Tuck Lake Trail

Tuck Lake Trail Description (based on hiking the VI Trail from S to N) The Tuck Lake Trail starts at the E & N boundary west of Cowichan Lake and finishes at Francis Lake (west end) where it connects to the “Runners Trail”.  It is suited to hiking, not suited to mountain biking or to equestrians.

Locate the start of the Tuck Lake Trail by going west from Cowichan Lake, past Kissinger Lake and campsite, on the main logging road (an extension of North Shore Road).  Take an old grade 350 m west of the campsite entrance that cuts off a long curve on North Shore Main to a right turn onto the Nitinat River Road/FSR (TimberWest’s ‘Nitinat Mainline’).  Go north 2.3 km to a gated road leading westward, N48-55-12.8; W124-31-30.2 (UTM 388270, 5419720).  If you come to a  bridge across the Nitinat River, you have gone one road too far north, but this bridge does provides a way across the Nitinat during high water conditions.  At the gated road, go through plantations and regenerating clear-cuts initially westwards (left) and then around a U-shaped bend (first southwards and then northwesterly) down a hill alongside of a creek/gully.  Stay on this gently-curving road (old railway grade, hence the gentle curves) and continue past five spur roads to where the road enters a second-growth forest and the road becomes overgrown.  Proceed along this overgrown logging road for about 150 metres and then turn left onto a single-track trail.  The trail heads upstream on flat benches for about 800 metres to reach a ford over the Nitinat River.  In most seasons you can wade the river at this shallow, cobbly ford N48-55-30.5; W124-32-54.1 (UTM 386580, 5420275).  Watch out for a rare (red-listed) plant growing in fresh sediments along the banks of the Nitinat – Scouler’s corydalis.

Nitinat River ford at low summer flows

Distinctive foliage and flowers of the rare Corydalis scouleri.

While you are drying your feet and putting your boots back on, enjoy the pristine, flowing water of the Nitinat River (also a good place to camp overnight).  On a good day you can observe Hooper Mt. to the north and Heather Mt. to the northeast. From the ford, climb westward through a recent cutblock, joining an obvious ATV trail which leads up to an active logging road N48-55-28.5; W124-33-10 (UTM 386257, 5420233). Cross the road westward and re-enter the timber, climbing steeply alongside a previously logged section, eventually leaving the timber to join a new logging area near N48-55-42.5; W124-33-33 (UTM 385780, 5420675).  Follow the road north along what is commonly known as Parker Ridge to a road junction and fork left to the northwest, and descend the logging road northwest to join a well-traveled logging road just south of Tuck Lake:  N48-56-08.8;  W124-33-49.7 (UTM 385475, 5421497). Follow this road 0.8 km as it passes along the east side of Tuck Lake.  There is a boat-launch and informal campsite available at the lake. Tuck Lake is quite shallow and reedy near the shore and  is reported to have been stocked with fish in the past.  It is a popular lake for weekend boating and canoeing.  Be prepared for some four-wheel drive traffic around the lake.

Tuck Lake as viewed from the campsite.

The Tuck Lake Trail proceeds on an old logging road in a mostly northerly direction, forking right at a junction where a bridge has been removed, then up a moderately steep grade, and soon exits left onto a road which is blocked by mounds of dirt to prevent vehicular travel across Parker Creek, now a total of 3 km from Tuck Lake.  Across the right ditch the Trail continues northwards on an old skid road.  Following up the left bank of Parker Creek (all references to right and left bank are when looking downstream) the trail rises steeply at times (recent logging has made part of this difficult to follow, until maintenance work is completed) and westwards on a single-track trail to eventually reach a point near the summit where you exit onto an old, narrow road: at N48-58-08.7; W124-36-18.6 (UTM 382524, 5425261). Follow the old, unused logging road westward 0.3 km over the pass to a junction with a logging road (Nadira-700) where you go right. Due to the difficulty of steep side-slopes flanking the Little Nitinat River, the route now follows the Nadira-700 road and thence left and down Nadira-Main, westward for approximately 2.7 km down grade to Nadira-300 (to your right) and Nadira-400 (to your left). Turn left (south) at this 4-way intersection onto Nadira-400.  Cross the bridge south over Little Nitinat River and about 100 m south of the bridge watch for markers and flagging and go right onto single-track trail through second-growth forest, initially on an old, grown-in road grade: N48-57-50.4; W124-38-23.6 (UTM 379970, 5424750).  The Trail parallels the left bank of the Little Nitinat River, mostly set back from the river so that it  is only seen sporadically, for  about 2.5 km to intersect another logging road (Summit Main).  Go right on this road for a short distance and cross the Little Nitinat River bridge.  Just across the bridge, the Trail re-enters the forest and follows quite closely along the right bank of the river.  Watch for the beautiful ‘Emerald Pool’ in the river and interesting sculpted features in the limestone river-bed – a great spot for a rest and maybe a dip on a hot day.

The ‘Emerald Pool’.

The Tuck Lake Trail continues south-southwest along the right bank of the river for 150 m or so, and then curves away to re join Nadira Road:  N48-56-57.7; W124-40-00.3 (UTM 377968, 5423165).  Walk down Nadira Road for only about 100 m and watch for single-track trail starting on the right: N48-57-00.7; W124-40-08.1 (UTM 377812, 5423261). At this point, you will be just east of the first bridge on Nadira-Main across the creek flowing out of Francis Lake, and just east of the junction with Carmanah Main (part of the road route between Port Alberni and Cowichan Lake). The Tuck Lake Trail proceeds west along the left bank/north side of the exit creek from Francis Lake, often called Francis Creek, always within 50-75 m of the creek, and then west along the north shore of Francis Lake also within 50 m of the shore. Some of this section of trail is atop old corduroy road.  There are several tributaries joining Francis Creek from the north; during spring freshet it may be difficult to cross one of these tributaries; be sure not to be drawn uphill along these but stay on the same route westward. Beautiful Francis Lake is about 2 km long and has a gravel beach at the west end which is used for camping and swimming. The 17-km long Runners Trail, which was built in 2010-11 with the assistance of the Tseshaht First Nation, officially starts at the Francis Lake beach and links up with the south end of stage 3 of the Alberni Inlet Trail.

April 19, 2018