red line – Bedwell Centennial Trail (gps track)
purple line – old road bypassed by new trail/route (approximate)
The Bedwell Centennial Trail is 34 km long from the trailhead on the Jim Mitchell Lake Road near the south end of Buttle Lake to the head of Bedwell Inlet. Prior arrangements need to be made with a water taxi to get to Tofino. The trip is best done in July through September when stream levels are low. Allow 3 to 4 days one way, and travel only when good weather is predicted. Heavy rains can quickly make dry streams impassable, but they soon recover in a day or two.
Trailhead to Bedwell Lake
This section is on an official BC Parks trail. Allow 3 to 4 hours (6 km, 600 m gain) to get to the campsites on Bedwell Lake. Registration and a fee is required for camping. Parks spent a lot of money on this trail, but many of the steel staircases are in need of repair. Some bridges are out, or damaged.
Bedwell Lake to You Creek
The Bedwell Valley Trail starts just south of the map-board in the center of the campsites at Bedwell Lake. Consider the trail to be Class IV, with deadfall and brush cleared, and the route flagged. Some sections are more obvious than others, but navigation should be straightforward. Allow about 3 hours. A strong party can make it from the trailhead on the Jim Mitchell Road to You Creek camp in 6 hours. About 1 hour down from Bedwell Lake the trail passes through another decent campsite alongside the Bedwell River.
The trail follows the steep descent of the upper Bedwell River down to the relatively easy grades of the lower Bedwell Valley at You Creek. From the alpine vistas of Big Interior and Tom Taylor Mountains, the trail descends into old growth forest. There is an interesting log crossing at K2 Creek. The 2 logs are sound, but the situation may be exciting to some. Three beautiful Bedwell River waterfalls (Doran, Cliffhanger, and Appreciation) can be viewed from short side trails. The roar of the falls will call you to them. About half way down to You Creek you come across a large avalanche debris slide. In the summer of 2011 there was a great quantity of snow to cross. In drier years the conditions may be change… be aware of the stream flowing under the slide. South of the slide is an impressive stand of maples with little in the way of other tree species or undergrowth. Soon after the trail attains the upper reaches of an old logging road. The Bedwell Valley was logged in the 1960’s with BC Parks blessing. (The valley was then dumped from the park as having no park value! It was restored as parkland thanks to the 1988 blockade to stop mineral exploration drilling at Cream Lake.) Two kilometers down the road is You Creek where good campsites are found.
You Creek to Ashwood Creek
Allow 2 hours. The trail in the main follows the old road, except in 3 sections where it bypasses washouts. You Creek can be waded in low water levels, or crossed on two large logs. Just before Ashwood Creek the trail follows a side road south a short distance to intersect the Ashwood. Good campsites can be found here.
Ashwood Creek to Sam Craig Creek
The trail ceases to exist here for stupid political reasons. However a ‘route’ has been flagged and is quite easy to follow. Allow 3 hours. Wade the Ashwood or cross on the logjam just upstream. The route follows a side-stream coming down from a notch in the ridge to the west. Once over the notch the route winds its way though large old growth trees, past a beautiful lily padded pond, and down to the river again. Good elk trails are utilized along the river to Sam Craig Creek. Blaney Creek, about half way to Sam Craig, presents some detours around its several tributaries. Allow 4 hours.
Sam Craig Creek to Gayle McGee Bridge
Allow 5 hours. Enjoy the trail brushed out in August, 2010 from Sam Craig to the ‘Living Bridge’. It travels over three humps of the north end of Ursus Mountain. Just west of Sam Craig is a good sand-bar campsite. Along the way enjoy the views of Ursus and Mariner mountains, pass by several ponds, and finally get glimpses of the ocean from open rocky benches. The trail comes down through open forest to again meet the old road at a good campsite. A 10 minute walk upstream on the old road takes you to the Living Bridge crossing the Bedwell River, now condemned by BC Parks.
The old road is followed to the Gayle McGee Bridge where good campsites can be found on the river just across the bridge. The trail along the road is not clipped, but easily passable. Two large washouts need to be navigated along the way. About half way down is the Park boundary.
The Gayle McGee Bridge was built in the early 1990’s by the Friends as part of the original trail. Our government takes credit on a plaque, and was supposed to maintain it. In the winter of 2009 it collapsed due to a heavy snow load. Later that year the Friends re-anchored and re-tensioned the bridge as part of their efforts to re-open the trail.
Gayle McGee Bridge to Bedwell Inlet
Allow 2 hours. The old road has been maintained and is in good shape for vehicles, although it is the most boring section of the whole trail for hikers. Near the inlet the road passes through land now owned by Clayoquot Wilderness Resorts. The hiker is presented with a vista of cleared pasture-land and clearcut hillsides. Although the road passes right by their main resort buildings, they have not to date stopped hikers from traveling through to the ocean. (The right of passage is not clear, as the government originally funded road access.) Water taxis have access to the docks at the end of the road. It is a 45 minute ride into Tofino. A typical boat will cost about $250, but can carry up to a dozen hikers with packs.