Home PlayingBritish Columbia MacMillan Provincial Park: The Gorgeous Grove of Giants

MacMillan Provincial Park: The Gorgeous Grove of Giants

by Adam Doolittle
MacMillan Provincial Park

Growing up in Southern Ontario, we became accustomed to having most things we wanted/needed nearby. If we needed a tool to fix something, Canadian Tire was a short drive away. If we needed groceries, we’d hop in the car and be there in less than five minutes. Here in Tofino, things are a little bit different.

While Tofino sees a crazy amount of tourists, the population of the village is small. There are under 2000 people that call Tofino home. Because of the small population, there aren’t a lot of the typical stores that we were used at home. Since we arrived in Tofino, we’ve been getting by with visits to the Co-op grocery and hardware stores for most of our needs. However, we also compiled a list of stuff we needed that we just couldn’t find in Tofino or items that are outrageously priced. This meant it was time for a trip.

To stock up on goods, a lot of Tofino locals will make a monthly trip up Highway 4 to Port Alberni. This is the one road in and out of Tofino. It’s a beautiful road with stunning views, but it’s also at minimum a 1.75-hour drive. In the winter, the drive can be a horrendous one. While Tofino sees little to no snow during the winter, Highway 4 (because of it’s high elevation) gets plenty of snow. This turns the usually tricky to navigate road into a dangerous road. Thankfully, we haven’t had to make a winter trip to Port Alberni as we went during the first week of November.

While our main goal was to get some items that we couldn’t find in Tofino, like RV supplies and certain groceries, we also made it a priority to visit MacMillan Provincial Park on the other side of Port Alberni.

The day we first travelled to Tofino, we drove by MacMillan Provincial Park and both said, “wow!” as we looked as the giant trees throughout the rain forest. As soon as we set our eyes on the park, we knew we had to visit as soon as possible and this trip at the beginning of November was the perfect opportunity.

A Bit of History

Like today, throughout the early 1900’s, many tourists flocked to the park. At the time, however, it was yet to be named MacMillan Provincial Park. Rather, it was called Cathedral Grove, a name given to the area by the Governor General of Canada – Viscount Willingdon.

For a period of time, it appeared the old growth forest – which features giant Douglas firs, western redcedars, and more – was destined to become lumber. While tourists were enjoying the beautiful sights of the massive natural structures inside of Cathedral Grove, British Columbia’s first Chief Forester – H.R. MacMillan had a different vision for the park. MacMillan had acquired the land from a timber company and planned to have the trees within Cathedral Grove cut down.

H.R. MacMillan

H.R. MacMillan – the first Chief Forester of British Columbia

When it became known that the beautiful grove was destined to become lumber, the public demanded the government of BC protect the land. MacMillan, however, was content on keeping his land and wouldn’t budge on his plans to forest Cathedral Grove. 15 year later, MacMillan still had not forested the land and gave into the public’s demand for the BC government to acquire & protect the land from foresting operations.

In 1947, MacMillan Provincial Park officially opened, named for the man who generously decided to protect the old growth forest and allow for the public to enjoy its sheer beauty.

MacMillan Provincial Park Today
MacMillan Provincial Park Vintage Retro

A postcard from the 1950’s shows Cathedral Grove & the highway that bisects it.

Today, MacMillan Provincial Park is a popular and easy to access destination. It’s estimated that 1 million people enjoy the old growth forest each year. The park is bisected by Highway 4 with small trails that wind through the forest on each side of the highway.

Considering the popularity of the park, the parking situation is a tad dangerous. There are pullout parking lots on both sides of the highway, but they are merely extensions of the narrow highway itself. During the busy summer months, I’m certain there are many near accidents in the busy area. The government had planned to construct a safer parking lot down the road but those plans were ditched due to concerns & protests from environmentalists.

When we first arrived at the park, it was busy considering it was early November. Because Halloween had just passed, we noticed the parking lots on both sides of the highway were dotted with pumpkins. Apparently, it’s tradition in the area to dispose of your pumpkins around the parking lot and trail entrances at MacMillan Provincial Park. While it was a fun & unique setting, I could imagine that if you were driving by at night, it might be tad spooky.

