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Meares Island Tribal Park

Area Description:

8000 hectare Meares Island is significant for at least two major reasons: It has a stand of the largest ancient western redcedars in Canada, and the old-growth battles on Vancouver Island began here. The Big Trees Trail on Meares Island has a dozen of the very largest western redcedars in existence, including the Hanging Garden Tree that is about 20 feet (6 meters) wide.

The local Tla’o’qui’aht people, along with the Friends of Clayoquot Sound, blockaded attempted logging operations on Meares Island in 1984, which triggered off the ensuring decades of environmental protests to protect ancient forests in BC. The Tla’o’qui’aht declared Meares Island a Tribal Park in 1984, and the fate of the island’s forests has since been tied up in the courts pending treaty settlement. The Wilderness Committee originally built a boardwalk trail, the Big Trees Trail, through the finest stand of ancient redcedars on the island, and the trail has since been maintained by locals each year. Thousands of people take boat rides every year to visit the ancient forests of Meares Island.


  • Old-growth cedar groves
  • Mount Colnett with a summit of 800 m
  • Lone Cone with a summit of 750 m
  • Bald eagle nests
  • Black bear feeding beaches
  • Mudflats with foraging wolves


  • Bald Eagles
  • Salmon
  • Wolves
  • Black bears
  • Shorebirds
  • Cougars
  • Waterfowl

Driving Directions from Victoria, BC:

From Tofino you can take various boats from the various docks in town to visit Meares Island. One of the best ways to see the Big Trees Trail is through a local First Nations cultural and eco-tourism venture: Tlaook Cultural Adventures (www.tlaook.com) led by Tla’o’qui’aht guide Gisele Martin. Through her tours you get to Meares Island by using your own muscle power, along with that of other tourists, paddling in a traditional ancient redcedar canoe carved by Gisele’s dad, Joe Martin, who was one of the early champions of protecting Meares Island.

Trail Guide

Great Cedar Trail or Big Tree Trail

Trail Stats
Difficulty: Easy
Length: 2.6 km round trip
Time: 2-3 hours
Nearest Town: Tofino, BC
Seasons: Spring, Summer, Fall

The Big Trees Trail is board-walked for the first kilometre or so, and can get somewhat muddy thereafter. There are many enormous western redcedars along the trail, including several of the world’s largest.


  • Hanging Garden Tree is 43 m tall with a 5.8 m diameter
  • Forest of large western redcedars from 3 to 6 meters wide and up to 45 meters tall
  • Small stream and sheltered cove
  • Trail splits off to Lemmens Inlet and Mosquito Harbour

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Note: It is vital to have a Vancouver Island Backroads Mapbook to access these areas

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