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Vancouver Island Trees and Where to See Them

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BC is renowned for its beautiful green scenery and is home to a wonderful array of trees, with some being among the largest in the world. Seeing these trees is a high priority for many visitors to BC, and so here is a look at some of the majestic trees that can be admired on Vancouver Island, and where to find them.


Native to California, Sequoia seedlings were transported over 100 years ago and planted in Victoria. They are among the largest trees in the world and have a distinctive reddish bark covering massive trunks that soar skywards without tapering significantly for much of their height, so they can reach up to 75 metres. You’ll find these trees dotted around Victoria, with Beacon Hill Park being home to a few spectacular specimens, so keep an eye out for these majestic giants!

Douglas Fir

Reaching heights of 85 meters on the coast, the Douglas Fir tree has been an important part of West Coast communities for thousands of years, providing shelter, tools, and food. The bark is reddish brown, deeply grooved and can grow over 30 centimetres thick, which is used as a defence against fire and insects. These large evergreen trees commonly live to be at least 500 years and sometimes exceed 1,000 years, and without them BC and Vancouver Island would look so very different.

Western Red Cedar

The provincial tree of BC, the Western Red Cedar is one of the most valuable conifers owing to the unique colour, texture, and durability of its wood. Growing up to 60 meters tall, these trees have a large trunk, drooping branches, and thin, fibrous, brown bark. For thousands of years this tree has been used for so much, from mats, clothing, baskets, nets, fishing lines, medicines, food, dye, torches, hats and much more, which is why it’s also known as the “Tree of Life”.

Garry OakGarry Oak

Garry Oaks are the only native oak species in BC and are quite rare, found only along the Pacific Northwest (and some of coastal California). Before the last age they were part of an extensive hardwood forest in BC, but their reach has since diminished.

An attractive tree with grooved, scaly, greyish-black bark, they can grow up to 30 metres tall with craggy branches that produce acorns. One of the most valuable trees to the West Coast, Garry Oaks have been used for thousands of years for materials and food, but are now part of the most endangered Canadian ecosystems. They provide an incredibly rich habitat for wildlife, and these special trees are worth planting and preserving for future generations.


While not as impressively large as some of the other trees, the Arbutus Tree is special to Vancouver Island. It is only native broadleaf evergreen tree in Canada and generally grows only within 8 kilometres of the ocean. These very distinctive trees can grow up to 30 metres, usually with a crooked or leaning trunk that divides into several twisting upright branches and has reddish-brown bark that peels every year to grow a new layer. Arbutus wood has historically been used for walking sticks, its berries for decorative necklaces and beads, and its leaves used for medicinal purposes.

See the Trees

There are several provincial parks where you can see beautiful trees in all their splendour. Just note that when exploring nature, it is important to be aware of your impact and try and reduce that as much as possible, to help maintain these sensitive forest ecosystems and preserve these groves for future generations.

  • Don’t leave anything behind, such as food wrappers, water bottles, or even hair ties. Always make sure you have taken everything with you when leaving
  • Stay on the marked paths and boardwalks and never climb over fences. Do not climb all over the trees either, keep a respectful distance to not damage them as they can be sensitive.
  • Follow weather warnings. Not only will it not be pleasant to visit a forest in strong winds or heavy rain, it can also be dangerous.

Cathedral Grovecathedral_grove

Situated in McMillan Provincial Park, Cathedral Grove is a sacred and stunning place to visit. It is one of the most accessible stands of giant Douglas fir trees on Vancouver Island, as visitors can stroll through a network of trails, all under the shadow of towering ancient Douglas-fir trees - with some as old as 800 years! Trails on either side of the highway lead visitors through the mighty stands of this coastal forest. On the south side you will find the largest firs – some measuring more than 8 metres in circumference. On the northern side you’ll find groves of ancient Western red cedar standing sentry over nearby Cameron Lake.

Goldstream Provincial Park

Just an hour away from our park is Goldstream Provincial Park where you can find massive trees, majestic waterfalls, a meandering river that meets the sea, flowers, birds and fascinating fish. The numerous trails criss-cross through the dramatically different terrain of two distinct vegetation zones. The park is home to 600-year-old Douglas fir trees and western red cedar, mixed with western yew and hemlock, red alder, big leaf maple, black cottonwood, and of course arbutus. For a more adventurous hike, climb to the top of one of the highest points in Greater Victoria – Mount Finlayson for some stunning views of the city and its trees.

Ancient Cedars Loop

Part of the Wild Pacific Trail, the Ancient Cedars Loop is only about a 20 minute walk but has some beautiful large trees that are over 800 years old. Near Tofino, this section showcases old-growth Sitka spruce, western hemlock, and giant red cedars, which are the oldest trees on the Ucluelet peninsula. One of them even measures more than 12 metres around its base!

Rathtrevor Provincial Park

The beauty of majestic old-growth trees, ocean sunsets and a wide sandy beach nestled among Douglas fir trees makes Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park one of the premier destinations on Vancouver Island. A bit further away off Highway 19 just south of Parksville, there are several kilometres of hiking trails for you to enjoy some of the province’s most beautiful coast and lush parkland.

Royal Roads

There is a lot of great nature to be found in the suburbs of Victoria. One such place is at Royal Roads University, and these vast forested grounds surrounding Hatley Castle run all the way from Colwood's city centre to Lagoon Road and reach from Esquimalt Lagoon up to Sooke Road. There are dozens of paths and trails that meander through incredible old growth forest, which is home to some of the Capital Region's largest Douglas Fir trees. There are many access points through the university grounds, along Wishart Road and on Lagoon Road.

Witty's Lagoon

Known for its bird sanctuary, waterfall and sandy beaches with shallow water, Witty's Lagoon is a wonderful coastal park overlooking the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  Located in Metchosin, it has over 5 kilometres of forest hiking trails full of large Douglas Fir trees and some stunning arbutus trees. They have massive, bright orange arms that stretch out to the ocean in bizarre directions, and often extend parallel to the ground. You will find other arbutus trees on other hiking trails in Victoria, but the ones here are especially beautiful and expansive!

For more technical details of the trees see the Tree Book available online. Whether you do a full day hike or just a casual walk around a trail the trees on Vancouver Island are very special and well worth admiring. Salish RV Haven is a perfect base from which to plan your tree-watching adventures, so book now!


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