MacMillan Provincial Park Pumpkin

The entrance to the Cathedral Grove trail featuring a welcoming pumpkin.

Hiking MacMillan Provincial Park

Some of the most picturesque hikes in Canada are also the most difficult but not this one. This is a short and easy trail that is also somewhat, if not completely, wheelchair accessible. Pretty much anyone can access this trail which is fantastic because it is a treat everyone should be able to enjoy.

As you walk through Cathedral Grove, you find yourself pausing early & often to look at your surroundings. The forest is a rich, dark green and full of life. The air felt smooth & crisp, likely from the quantity of lush flora. There are gigantic trees everywhere you look. Some of the Douglas firs, hemlocks, & western redcedars are over 800 years old which is incredible. When you stand beside them you feel small. There is one Douglas fir within MacMillan Provincial Park that is over 9 meters in circumference. That’s a huge tree.

MacMillan Provincial Park Cathedral Grove

Look way up to see these gorgeous giants.

We walked MacMillan Provincial Park throughout Cathedral Grove for almost an hour. Part of the trail was blocked off due to flooding from some heavy rain that had hit the area in the previous days. This meant we had to double back rather than continue the loop before finishing our short but beautiful hike.

Before leaving, I remarked to Kate that the park would be a great place to stop anytime we pass by. The hike is short and easy making it the perfect spot to stretch our legs during a drive to Port Alberni or Nanaimo. While we haven’t been back to MacMillan Provincial Park since November, we are heading to Nanaimo at the end of the month and plan to see if the park is as tranquil in winter as it was when we first visited. We’re guessing it’ll be equally, if not more beautiful than our first trip to the park.

MacMillan Provincial Park Pumpkins
Some of the many pumpkins lining the entrance to MacMillan Provincial Park.
MacMillan Provincial ParkMacMillan Provincial ParkMacMillan Provincial Park
A western redcedar that was 700 years old when it was burned to the ground by vandals.
MacMillan Provincial Park
It's very green at Cathedral Grove.
MacMillan Provincial Park
This gives you an idea how big some of the trees really are.
MacMillan Provincial ParkMacMillan Provincial Park

 

What’s one location you’ve visited that is naturally beautiful like MacMillan Provincial Park?

You may also like

58 comments

Avatar
Punita Malhotra January 6, 2017 - 8:13 am

The pictures show clearly what a beautiful experience you had in the Macmillan Park. The little history bit was really fascinating. And I loved the vintage photo touch!

Reply
Avatar
Adam Doolittle January 7, 2017 - 3:04 pm

Thanks Punita!

Reply
Avatar
Tracy McConnachie Collins January 7, 2017 - 12:41 am

I have visited Vancouver Island once but sadly we didn’t have time to see much of the island – next time I think we will make the trip a lot longer. It is a stunning part of the world – probably one of my favourite. We also want to do some more hikes – really enjoyed your post. I love Canada (I lived in Toronto about 27 years ago!) so will be signing up for more of your travels! Thanks

Reply
Avatar
Adam Doolittle January 7, 2017 - 3:04 pm

Thanks for reading and following along with our journey, Tracy. Vancouver Island is a gem, that’s for sure. We’re going to be planted in Tofino for a good chunk of this year before we head out and when we do we hope to venture around the rest of the Island and enjoy some of the other great spots here.

Reply
Avatar
Stephen Schreck January 7, 2017 - 2:01 pm

BC is by far my favorite province in Canada. Its raw and untouched landscape is mesmerizing. I’ve never been to Macmillian but after reading your post and seeing your beautiful pictures I am adding it to the list! Can’t wait to read about your experiences in Nanaimo.

Reply
Avatar
Adam Doolittle January 7, 2017 - 3:02 pm

What are some of your favourite places in BC? Prior to moving to Tofino in October, we had never been before. We had a great time in Surrey/Vancouver before we hit Tofino. We definitely look forward to experiencing more of Vancouver Island and hopefully Northern BC in the future.

