In the heart of Vancouver Island, visitors can walk amongst nearly a millennium of history. MacMillan Provincial Park, better known as Cathedral Grove, along Highway 4, is one of the most accessible stands of old growth forest anywhere in North America. Begun with 136 hectares donated by forester H.R. MacMillan in 1944, his namesake park is a gem for any natural history buff, the meandering trails guide visitors through the grove of ancient Douglas Fir, Hemlock and Western Red Cedar trees. While the exact age can’t be known until a tree dies, based on circumference, it’s assumed that Cathedral Grove contains trees up to 800 years old. However, most of the trees sprouted after a devastating forest fire three centuries ago.
Untouched by human hands, since the time of the signing of the Magna Carta, long before North America nature has had an impact on the grove, some of the trees roots die off leaving some branches and trees to topple easily, as warning signs advise of throughout the Park. In extreme wind storms the forest can be irreparably changed, as hundreds of trees came down in the last severe storm in the 90s some of the trails only recently reopened and the natural regeneration is restoring a renewed splendour to the downed trees. Whether as a day trip from Nanaimo or Parksville-Qualicum, or as a stop on your way to Port Alberni and the West Coast, Cathedral Grove at MacMillan Provincial Park is a definitely must do on everyone’s Vancouver Island adventures.
MacMillan Provincial Park is located 25km west of Qualicum Beach and 16km east of Port Alberni on Highway #4. Hiking trails are relatively easy and well maintained, some are even wheelchair accessible.