Grilse Creek Riparian Trail (4.8 km)

Grilse Creek Riparian Trail is a single-track hiking trail along Grilse Creek, often following elk trails, which accesses an impressive stand of old-growth Douglas-fir and redcedar on a very productive alluvial site, and provides many scenic views of the Grilse Creek tributary of the Salmon River.

Hiking only:


The Trail (based on hiking the Spine Trail from S to N)

Grilse Creek Riparian trail is a so far a little-used, single-track trail.  For much of its length, it is located on flat terraces flanking Grilse Creek.  There are 3 steep sections. The longest is a 100-metre section where the trail descends rapidly from the trail-head down to the flat terraces flanking Grilse Creek. There is a similar steep slope at the far end where the trail comes back up to the road (still Menzies Main).  Finally, there is a very short but very steep upwards pitch where the trail leaves the river terraces at the far end of Grilse Grove as described below.  On the river flats, much of the trail follows heavily-used game trails of Roosevelt elk.

The trail is marked with square fluorescent orange trail markers. Where the trail follows elk trails, it is easy to follow.  Elsewhere, largely because it is a new trail, it can be somewhat obscure; but as the riparian name implies, it follows fairly closely along Grilse Creek (if you can’t always see the creek, you can hear it; so if you find yourself off the trail, continue upstream and you should soon be back on the trail).

Grilse Creek is a major tributary of the Salmon River. It is named after grilse, which are precocious male coho salmon that return to their natal stream to spawn after 2-3 years rather than the normal 4 years.

From 35.5 km on Menzies Main, the trail first drops quite quickly downslope to follow close along the banks of Grilse Creek. This area is heavily used by Roosevelt elk and for the most part, once down on the flats, the trail follows along pre-existing elk ‘highways’ in many places right along the riverbank. The second-growth forest hereabouts has been thinned (standing trees were killed by girdling) to a variable density so as to create openings that eventually will provide forage for the elk (photo 1 below) . After crossing a small back channel (a split cedar boardwalk still to come), you enter some open forest as far as the South Fork Main logging road.


1. Variable Density Thinning.


2. View up Grilse Cr. from South Fork Main bridge.










Cross directly over this main road (a bridge over Grilse Creek is just to your left/to the south, photo 2 above ). The riparian trail (marked by a steel Spine Trail sign-post) continues, straight ahead at first, then follows around a wide bend of Grilse Creek on a high terrace (a couple of metres above the river channel) before dropping down to follow a back channel on the Grilse floodplain vegetated with red alder and salmonberry.  The salmonberry on such a rich, fertile site is usually at least head-high; but here the regular browsing by elk keep it down to less than a metre high (photo 3 below).


3. Red alder & salmonberry understory kept relatively short by elk browsing.

Since the salmonberry grows in so quickly and is pretty well controlled by the elk, this next section of trail is not cleared.  Just follow the trail markers along the margin of the back channel to a point where it splits and is crossed by a small arch bridge (photo 4 &5 below).


4 & 5. Arch bridge over back-channel.








This back channel has been enhanced for salmon (coho-rearing) by the placement of a dozen or more triangular log structures that modify flows so as to create pools and riffles (photo 6 & 7 below).  It is this so-called off-channel habitat (i.e. off the mainstem of Grilse Creek) that provides escape and shelter from the flood flows in the main channel without which small salmon fry and smolts could well be swept right out of the system.

07-grilse-back-channel-structure 06-grilse-back-channel-enhancement (6&7)

After crossing over the arch bridge, the trail soon enters an old-growth stand on a rich alluvial site.  Tree species include Douglas-fir, western redcedar and Sitka spruce with diameters of 1.5 to 2. 5 metres (i.e. the biggest are almost 8 metres in circumference, photos 8, 9, 10 below) .  This slightly higher terrace is almost free of shrubs, supporting a diversity of ferns, herbs and mosses (photo 11 below).

ds-photo-8-fir-cedar ds-photo-9-og-fir (8&9)ds-photo-10-og-red-cedar ds-photo-11-mature-fir-cedar (10 & 11)


Lower levels and old back channels support a red alder-salmonberry community as seen prior to the bridge.  Soon after passing a large Sitka spruce adjacent to the main Grilse Creek channel (photo 12 below) , the trail crosses a wet area and quickly ascends a steep slope produced by the undercutting of Grilse Creek when formerly flowing at this location.  This steep pitch corresponds to a change to a second-growth forest with a sparse blueberry-moss type of understory (photo 13 below) .  The trail passes through this younger forest mostly at some distance above Grilse Creek for about 2.5 km.  It then passes through an old-growth stand of western hemlock, redcedar and balsam (amabilis fir) for another 0.5 km (photo 14 below).