Reply
Avatar
Bella WW January 8, 2017 - 6:02 am

I have a great fascination for trees, and especially tall trees, so I really enjoyed reading your article. I like the pictures and the fact that you briefly mentioned about the history of those places. Surely is a destination worth exploring.

Reply
Avatar
Adam Doolittle January 8, 2017 - 6:35 pm

Thanks for reading Bella. We appreciate your kind comment.

Reply
Avatar
Mike January 8, 2017 - 9:38 am

I may be going to Canada later this year so thanks for the suggestion. It would be good to see and explore this park, especially to see that tree that is 9 meters in circumference wow.

Reply
Avatar
Adam Doolittle January 8, 2017 - 6:35 pm

Where are you planning on travelling to, Mike? If you need any help or suggestions, drop us a line and we’d be happy to help out. Cheers!

Reply
Avatar
Mike January 9, 2017 - 12:44 am

Thanks Adam. I’m not 100% sure yet but possibly the summer. Sure I will let you know. Thanks so much.

Reply
Avatar
Anastasia Jones January 8, 2017 - 9:45 am

I’m hiking mad, and hoping to visit Canada this year so thanks for the tip! It looks like a beautiful and serene place.

Reply
Avatar
Adam Doolittle January 8, 2017 - 6:34 pm

Hope you can visit Canada this year Anastasia. If you do end up planning a trip, let us know and we’d be happy to help you plan something great.

Reply
Avatar
Amber January 8, 2017 - 10:39 am

This just threw me right back to my visit to Muir Woods. Trees are wonderful aren’t they? Without sounding like a crazy person… they’re fascinating! Definitely keen to explore Canada some more!

Reply
Avatar
Adam Doolittle January 8, 2017 - 6:33 pm

There’s so much to explore in Canada – it’s crazy! We’ve only scratched the surface and we’re from here. I quickly searched for Muir Woods and it looks fabulous. Very similar for sure.

Reply
Avatar
Shem January 8, 2017 - 3:07 pm

I definitely agree with Amber — this totally reminds me of Muir Woods in California! I lived in Toronto for about a year as a child and we go back at least once a year to visit family now, but I’ve never explored parks like this before! The next time I’m there, I’ll surely make my family do the drive and check out MacMillan — it seems like a wonderful little outdoor adventure!

Reply
Avatar
Adam Doolittle January 8, 2017 - 6:31 pm

I grew up near Toronto and I can tell you, there aren’t parks like this in Ontario haha. Vancouver Island is home to a pretty unique climate with much of it being a temperate rainforest. It’s a stunning place to spend some time. I gotta check out Muir Woods now that two of you have mentioned it!

Reply
Avatar
Fiona Mai January 8, 2017 - 3:22 pm

I love the way you described in detail the park’s history 🙂 It’s very interesting to read although I’ve never been to Canada. I personally am also keen on taking strolls in such parks where there are lots of old trees. It’s hard to describe that feeling but there’s something very spiritual when walking under the shades of those hundred-year-old trees 🙂

Reply
Avatar
Adam Doolittle January 8, 2017 - 6:30 pm

You should make Canada a priority to visit, especially in 2017. All of our national parks are free entry for the entire year as Canada celebrates it’s 150th birthday.

Reply
Avatar
Rhiannon January 8, 2017 - 3:48 pm

A 1.75 hour drive to stock up?! Crazy! I can’t decide if living somewhere that secluded would be a dream or a nightmare for me. Love the pumpkin posing in front of the sign, very funny! This actually reminds me of a forest I visited when in India recently. Isn’t it funny how two places on opposite sides of the world can have the same vibe and feel about them?

Reply
Avatar
Adam Doolittle January 8, 2017 - 6:29 pm

That’s funny about the pumpkin in India. And yeah – it’s quite a drive to stock up. While many locals do it, I don’t think it’s completely necessary. It depends on your needs of course, but we live a pretty simple life and easily can get by without having to make that trip frequently.

