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  • Ripple Rock Trail Adventure Guide

    Posted by Lisa Pedscalny April 11, 2014 - 4,852 views - 2 comments - 3 likes - #family  #hiking  #adventure  #adventuresunday  #familyhiking  #vancouverisland  #campbellriver  #ripplerock 


    Adventure at a glance:

    Distance – approximately 8km round trip
    Time - full day for little adventurers, half day + for our family/those with kids aprox. 7-12, 3-4 hours for seasoned adventurers or those with teenagers and beyond
    Difficulty – moderate for most, with some steep sections (challenging for little legs under 5 or 6)
    Highlights – several gorgeous viewpoints, multiple beach access, well established trail complete with robust stairs to final lookout, amazing and diverse temperate rainforest, interesting history


    Besides being a gorgeous well-established and maintained trail, offering  a diverse array of “highlights” for would-be adventurers, Ripple Rock trail gets its name from some pretty fascinating Vancouver Island history. Ripple Rock was an underwater mountain that stood in Seymour Narrows (part of the Discovery Passage) near Campbell River and Quadra & Maud Islands. However, problematically, Ripple Rock had two peaks which were only 9 and 21 feet below the surface, and these jutting rock masses created a significant marine hazard for exploring ships back in the late 1800’s, causing the channel to reportedly be described by George Vancouver as “one of the vilest stretches of water in the world”. In 1958, during one of the first live coast-to-coast broadcasts in Canadian history, Ripple Rock was destroyed via a planned explosion that remains one of the largest non-nuclear planned explosions in the world. The destination and final lookout point of this hike offers a stunning viewpoint overlooking where this historic event took place, and we believe is definitely worth the effort for visitors and locals alike!



    The jump off point for this hike is located approximately 16km north of Campbell River, along the inland Island highway (#19), with a dedicated parking lot pull out on the east side of the road. A detailed map to the trailhead can be found here. Adventurers should be aware that there have been reports of thefts from vehicles parked in the trailhead parking lot, so please ensure you do not leave valuables visible inside. We have hiked this trail several times and never experienced any problems, but better to be safe than sorry! 
    For those adventuring with four-legged, furry family members in tow - we have found that dogs that can typically behave off leash have no problems here, but as with most parts of Vancouver Island, 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 please use your own discretion.

    The trail begins directly from the north end of parking lot, and starts off along a cut-line, descending down several sets of gravel and wood steps (which are helpful when the trail is muddy).



    Don’t let the less-than-spectacular beginning to this hike deter you – before long, you will reach the marshy estuary surrounding Menzies Creek, which depending on the time of year, can offer sights and sounds of a variety of songbirds, beautiful wildflowers, delicious salmon-berries, and is equipped with several board-walk sections to ensure your feet stay dry.




    The trail then leads to a cool suspension bridge, which is anchored to a massive, old-growth Sitka spruce. Our boys love the rocking and swaying sensation created by crossing this bridge, but some small adventurers may find it intimidating, so parents take note that you may need to offer some assistance here! Our dogs preferred to be carried across, as the grated metal bridge is not very kind to shoe-less feet, so again, be aware of any potential concerns for all adventurers in your party.



    As you continue along the trail and boardwalk section through the marsh, you will soon come upon the first of two beach access points; this one leading to beautiful Menzies Bay, and clearly marked with a unique and hard to miss “viewpoint” sign.



    If you time your adventure with the tide in mind (tide tables for this area can be accessed here), this is a great place to stop for a rest and a snack on the plentiful driftwood “benches” that line the beach, and spend some time beach combing, admiring the view, and taking a few photos.



    After leaving Menzies Bay, the trail quickly heads upward onto the steepest continuous section of this hike, but well-constructed and frequent sets of steps (often with handrails as well) help to provide sure footing, even when the conditions may be wet.



    The trail continues to climb towards the rocky bluffs and another breathtaking view at Wilfred Point, offering several well thought out & charming places to take a breather and refuel with a drink or snack, as needed.




    As you approach Wilfred Point, there is another “viewpoint” sign ensuring you don’t miss the offshoot trail leading to this gorgeous vista, and a welcome log picnic table ready to become your adventure party’s lunch, snack, or water break resting place while you take in the stunning views.



    For those adventurers enjoying a relaxed pace to this hike, the mossy, rocky bluffs here can be a wonderful spot to recharge for an extended period as well, but be aware that the drop-off to the water below is very steep, so keep a close eye on any little ones you may be travelling with, and use caution even with older kids wanting to sneak a peek “over the edge”.



    After you depart from the Wilfred Point lookout, the trail continues through more beautiful temperate rainforest, with many Douglas fir, red alder, broadleaf maple and western hemlock, as well as a wide variety of species of moss, ferns, and fungi, which vary according to season.




    The trees here are mostly second growth (much of the area was logged around 70 years ago, and you will see evidence of this in the form of massive stumps, many of which have become “nurse logs” for new trees and vegetation, but there are sections of towering 300 year old Sitka spruce and Douglas fir old growth as well.



    The next point of interest you will reach (not long before the final push to the Ripple Rock lookout) is Nymphe Cove – a lovely, sandy beach, and excellent spot for another break to rest tired legs, rehydrate, and grab a snack (or lunch, if you did not do so at Wilfred Point). Again, if you have timed the tides, the sand stretches a long way out in this cove, providing lots of beach combing opportunities, and adventurers can easily fill as much time as they have to spare in this beautiful, sheltered spot.



    Past Nymphe Cove, the trail begins to climb again towards the final destination of Ripple Rock lookout. It used to be that it was quite a scramble to make your way to the top of the rocky bluffs overlooking this historic channel, but there are now a set of sturdy stairs leading to the top, which make the viewpoint accessible to most adventurers.



    From the top, there are multiple viewpoints providing ample photo opportunities in many directions, with both Maud and Quadra Islands visible across Seymour Narrows, and lots of interesting little side trails to explore as well. Of course, being up so high always means that caution is needed when exploring the bluffs, as drop offs are prevalent, and little adventurers should be kept close by and carefully monitored. 




    A close inspection of the water flowing through the channel below still provides evidence of unusual currents caused by the altered landscape beneath the surface, and it is very common to see birds such as eagles, herons, gulls and cormorants fishing in this area as well, so if you are a bird watcher, pack your binoculars.




    After you have had your fill of exploring the bluffs and taking in the views, 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 several lunch/snack and water breaks, we were back at our vehicle about five and a half hours after we had departed. We consider this to be a “half-day +” hike, as it did take the better part of the day. The round trip distance, according to our GPS, was just over 8km’s. Families with small children may choose to make a full day of this hike, or even shorten the distance by selecting Wilfred Point or Nymphe Cove as a destination, rather than the Ripple Rock lookout. Those with older children (or hiking without kids) can probably complete the return trip in around three to four hours. Overall, we feel confident that this adventure, and its diverse terrain and numerous points of interest, will provide you with wonderful memories, beautiful photos, and a greater appreciation for the astounding natural beauty present here on Vancouver Island.