Suquash Section

The Suquash section of the Vancouver Island Trail links the communities of Port McNeill and Port Hardy and passes through the traditional territory of the Kwakiutl/Kwagiulth First Nation and their community of Fort Rupert (Tsakis).

In the short term, the route follows existing roads from Port McNeill town-site to the mouth of the Cluxewe River (trails will hopefully soon replace most of this road).  Camping near Port McNeill is available at the Broughton Campsite –  or at the Cluxewe Resort – – a First Nations business with campsites just behind the beach, beachfront cabins to rent as well as a restaurant.  From the resort/campground, walk the beach (best at mid to low tide) on the outside of the prominent sand-spit that encloses the Cluxewe estuary and salt-marsh complex.  The Cluxewe River is wadable at low summer flows at a shallows just upstream of the final bend in the river before it merges with the ocean.  Once across, you can walk along the margin of the salt-marsh vegetation at mid to low tide levels to a second smaller stream.  Across this stream, follow along a beautiful sand beach to the Cluxewe Beach Trail at the northern end of the salt-marsh.  Be sure to stay off/out of the sensitive salt-marsh plant communities (this is a  Nature Trust of B.C. property –, which are of course inundated during  high tides.

From the inland trailhead of the Cluxewe Beach Trail to the mouth of the Keogh River, the VI Trail route follows a series of old logging roads, and recently cleared trails and sections of inactive logging road along the top of a short steep slope (old sea-cliff) that extends down to a narrow beach/rock-shelf along the shoreline of Queen Charlotte Straight.  From the Cluxewe Beach trailhead/parking area, follow the active road back for 300 metres and turn right onto an inactive road (growing in) and follow it to its end (turn right at one junction).  Follow the cleared trail off the end of the road towards and then along just behind the coastline.

Except for right around high tide, hikers can walk the combination of sand beach and rock-shelf all the way to the Keogh River.  Be sure to go inland and explore in the section around the old Suquash Coal Mine – B.C.’s first coal mine.  Coal was initially mined here by the Kwakiutl and sold to the Hudson’s Bay Company to fuel the first steam-powered vessel on the west coast, the Beaver.  Intriguing relics of later coal mining operations can be seen both on the beach and atop the sea-cliff – remains of machinery, house chimneys and building foundations.

From Suquash either drop back down and follow the beach/rock-shelf to the NW or follow the old Suquash Main logging road (growing in, so much so in places as to be tunnel-like) to its end about 3.5 km to the NW.  Off the end of Suquash Main, a light trail continues to near the mouth of the Keogh River.  About 400 metres SE of the Keogh, the trail turns sharply to the left to and across a recent cutblock to hook up with a logging road.  Turn right on this road and then left on a spur road to its end (100 m).  Off the end of the road, follow a rough ATV track (100 m) and hook up with another road that you follow to a vehicle bridge over the Keogh River just upstream of a fish counting fence (The fisheries of the Keogh have been the subject of research for several decades).  At this point, you are directly under the flight-path of the main Port Hardy Airport runway.  Across the bridge, continue along the road just outside of the airport perimeter fence, passing on your right a short side road to a fisheries building.  When you reach a gate on the road, continue on a trail that runs along the outside of the perimeter fence along the NE side of the Airport; it bends towards and for much of its distance is just inshore of the shoreline and beach.  The trail is flanked by lush vegetation and although shrubs/brush often leans in over the trail, the trail tread is well-defined.  Where the last airport road inside of the fence bends away from the coast, pick up and follow a rough track and onto some local community roads that lead onto Tsakis Way through the community of Fort Rupert.  You are now passing through the Kwakiutl/Kwagiulth community of Fort Rupert and you will have the opportunity to see some impressive carvings and artwork – be sure to respect the privacy of the community as you pass through.

Follow Tsakis Way to and then turn right onto Beaver Harbour Road and on past the elementary school.  Watch for the start of the “Commuter Trail” on your left just past the school; it cuts across the peninsula east of Port Hardy over to the Bear Cove Highway (access to the BC Ferries terminal to Prince Rupert).  From here, the route follows a series of shoreline trails and roads around Hardy Bay to Port Hardy town centre and wharf.

The following map shows the trail routing (green line) around the mouth of the Keogh River:   VIT near Keogh R 2020

For a GPS/gpx track of the entire Suquash Section: Download

Total distance: 5267 m
Max elevation: 50 m
Min elevation: 10 m
Total climbing: 187 m
Total descent: -210 m

During the pandemic, the Kwakiutl First Nation requires hikers to avoid going through Fort Rupert by using local roads from the north end of Port Hardy Airport into Port Hardy.