The road wound its way deeper into the mountain valley past the ancient old growth trees like guardians welcoming you to your adventure. Over the hump and down into cloud city you arrive into Port Alberni. The city finds itself nestled between the alpine of Mount Arrowsmith on one side with the Beaufort Mountains the other. The final and most notable geographical boundary from where Port Alberni derives its name: the terminus of the 48km deep saltwater Alberni Inlet.
Port Alberni, with its unique location, grew roots and established itself as a vibrant strong fishing and lumber community, considered the hub for living, working and playing in the area. This fact hasn’t changed from the days when the Nuu-Chah-Nulth First Nations were the only inhabitants of their traditional territory for thousands of years. The respect and acknowledgement of this First Nation heritage is alive and well in Port Alberni, part of what makes it special in the region.
Today, Port Alberni finds itself reinventing what the community is known for, as the city – and much of Vancouver Island – gain momentum as sought out eco-tourism destinations provincially, nationally and even worldwide. Trees taller and older than some have ever seen, mighty mountains, lakes, rivers and ocean brimming with life and natural beauty surround Port Alberni.
For this reason, many are traveling here to discover all the outdoor recreation activities that are possible in Port Alberni. That is what brings us to Port Alberni, to catch a small taste of this wonderful outdoor playground. Powered by BC Transit as our mode of transportation, we were ready to #ExploreBCbyBus.
As we arrived into the city, our first stop was City Hall enroute to our hotel. Port Alberni City Hall sells day passes for BC Transit which we would use over the next two days; it also had the important Riders Guide brochure with all the stops and times. While here, don’t forget to grab the brochures on the area and the super handy Cycling Map which also has many of the parks & trails. It folds up super tiny and is waterproof.
Once we had the maps, rider guide and bus passes we headed to Best Western Plus Barclay Hotel, which is centrally located and right on the bus route. Quickly checking in and dropping our bags off in our rooms we were ready to begin our first hike of the day. Rogers Creek Nature Trail was our destination for the afternoon and I looked forward to it, as I had never been there before.
To get to the Rogers Creek Trail System trailhead, we checked the time and caught the #3 Pacific Rim Bus on Roger Street. The #3 bus would take us to the interchange at Redford and Twelfth. At this stop, you hop off and catch the #1 Southside bus headed to the hospital. Once off the bus and inside the Hospital parking lot, make your way to the back of the lot and down the roadway into the staff parking area. Here on the left hand side going into the forest, you will find the trailhead connector to the Rogers Creek Trail System.
The Rogers Creek Trail System encompasses the forest on the northeast side of the city following the drainage of the Roger Creek. Our goal was to hike out to the Hole in the Wall via the Roger Creek Nature Trail. For easiest bus access, we started on the Hospital Connector, which would meet up with the Log Train Trail and then work its way through the forest to the Roger Creek Nature Trail. From here, the Roger Creek Trail would be our route the rest of the way.
En route to the Hole in the Wall, be sure to take the lower trail bypass option to explore Stokes Canyon and Stini’s Bridge for a more scenic route. Eventually, the trail arrives at a final fork; we took the right fork to go roughly 100 feet to a lookout that peers way down to the backside of the Hole in the Wall. Once done with this view, head back to the fork and head down the left option which takes you to water level at the creek, and all unique spot where visitors stack rocks into Inukshuks. When water levels are low enough you can cross here (typically in summer) to walk the last distance to see the front side of the Hole in the Wall.
The Hole in the Wall is a popular piece of history and favorite spot for hikers and photographers. The attraction was created when, in the early history of the city, engineers blasted a hole through the steep shale wall of Roger Creek to allow a cedar water line pass through to supply the town’s water. Not in use for over 50 years, now it is a unique piece of history to visit with a waterfall sitting where the pipe once passed through.
If the Hole in the Wall wasn’t enough, the Roger Creek Nature Trail boasts a stunning forest bathing experience immersed in nature’s beauty. From giant Douglas Fir and Hemlock to towering Big Leaf Maple and Western Red Cedar; well-constructed trail, wooden bridges, green mosses and the flowing river all add to a wonderful experience.
Exploring a few of the other branches of the trail and the main trailhead as well before heading back to the Hospital trailhead, we covered about 10km of distance. Taking our time, the whole hike was roughly 3 hours, but one could easily spend 5 hours soaking up the sunshine in the summer months and even sneaking in some river swimming spots. This trail is perfect for beginner hikers and all ages as it is well signed. That being said, always take a map and ensure you leave plenty of time for the trip before dark. More information on this trail can be found here: Valley of Trails ~ Roger Creek
Back on the bus from the hospital, we took the #3 Southside downtown to the corner of Argyle and Third. From here we walked over to the funky and unique Steampunk Café for a coffee and snack to refuel after our big hike. We chose to walk down to the Harbour Quay to check things out for our visit the next morning. After wandering around we hopped back on the #3 to the interchange at Redford and Twelfth.