Reply
Avatar
Steph Be January 8, 2017 - 3:49 pm

I feel like I was able to experience your trip to Canada from this post! Thank you for such amazing pictures – I have a few tips for my future trip to Canada this upcoming year!

Reply
Avatar
Adam Doolittle January 8, 2017 - 6:28 pm

If you need any help planning your trip to Canada, feel free to reach out, we’d be happy to help!

Reply
Avatar
Ashley Smith January 8, 2017 - 4:06 pm

I would love to visit this place. Those giant trees fascinate the hell out of me. I love the pictures of the pumpkins too, so funny. And I can only imagine the drive in winter–I think that’d be enough to hold me off until the summer!

Reply
Avatar
Adam Doolittle January 8, 2017 - 6:27 pm

It truly is gorgeous but yes, the drive has me intrigued. We’ll be doing it in a couple of weeks and I’ll be interested to see what it’s really like.

Reply
Avatar
Kellyn January 8, 2017 - 8:29 pm

Great blog post! Loved the pictures. Canada is certainly on the top of my bucket list. Heading to Montreal in March.

Reply
Avatar
FS Page January 8, 2017 - 8:40 pm

I feel understanding the history of the place makes you realize the value of it. I like the fact that you took the pains to understand it yourself and also keep it part of the blog. It gives a good perspective to the reader

Reply
Avatar
Jennifer January 8, 2017 - 9:14 pm

This reminds me of hiking in Muir Woods in San Fran. I love walking through old growth trees. I like imagining if the trees could talk and what history they would reveal.

Reply
Avatar
Lee January 8, 2017 - 9:14 pm

I have never been outside asia
And this natural park is a nice tour for nature junkies and nature lovers

Reply
Avatar
Hendrik January 8, 2017 - 11:17 pm

These trees are amazingly impressive. We have been last year to Yosemite and saw also some very huge ones. It just gives me awe and respect for mother nature. Canada is for next year on our bucket list… thank you for the inspiration!

Reply
Avatar
Romy January 9, 2017 - 3:24 am

So beautiful! I’m just in love with those trees. I’ll keep this place in mind for when I visit Canada some day.

Reply
Avatar
Jackie Taylor January 9, 2017 - 6:03 am

I would love to go hiking there, it looks so beautiful! I live in Alberta and am planning a trip to BC in the spring so I’ll definitely have to keep this place in mind! 🙂

Reply
Avatar
Claire Summers January 9, 2017 - 1:39 pm

Fascinating. Love the history you have shared in this post. Great pictures of the trees too. Love nature photography.

Reply
Avatar
Meg January 9, 2017 - 2:45 pm

It’s so green! And lovely looking! What a great read. Thanks for the history. I hope to make it here someday!

Reply
Avatar
JULIETTE | SNORKELS TO SNOW January 9, 2017 - 4:20 pm

What a gorgeous spot! Great piece of history here in this post. I can’t imagine seeing a Douglas fir with a 9-metre circumference! That’s one OLD tree. Beautiful park. Love being in nature.

Reply
Avatar
BONNITA ALUOCH January 10, 2017 - 6:07 am

I recently started hugging trees. Big trees ???. This would pretty much be a nice place to hug trees! Macmillan memorial park is nature’s best way of connecting with man!

Reply
Avatar
Katherine January 10, 2017 - 12:32 pm

I’ve not been to Canada yet, but I do love the outdoors. It seems the two go hand in hand 🙂 I love the tree shots, I took similar ones in Big Sur.

Reply
Avatar
MArina January 11, 2017 - 6:28 am

I enjoyed so much reading this post! It has everything what I ask for… a bit of history and useful information, practical info and of course, subjective opinion, facts and experience.
Moreover, It brought me back all memories of my last solo backpacking trip when I discovered the inner peace hiking everywhere I could. Now, it’s the first thing I look for when traveling somewhere 🙂

Reply
Avatar
Adam Doolittle January 13, 2017 - 8:54 am

Glad you liked the post Marina. Thanks for reading 🙂

Reply
Avatar
Karla January 11, 2017 - 7:20 am

I fell in love with Canada. Really, It has the most amazing hikes and all. I will surely go back. I haven’t seen this park but it is definitely on my list. I like that you included history with it.

