Furthest North Vancouver Island – San Josef Bay

Visiting Ronning’s Garden was wonderful, but the primary destination for Day 27 of the trip, May 22nd, was San Josef Bay. It involves a hike of about 5 km round trip from the end of the road leading from Port Hardy, or about 8 km to see the second bay as we did.

The last few miles to Cape Scott Provincial Park were on the smallest road yet.

The last few miles of the road to Cape Scott Provincial Park
Ten minutes after leaving Ronning’s Garden, we reached the end of the road.

Cape Scott Provincial Park sign
I was very surprised by how many vehicles were in the parking lot. There was even a bus from a private boy’s school.

Cape Scott Provincial Park parking lot
This is the trailhead for not only San Josef Bay, but the Cape Scott Trail and the 43-kilometer North Coast Trail as well.

The trailhead for the San Josef Bay Trail, and the 43-kilometer North Coast Trail
There were a few dogs around, including these beauties who had just returned from San Josef Bay. Due to wildlife dangers (cougars and wolves in particular), dogs aren’t allowed on the North Coast Trail.

Dogs at the Cape Scott trailhead
This map doesn’t show most of the North Coast Trail, but it shows where we were going in relation to the rest of the park.


We started down the trail right at 1:00 pm. The trail begins in a lovely second-growth forest. The trail is wide and fairly level on this section.

The trail to San Josef Bay, Cape Scott Provincial Park, BC><br />
</center>
</td>
</tr>
</table>
<table>
<tr>
<td>
About 800 meters from the trailhead, we turned to the southwest.<br />
<center><br />
<img src=
Many of the warnings for hikers heading northwest are repeated where the trails split, most notably the “No dogs allowed beyond this point” one.

The trail to Cape Scott, Cape Scott Provincial Park, BC
Cathy is having problems walking long distances or on rough terrain, and the only possible way to get her to San Josef Bay (and back!) was to get a wheelchair. Although the BC Parks Web site says that this trail is wheelchair-accessible, I assure you that it is not! With a normal wheelchair, the person must be able to walk across several rough or steep sections. Bobbie is laughing in the next photo because I almost lost Cathy over a steep embankment when I hit a rough and side-sloped section while not paying attention. She was laughing at the looks of terror on both of our faces as it was happening.

The trail to San Josef Bay, Cape Scott Provincial Park, BC
Half an hour in, the most impressive old-growth tree we’d seen yet on the trail stopped us for a minute.

Old-growth tree on the trail to San Josef Bay, Cape Scott Provincial Park, BC
A side channel of the San Josef River.

The trail to San Josef Bay, Cape Scott Provincial Park, BC
Here’s an amazing puzzle of nurse stumps, roots, and trees.

The trail to San Josef Bay, Cape Scott Provincial Park, BC
Another of the puzzles looked perfect for a family portrait. My guess is that a flood washed away the missing 6 feet of soil a few decades ago.

The trail to San Josef Bay, Cape Scott Provincial Park, BC
A wheelchair with 4 big tires could manage that lip, but our chair couldn’t with just me pushing it.

Wheelchair problems on the trail to San Josef Bay, Cape Scott Provincial Park, BC
Another of the San Josef River’s side channels.

One of the San Josef River's side channels
This long bridge takes the trail across one of the San Josef River’s flood channels.

This long bridge takes the trail across one of the San Josef River's flood channels
We might be going to the second bay, so took note of this warning. Tide highs had kept Bobbie from seeing the second bay on previous visits.

San Josef Bay tide warning
Our first view of the massive soft-sand beach of San Josef Bay, looking west. There were about a dozen people spread across the kilometer or so of it that we could see.

San Josef Bay, BC
Bella and Tucker were ready for a rip. With a broad beach and nobody within hundreds of meters, the leashed came off. Whoohoo!

Dogs playing on San Josef Bay, Cape Scott Provincial Park, BC
Time for a little breather.

San Josef Bay, Cape Scott Provincial Park, BC
And then back at it 🙂

Dogs playing on San Josef Bay, Cape Scott Provincial Park, BC
It was the far end of the first bay that Bobbie wanted us to see. The fine, hard-packed sand feels so good to walk on.

San Josef Bay, Cape Scott Provincial Park, BC
This is an interesting optical illusion. The sand is actually completely flat but what way the different coloured sands are patterned makes it look like is have waves in it

San Josef Bay, Cape Scott Provincial Park, BC
This is the highlight of what we came to see – a small area with spectacular sea-stacks formed by the ocean’s waves. The flowers on some of the formations made them even more interesting.

Sea stacks at San Josef Bay, Cape Scott Provincial Park, BC
The textured material at the base of the sea-stack on the left is a mat of seaweed mixed with sand.

Sea stacks at San Josef Bay, Cape Scott Provincial Park, BC
The sea-stack area isn’t large – perhaps 50 meters by 100 meters. Apparently some people visit San Josef Bay but leave without seeing the sea stacks because they just didn’t know that they’re there.

Sea stacks at San Josef Bay, Cape Scott Provincial Park, BC

Sea stacks at San Josef Bay, Cape Scott Provincial Park, BC

Sea stacks at San Josef Bay, Cape Scott Provincial Park, BC

Sea stacks at San Josef Bay, Cape Scott Provincial Park, BC
That looked like a very fresh wolf print to me.

San Josef Bay, Cape Scott Provincial Park, BC
The surf was quite light, but it must get very impressive during a winter storm here.

Surf at San Josef Bay, Cape Scott Provincial Park, BC
With good tide conditions, Bobbie and I wanted to see the second bay, but Cathy stopped at this point and started walking back to the trail.

San Josef Bay, Cape Scott Provincial Park, BC
The second bay had a feature that immediately caught our eye – a canyon hidden in the rocks?

San Josef Bay, Cape Scott Provincial Park, BC
Wow – it was gorgeous.

San Josef Bay, Cape Scott Provincial Park, BC
There was plenty of exploring to do right around that little canyon.

San Josef Bay, Cape Scott Provincial Park, BC
Including a skylight in one of the sea-caves.

San Josef Bay, Cape Scott Provincial Park, BC
Just before 3 pm, though, it was time to call it a day. We caught up with Cathy and at 3:30 were back at the trail.

San Josef Bay, Cape Scott Provincial Park, BC
I enjoyed all the new growth at the forest edge before plunging back into the darkness.

San Josef Bay, Cape Scott Provincial Park, BC


On the walk back, I hooked Bella up to the wheelchair to give me some help, and she was amazing. Normally she wanders around and is distracted by pretty much anything. When she was given an important job, though, she was incredibly focussed and never wavered. As well as being a help, that walk gave Cathy and I a whole new appreciation for what our little girl is capable of.

The trail from San Josef Bay, BC
One more look at the San Josef River.


We had a very late lunch when we got back to the trailhead, and at 5:00 pm were on the road headed back to Port McNeill. It had been a full and exceptionally interesting day.



Comments

Furthest North Vancouver Island – San Josef Bay — 2 Comments

  1. Hi Murray:. It is interesting that you should bring that up about Bella pulling the wheelchair. Bet we hear you doing that again. I use our dog Samantha to help pull the ice fishing sled across the ice when we go ice fishing and found she reacts the same way (focused).
    She is only a collie but sure makes a difference for me when she is pulling her share. Great pictures! Cheeer Leo