.  Although both parks are fantastic in the summer months I can see where the summer stirs some serious popularity and I envision the parks to be inundated with hikers and bikers, so to beat the crowds pick a nice sunny day in the off season if you can.

Where is Hornby Island: Hornby Island is a small island situated off the east coast of Vancouver Island,  directly east of Denman Island,. On Vancouver Island the ferry is situated north of Qualicum Beach and south of the Comox Valley.

How to get to Hornby Island:  From Highway 19, turn east at Buckley Bay Rd. exit 101, travel approximately  1 km to the intersection on Highway 19A, continue directly through the intersection to the Buckley Bay Ferry Terminal which will take you to Denman Island.  From the ferry terminal on Denman Island there is ample signage directing you to the Hornby Island Ferry.

Sea Lions basking in the sun on Hornby Island, Helliwll Park
Sea lions basking in the sun.

How to get to Helliwell Park: From the Ferry Terminal on Hornby  to Helliwell Park is 13.2 km – 18 spectacularly scenic minutes of driving. Please abide by Island rules and drive slow.  Follow Shingle Spit Road to  Central Rd., turn right, keep following until you come to the Tribune Bay turn off corner, then turn left on St Johns Point Rd, following until you see a sharp turn to the right, keep following until you are into the park.

How to get to Mt Geoffrey: There are a number of entrances to Mt Geoffrey Escarpment Provincial Park.  We took the Lea Smith Rd. entrance right off Central Rd., to a hidden trail head, here the trail immediately gains substantial elevation, however if that is not your choice there are multiple accesses  from Barney French Rd,  Slade Rd., Strachan Rd.,  Euston Rd.,  Central Rd., as well as Shingle Spit to Ford Cove Trail which is just south of the  ferry terminal which do not start off with dramatic and immediate elevation gain.

Ferries to Hornby Island:  The first ferry from Vancouver Island  takes you to Denman Island, from there you cross the island directed by well marked directional signs to the ferry terminal on the east side.   The ferry rides are short, (10 minutes) but be prepared to pay for both ferries one way. The cost in 2019 was $39.00 for the car and two adult passengers for each ferry.  So count on about $80.00 and add a few extra dollars for the kids.

Young Eagle on the Beach, Hornby Island Helliwell Park.
This young eagle was one of almost a dozen we saw that day.

I can’t stress how much fun this trip was, we certainly were not expecting to enjoy the day as much as we did, or to see the amazing topography and wildlife that proliferated all around us.  I came away with the strong conviction that this is something everyone should do with the kids, (and wondering why I never took my daughter) especially in the off-season as I can see where Helliwell and Geoffrey must get crazy busy in the summer.

What to bring:  First of all don’t worry about the snowshoes…unless of course it is snowing.

Map of Hornby Island Go Hiking Vancouver Island

Other Three Seasons:

  • Camera of course
  • Binoculars are a must
  • Wind breaker, it apparently is windy much of the time or wet weather gear
  • Good walking shoes and socks to go with
  • Warm Jacket or layers, layers are always best in our climate
  • Water Bottle, the water on the island is not considered potable
  • Hat
  • Gloves
  • Neck warmer (I always get cold)
  • Snacks, however there are some great places to eat on the island

Make sure you stop in at a local cafe for lunch or a hot chocolate.

Summer:

  • Camera of course
  • Binoculars are a must
  • Wind breaker
  • Good walking shoes
  • Towel
  • Bathing suit
  • Sunscreen (all natural of course)
  • Hat
  • Beach accessories
  • Snacks, but again there are some really cool places to eat on the island

Think about the possibility of visiting a Winery or Cider-y while you are there, there is much to see on the island(s).

More on Hornby Island

More on Denman Island

Bluffs in Helliwell Park, Hornby Island hiking trails

About Helliwell Park: 

Management:  Helliwell is under the management of BC Provincial Parks

Location:  South Eastern shores of Hornby Island access from  St John’s Point Road and Helliwell Rd.

Helliwell Park Size:  2,872 Hectares

Elevation Gain: None

What to expect to see: in Helliwell Provincial Park

Helliwell Park sits on south facing rocky headlands, surrounded by a majestic stand of old-growth Douglas fir that we estimated to be 700 to 800 years old.  

Called St John’s Point, the most southerly point of the Helliwell bluffs defend the  the entrance to Tribune Bay, a most sought after sunny beach, popular with both the locals and visitors.  From these bluffs you can hear the cacophony of sea lions chatter whilst they relax en-mass on the pebbled shores of Flora Islet off the south eastern shores of Hornby  island.

Bald Headed Eagles everywhere, and spectacular views of marine life, the Coast Range of Mountains and the Salish Sea.  Rocky shorelines, meandering hiking and walking trails, weather beaten old-growth and desert like unique sub flora.  

BE AWARE: 

Cliff hazards exist along the hiking trails on the south end of the island.  Stay way back from the edge.

Potable water is not available in this park.

Within the biomass of Helliwell Park there are delicately fragile ecosystems, please stay on the trails, do not cross the roped off areas and respect the plant  life.  Practice no trace hiking, leave no garbage and take only your pictures home with you.

When in peak times during the summer, consider taking your bike as the parking lots tend to get overfull.  Park

The view from Mt Geoffrey towards Vancouver Island, Hornby Island
The View looking towards Vancouver Island from Mt Geoffrey.

About Mt  Geoffrey Nature Park:

Management:  The Comox Valley Regional District

Location:  1675 Lea Smith Rd. with additional access by Strachan Rd. and Northwind Rd.

Mt Geoffrey Nature Park Size:  333 hectares (823 acres) 

Mt Geoffrey Elevation:  330 metres or (1,080 ft). Expect to gain this elevation by our route all at once.

Activities:  Mountain biking (hilly), wild life viewing, hiking, horseback riding.

What to expect to see: at Mt Geoffrey Nature Park

Extensive, thickly forested second growth trail networks for mountain biking. boasting panoramic views, amazing wildlife viewing opportunities, views that are unavailable anywhere else. 

Arbutus is not something we see a lot of on North Central Vancouver Island and the Arbutus on Hornby Island are huge. They are a spectacularly and artistically alluring tree and prone to be the central point in many a picture frame.

The Cliff Trail follows the cliff edge with spectacular views of Vancouver Island, with dramatic drop offs, exercise extreme caution and stay well back from the edge.  These trails follow paths through rock features and bridges over gullies and streams, a seasonal waterfall and steep hillsides.

Keep your eyes peeled on the rugged shoreline for shorebirds and mammals, mink and otter are common, please be courteous and do not disturb the wildlife, just observe. 

BE AWARE: 

Horses are permitted on the multi-use trails only,  hikers be aware of the possibility of mountain bikers at every turn.

Be Safe and Have fun…..