Alberni Inlet Trail Section

In 1912, one could take a daily passenger train from Kissinger Station at the west end of Cowichan Lake to Victoria along the Canadian Northern Pacific Railway (CNPR).  The rails never made it any farther.  By 1913 the CNPR grade, but not the rails, was built west to the Alberni Inlet (aka Alberni Canal), and up the Inlet to and past the mouth of the Franklin River to Underwood Cove (almost to China Creek).  Later on,  rails were laid for a logging railway between the mouth of the Franklin River (Camp A) and Franklin River Camp B on Coleman Creek.  This rail was removed in the late 1950’s and the old grade abandoned and left to grow in – now in many places the hiker walks across a beautiful moss-covered trail.

The Inlet Trail (and this section of the Vancouver Island Trail) is divided into three stages – referred to as 1, 2  and 3, with the stage 1 trail-head on Ships Point Road at the south edge of Port Alberni.  Stage 1 is mostly single-track trail that extends southwards initially inland and thence along the Inlet to China Creek – see  Stage 2 lies between China Creek and the mouth of the Franklin River – see  Stage 3 runs between the Franklin River mouth and the start of the Runners Trail near Headquarters Bay.  Unlike stages 1 and 2, the official opening/establishment of Stage 3 awaits the construction of a crossing (bridge or cable car?) over the Franklin River and a land use agreement with Island Timberlands.  The last remaining bridge stringer that spanned the Franklin River finally collapsed in 2019.  However, the river can be waded at low water.  Otherwise, a long circuitous detour via Bell Road, Bamfield Main (the Franklin River Rd) and Hawthorne Main past Lizard Pond can be used.

Most of stages 2 and 3  are right on the old CNPR grade.  There are sections of single-track trail up and down gullies and creek crossings where the original timber trestles have largely collapsed (some impressive remaining timber work can still be seen and appreciated).

A campsite is available in China Creek Park at the mouth of the creek – see  Upstream, China Creek is crossed by new trail bridges.  The town of Port Alberni provides a full range of services, allowing the hiker to re-supply as needed.

The Alberni Inlet Trail is under the jurisdiction of the ACRD and sections across private forest lands are subject to agreements between the ACRD and Island Timberlands (private lands along Stage 3 do not yet have an agreement in place). The Alberni Valley Outdoor Club (AVOC) and friends were instrumental in completing the Alberni Inlet Trail and continue to regularly maintain and keep the trail in excellent condition.

Here are GPS files in gpx format for the Alberni Inlet Trail: 

Stage 1:  Download

Total distance: 13857 m
Max elevation: 289 m
Min elevation: 8 m
Total climbing: 1024 m
Total descent: -1087 m


Stage 2:  Download

Total distance: 7922 m
Max elevation: 95 m
Min elevation: 0 m
Total climbing: 752 m
Total descent: -711 m


Stage 3:  Download

Total distance: 9152 m
Max elevation: 156 m
Min elevation: 15 m
Total climbing: 714 m
Total descent: -827 m