ds-photo-12-og-spruce ds-photo-13-second-growth (12&13)ds-photo-14-old-growth-and-elk-trail-w-end (14)ds-photo-15-slides-above-trail (15)


The hiker then abruptly enters an open area which has been repeated disturbed by a series of small landslides (photo 15 above) originating from a road a short distance upslope (very steep); the most recent slides were in the winter of 2016-17 (below photo 16 before clearing and 17 after clearing, thanks to volunteers) . Three hundred metres past this, the trail re-enters forest and soon climbs up to the road above,  Menzies Main.

ds-photo-16-slide-before-clearing ds-photo-17-slide-after-clearing (16&17)

If you wish to follow the Spine Trail route any further, the hiker then follows Menzies Main for 1.8 km to the site of a former bridge across Grilse Creek (removed in 2016). A  single walk-log crossing with a rope hand rail  has been built to replace this bridge (photo 18 below).

ds-photo-21-grilse-log-crossing (18)

Driving Directions to and GPS Coordinates of Trail Heads (east and west ends)

The Grilse Creek Riparian Trail is part of the Salmon River section of the VI Spine Trail.  If you wish to do a day-hike of this trail, it is accessible by a combination of Highway 19 north from Campbell River and the Menzies Main logging road west from the highway. 

  • Take Highway 19 north from Campbell River for 12.5 km; at this point you will see WFP offices on your right and the WFP shop and marshalling yard on your left.
  • Turn left onto Menzies Main logging road and almost immediately bear to your right to go around the WFP yard/industrial site.
  • Continue along Menzies Main for 35.5 km.  There are km signs posted every 2 km along Menzies; if you see the 36-km post, you have gone past the trail.
  • The trail is on your left (downhill side of the road; watch for green and white VI Spine sign and a fluorescent orange marker).


GPS Coordinates:  50° 03′ 00.7N  125° 46′ 30.1″W – Start of Grilse Trail at 35.5 km on Menzies Main

50° 02′ 43.9″ N 125° 46′ 55.6″W – Trail crosses South Fork Main

50° 02′ 29.1″ N 125° 49′ 26.7″W – End of Grilse Riparian trail, re-joins Menzies Main



Parking (free) clear of Menzies Main is available (for 4-5 vehicles) in an open area on your right just past the trail-head (photo 19 below).

ds-photo-18a-trailhead-parking (19)

At the far (western) end of the trail, you can park on the shoulder of the road where the road is blocked off prior to several slides.  There is very little traffic (mostly ATVs) past South Fork Main on Menzies Main since the bridge over Grilse Creek was removed in 2016.


Other Trails in This Area:

First, Second and Third Lakes Trail: The First (southern), Second (middle) and Third (northern) Lakes Trail is a short loop (about a one-hour walk) that starts on Menzies Main near 36 km. Take the road right (north) and travel about one km to a grassy turn around area to where the trail begins on your left. A ten-minute walk will bring you to seven acres of old growth timber with clear, level areas to pitch a tent; good fishing from shore, and a comfy bench to take in the peacefulness of Third Lake. Five minutes back up the trail, it leads south to cross the Third Lake discharge creek on a quaint cedar-shake bridge complete with a built-in bench. Travel over the bridge and in another 15 minutes, you drop down into Second Lake where the trail skirts the west shore of this lake bringing you out onto the MS Hookup road with only a short walk south to First Lake on Menzies Main at about 37 km

Glen’s Trail:  800 metres west of the removed bridge over Grilse Creek (replaced with a single log bridge), a section of the VI Spine Trail known as Glen’s Trail (after its builder) continues for another 10 km towards the drainage divide between the Salmon and the White watersheds.

Some Useful GPS Waypoints:

  • Start of Grilse Riparian trail at 35.5 km on Menzies Main = 50° 03′ 00.7″N  125° 46′ 30.1″W
  • Trail crosses South Fork Main = 50° 02′ 43.9″N 125° 46′ 55.6″W
  • Arch Bridge over back channel at edge of Grilse floodplain = 50° 02′ 42.6″N 125° 47′ 41.8″W
  • Into Old-growth stand nick-named Grilse Grove = 50° 02′ 41.7″ N 125° 47′ 47.3″W
  • Large Sitka spruce at the far end of Grilse Grove = 50° 02′ 33.5″ N 125° 48′ 03.0″W
  • End of Grilse Riparian trail, re-joins Menzies Main = 50° 02′ 29.1″ N 125° 49′ 26.7″W