Adventure at a glance:
Distance – approximately 7km round trip
Time - relaxed full day for little adventurers, half day for our family/those with kids aprox. 7-12, 2-3 hours for seasoned adventurers or those with teenagers and beyond
Difficulty – easy to moderate for most (moderate to challenging for little legs under 5 or 6)
Highlights – day use area with picnic and outdoor bathroom facilities at the trailhead, well established trail, amazing and diverse temperate rainforest, beautiful creek and waterfall as a “destination”
While we may find cause for debate when it comes to our family definition of a “favorite” hike, we all unanimously agree that one of the loveliest and most enjoyable half-to-full day hikes across the entire Island meanders along the picturesque Rosewall Creek. The jump off point for this hike is Rosewall Creek Provincial Park, which is located in central Vancouver Island, not far south of Fanny Bay. This park is easy to find (check out a detailed map here), and contains a small (but beautiful) day use area with a couple of picnic tables on either side of the creek (and a short path that connects the two), which can make for a really nice picnic spot before or after you set out on the trail. There are also maintained outhouses near the parking lot, which we think every parent can appreciate the value of insisting your children use before embarking on the trek. ;) Depending on the time of year you are visiting, you may even be able to fish in Rosewall Creek (as as per provincial and federal fishing regulations), and coho salmon do spawn in this stream as well (typically October-early December), which can be a really neat event to witness for kids and adults alike.
The “park rules” state that all pets must be leashed, with the typical “clean up after your dog” requirements. Once you are on the trail outside of the park, we have found that dogs that can typically behave off leash have no problems here, but owners need to be aware that there is the possibility to encounter wildlife (including cougars and bears) in addition to other hikers and their pets, so use your own discretion.
This trail begins inside the Provincial Park, departing from the parking lot, and heads upstream, fairly quickly leaving park land and entering Ministry of Forests land. The beginning of the trail is a bit hard to follow, but once you are on the main trail (less than a kilometer from the parking lot), the trail is well established and easy to follow. From the parking lot, head upstream on the obvious trail, past the picnic tables, until it curves to your right and connects with the sidewalk on the bridge alongside the old island highway. Once across the bridge, the trail curves right and rejoins the other side of the creek. Keep right and walk under the bridge you just crossed (there is a path to the left as well, which will take you to the other side of the day use area), continuing straight ahead until you pass under a second bridge, and then proceed through a small concrete tunnel, on the other side of which begins the well established trail.
During times that the creek is especially high in volume (usually immediately following several days of rain), we have experienced instances where the trail is not accessible without a willingness to cross the small “over-flow” creek that can form just as the trail begins, but this is rare, and even when these conditions are present, unless you have very small children, you should be able to adventure your way across the small stream, and safely on to the trail. When the water is high, there are a couple of other sections along the trail where water can intercept the main trail, but smaller alternate routes have been created by frequent visitors to this path, and are readily available and visible if needed.
As you continue along the trail, you will be treated to incredible forests full of large cedars, western hemlock, douglas fir and moss-laden big leaf maples.
Be aware that devil’s club grows quite frequently along the trail as well, in addition to many species of moss & fungi (which vary widely according to season).
If you are a geochacher, definitely update your GPS with some of the many maps to caches on or near the trail as well.
After about 3.5 km’s of beautiful, lush (and mostly flat) established trail, you will reach the truly breathtaking Rosewall Creek Falls. Shortly before the falls there is a section of steep, downhill terrain that can require a bit of hands on scrambling for the little ones to navigate safely, but this section is brief, and we have never considered it a major cause for concern.
The creek at the base of the falls is lined with large rocks that are perfect for resting tired little (or big!) legs, enjoying a “fuel-up” snack before the return hike, or taking some memorable photos.
For those with older children who are a little more adventurous, the trail does continue up the hillside to the right of the falls, providing an additional viewpoint of a larger section of the tumbling water, but be warned that the trail is very steep, requires a bit of climbing over large fallen trees, can be slippery when muddy, and the viewpoint itself drops off steeply, so use caution if you decide to explore there.
After you have had your fill of the beauty of the falls, you can head back the way you came, enjoying a whole new perspective of the same trail. For our family, hiking at a casual pace with stops included to take photos, inspect exciting or interesting discoveries of the plentiful plant/fungus/wildlife, and a snack and water break at the falls, we were back at our vehicle about three hours after we had departed. We consider this to be a “half-day” hike. The round trip distance, according to our GPS, was just over 7km’s. Families with small children may choose to make a relaxed full day of this hike and pack a lunch in addition to snacks, while those with older children (or hiking without kids) can probably complete the return trip in around two hours. No matter what the age or stage of your party, we feel confident that this adventure will leave you with wonderful memories, beautiful photos, and a greater appreciation for the astounding natural beauty present here on Vancouver Island.