Reply
Avatar
Adam Doolittle January 13, 2017 - 8:53 am

It’s a short hike but one that is a must see!

Reply
Avatar
Vicky @ A Backpack Full of Adventures January 11, 2017 - 7:39 am

Those trees look amazing! I love hiking, so I’m sure I’d love this place – and Canada! I really need to visit someday.

Reply
Avatar
mags January 11, 2017 - 1:47 pm

I have to admit that I hadn’t heard of Macmillan Park, but it looks so peaceful. This may be another spot I need to add to the ever growing list.

Reply
Avatar
Adam Doolittle January 13, 2017 - 8:53 am

The list always gets longer, doesn’t it? But MacMillan is a place you should add to that long list 🙂

Reply
Avatar
Mia January 11, 2017 - 2:34 pm

What a beautiful hike that must have been! I’ve never even heard of Macmillan Park but it sounds interesting. Your pictures give a good glimpse into what to expect but I’m sure the real thing is just spectacular.

Reply
Avatar
Adam Doolittle January 13, 2017 - 8:52 am

We had never heard of it before we saw it driving passed it. It’s stunning though and a quick easy hike. A must 🙂

Reply
Avatar
kathy (from walkaboutwanderer.com) January 11, 2017 - 5:02 pm

I love hiking so this looks like the place for me. I haven’t been to Canada for many years now so I am due a visit. Going off your photos this is somewhere I would really love. Thanks for sharing

Reply
Avatar
Adam Doolittle January 13, 2017 - 8:51 am

You should make your way here Kathy. Vancouver Island would be a wonderful destination for you 🙂

Reply
Avatar
Holly January 11, 2017 - 5:36 pm

So pretty. Haven’t been on a hike in awhile, but would love to explore.

Reply
Avatar
Angelique January 12, 2017 - 11:30 am

Would love to explore more of Canada soon. The parks and greenery just seem so beautiful and worth exploring.

Reply
Avatar
Adam Doolittle January 13, 2017 - 8:50 am

You definitely should make your way to Canada. So much to see and do 🙂

Reply
Avatar
Francesca @onegrloneworld January 12, 2017 - 7:55 pm

Those trees look soooo pretty – I can’t believe some of them are over 800 years old! I haven’t been to Canada yet so I’ll have to add the MacMillan park to my list.

Reply
Avatar
Adam Doolittle January 13, 2017 - 8:49 am

Canada is great. If you ever make your way, send us a note and we’d be happy to help you plan something great!

Reply
Avatar
Katrin@TravelGearDepot January 13, 2017 - 5:55 am

In 1984, at the age of 23, I worked as an au pair in San Fransisco. My parents came to visit and we went to Muir Woods, where there is an ancient coast redwood forest (Sequoia sempervirens). It was a breathtaking experience, and I’ll never forget it. You feel quite insignificant, in a good way, among the up to 1000-years old trees. You’re big problems seem to shrink somewhat in the face of this extraordinary longevity. I’d really want to visit a forest like that again, perhaps the MacMillan Park?

Reply
Avatar
Adam Doolittle January 13, 2017 - 8:48 am

A lot of people have mentioned how MacMillan looks like Muir Woods. I’d love to see Muir Woods. Looks stunning!

Reply
Avatar
Raymond Carroll February 3, 2017 - 12:31 pm

Hi Adam, that was a cool wee history lesson on MacMillan Provincial Park – sounds and looks lovely. I love hiking and used to live in Canada (Ontario). I have seen trees like the ones in MacMillan Provincial Park though, in northern California – huge big things! So glad to hear that the trees were saved from being chopped down for lumber! Nice post. Thanks for sharing!

Reply
Avatar
Agness of Fit Travelling February 10, 2017 - 11:55 am

This park seems very interesting and it is definitely worth a visit!

Reply
Avatar
Adam Doolittle February 10, 2017 - 4:40 pm

It’s a quick hike but stunningly beautiful. You should definitely make it there.

Reply

Leave a Comment