Feeling hungry for supper at this bus stop we changed over to the #3 River Road bus and headed for the Gertude and Johnston stop. (Note that the bus routes change to the evening route at roughly 6pm each night). We heard amazing reviews of local restaurant Bare Bones Fish and Chips, located in an old church. Having seafood for supper in a fishing community is a must do for a fresh and amazing meal. The reviews were spot on and this was probably the best fish and chips I have had anywhere on Vancouver Island. We chose to walk the 5 minutes back to the hotel to get some fresh air and help our huge meal settle before turning in for the night.
With the start of day two, the exploration would take us on the #3 River Road bus to the Redford and Twelfth interchange once again. Here we hopped on the #1 Southside taking it all the way down to the Harbour Quay. At the Quay you discover a myriad of shops, galleries, eateries as well as amazing views of the Alberni Inlet. It is also home to our intended stop, the Aquarium. The Alberni Aquarium is a terrific educational and experiential stop to immerse yourself into Pacific marine life and that of the many rivers and lakes nearby. The Aquarium focuses on the aquatic life native to the region and is a treat, young or old.
From the Quay we walked along the inlet over to the Maritime Discovery Centre were you can uncover more of the history that shaped this rugged and wild region. It is also a terrific vantage point to get up close to the deep-sea harbour of the inlet and see the many large vessels often moored nearby. Once done here we made our way back to the bus stop for the #1 and back to the central bus interchange stop.
At the interchange we hopped on the #2 Pacific Rim bus (the #3 River Road works too) to take us to Gertrude and Johnston for our eagerly anticipated lunch. Right around the corner is the newest gathering spot for locals and tourists alike, Twin City Brewing. On their website they pay homage to the history of the community and how it shaped the name of the micro-brewery. They also are part of the changing landscape of Port Alberni towards adventure and tourism. I really liked the quote they share “A reminder that you have to know where you’ve been to know where you are going.” A very fitting quote indeed as we travel by bus and I chuckled at the connection.
The brewery is built in the PNW fashion we have grown accustomed to and love, with raw timbers and a rugged feel just like the region. Great atmosphere, great west coast selected brews on tap are available and they even have established themselves as a stop for foodies with their incredible house-made pizzas. Put Twin City Brewing as a stop on your itinerary for lunch or supper when you plan your trip to Port Alberni.
As lunch passed, with full bellies from good drink and good food we saved our most adventurous activity for last. The plan was to experience Stage 1 of the Alberni Inlet Trail. From the Brewery we hopped on the #3 River Road to the downtown Interchange and onto the #3 Southside. Ride the bus all the way to Cameron and Ship Creek road where you will get off. Now a 10 minute walk to the Alberni Inlet Trailhead for your exploration to begin.
Now that you are at the Alberni Inlet Trailhead it is important to have a bit of hiking experience. This trail requires some trail awareness, being prepared with proper hiking essentials in your pack and physical fitness for the moderate challenge in terrain and distance ahead. Great further reading to see if you are up to the challenge of this route can be found on the Regional Districts brochure . Both of these websites provide easy to follow information: Valley of Trails and VI Spine Trail.
For our hike, we decided with the time available we would do the Stage 1 trail up to the Lone Tree Point. This is a 14km round-trip that will take you roughly 5hrs to complete with loads of elevation gain as my hiking app stated (over 700m). The trail drops from the lookout on Copper Mountain near the first third of the route down to the water at an old boy scouts’ camp. From here the trail travels along the inlet and takes you away from the spur roads and logged sections to the undulating section of trail. At the turnaround spot at the point, terrific views are possible down the inlet from a large rocky outcropping.
Back at the trailhead we returned just as dusk approached and the light dropped. When planning your hike remember the bus schedule changes at 6pm and there are only 3 stops in the evening at Cameron and Ship Creek Rd when the bus changes over to the #4 Crosstown-Southside route.
Hungry and tired from a busy day of exploring Port Alberni from the urban to the forest, it was time for supper and to bring our trip to a close. A final stop in town for fish tacos was needed at All Mex’d Up Taco Shop we heard so much about. Located back down at Harbour Quay, we walked down from the 3rd and Argyle stop for our visit. If planning to stop here after your hike, note that they close at 7pm nightly.
With my trip with BC Transit exploring the city of Port Alberni, I found it easy to get around town to visit so many of the attractions and recreational activities. I did notice countless cycling opportunities around town and more possibilities exist if you had your bike to connect places like Stamp River Falls, McLean Mill or the Alberni Lookout. All BC Transit buses are equipped with bike carriers to expand your trip’s potential. Check out the Alberni Cycling Map for ideas; I know I’m returning with my bike for sure.
Through this trip I developed a greater appreciation and interest for all that Port Alberni has to offer. I think that is why the BC Transit campaign to #ExploreBCbyBus is such a wonderful idea and urge you to try yourself.
Want to plan your own #ExploreBCbyBus trip? Click on the links at the top of this page to get inspired by suggested day trips in communities across BC. Plus, if you share how you’re using BC Transit for your adventures this spring on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter using #ExploreBCbyBus, you’ll be entered to win weekly prizes of month-long bus passes, and a Grand Prize of two year-long bus passes and an adventure getaway for 2 or 4! All details can be found at explorebcbybus.com/contest.