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Cape Scott Provincial Park
Attention Visitors – Important Notice!
Cape Scott Wolf Advisory – updated September 26, 2018 and ongoing
BC Parks has received ongoing reports of high wolf activity in some areas of Cape Scott Park. Dogs are permitted in San Josef Bay area only and must be leashed at all times. Dogs are prohibited in all other areas of the park, including the North Coast Trail. Dogs are a high level attractant to wolves and other large carnivores. Protect your pet – keep them at home.
All visitors and hikers in Cape Scott must be extremely mindful about how they recreate in coastal wolf habitat to help prevent wolves from becoming habituated to humans and conditioned to attractants.
Avoid attracting wolves
- Securely store your food and cooking equipment during the day and night in food caches provided at all designated camping locations.
- Avoid camping or recreating in locations where a carcass (ie. sea lion or seal) has washed ashore.
- More information on wolf safety [PDF]
Keep your distance
- Never approach wolves and scare them away immediately if they approach you.
- Keep children close to you at all times and leave your pets at home.
Please do your part when recreating in wolf country and help keep wolves wild. Please click the links for specific information on how to avoid wolf encounters and to practice proper backcountry etiquette.
If you encounter an aggressive wild animal, report it by calling the Conservation Officer Service 24-hour hotline toll free at 1-877-952-7277 (RAPP) or #7277 on the Telus Mobility Network.
About This Park
Cape Scott Provincial Park is a truly magnificent area of rugged coastal wilderness that is located at the northwestern tip of Vancouver Island, 563 kilometres from Victoria.
Established in 1973 and named after the site of a lighthouse that has guided mariners since 1960, Cape Scott is characterized by more than 115 kilometres of scenic ocean frontage, including about 30 kilometres of spectacular remote beaches.
The park stretches from Shushartie Bay in the east, then westward around Cape Scott and south to San Josef Bay. Rocky promontories, salt marshes and jagged headlands punctuate the fine-textured, white-sand beaches. The most impressive of these beaches, Nels Bight, stretches more than 2,400 metres long and 210 metres wide at low tide, and is one of the park’s most popular camping destinations. Other significant beaches include San Josef Bay, Guise Bay, Experiment Bight, Lowrie Bay and Nissen Bight.
Visitors can choose between a day hike or a backpacking excursion to explore the sandy beaches, rainforests, and lowland bogs and muskeg of this wilderness park.
Cape Scott Provincial Park is home to sea stacks, which visitors can access at low tide. The eastern portion of the park contains a number of estuaries that are accessible only by boat. Cape Scott is also fortunate to have some excellent examples of old-growth forest, including Sitka Spruce in excess of 3 metres in diameter, and Western Red Cedar of similar sizes. Examples of these trees can be found throughout the park, including on the easy hike to San Josef Beach. About 20 minutes north of the Eric Lake campsite is a Sitka Spruce that measures more than 7 metres in circumference. This is a popular spot for hikers to stop and absorb their surroundings, as well as take photographs.
Established Date: May 18, 1973
Park Size: 22,294 hectares (17,323 hectares of upland and 4,972 hectares of foreshore)
Cape Scott Lighthouse
The lighthouse and the Cape are outside the provincial park boundary and are private property belonging to the Department of National Defence. The old trail and foghorn were built during World War 2 by DND staff to give access to the beach, etc. but as the old structures, boardwalk and suspension bridges deteriorated, they became dangerous and were removed by the Federal Government. BC Parks is not responsible for this trail and not allowed to trespass on this private property.
Tourist Facilities and Information
Even though Cape Scott is a wilderness park, a variety of tourist facilities are located nearby in Port Hardy, Port McNeill, Holberg and Port Alice. Accommodation in these communities is limited, so reservations are recommended. Consult the Accommodation and Campground Directory published by Tourism British Columbia for names, addresses and other pertinent information. Some links that may be helpful:
Know Before You Go
Logging trucks are present on the gravel access road from Port Hardy to the Cape Scott Trail Head. Drive with caution and lights
on at all times. Always yield to logging trucks and be mindful of pull outs. It is best to pull to the side of the road and let trucks pass.
The following links are the Park Use Permit holders with permission to transport visitors to and from the park:
Visitors should be prepared to encounter bears and wolves throughout Cape Scott.
- Ensure your vehicle is locked and windows are closed. Food and other attractants must be secured in the trunk of the vehicle. Bears have broken into vehicles parked in the Cape Scott Provincial Park.
- During low tide, bears frequent the shoreline turning over rocks in search of food on the North Coast Trail, Nahwitti River area. Camp only within the developed campsite area, avoid camping along in close proximity to shoreline areas.
Hiking and Camping
- School hiking groups registration
- Detailed hiking and trail information
- All campers and hikers should be prepared for extremely cold and wet conditions year-round.
- The boardwalk is extremely slippery when wet. Please avoid hiking beside the boardwalk and off the established trail as this increases sediment flow and will damage the sensitive riparian habitat.
- Water sources are very limited. Carry an adequate supply of drinking water or be prepared to boil or treat water.
- Please pack out what you pack in and use “No Trace” ethics while visiting the park.
Location and Maps
National Topographic Series maps, scale 1:50,000, Index No. 102, Sheets i/9 and i/16 cover the Cape Scott area. These maps are available from most map retailers in British Columbia.
Cape Scott is a hike-in park, located at the northwestern tip of Vancouver Island. The only parking lot within the park, located near the southeast corner, provides easy access to the Cape Scott and San Josef Bay Trailhead. The lot, which is located 64 kilometres west of Port Hardy, can be reached by driving on a combination of public highways and private, active logging roads.
Port Hardy is the northern terminus of Highway 19, which connects with Vancouver Island communities south to Victoria; it is also the southern terminus of the British Columbia Ferries service to Prince Rupert. Port Hardy is also served by regularly scheduled air and bus lines. The community of Winter Harbour is another settlement southwest of the park that offers tourist amenities, RV campsites, fuel and a general store.
- For additional information on transportation options to the park, visit the North Coast Trail Shuttle’s webpage.
Maps and Brochures
Activities Available at this Park
For your own safety and preservation of the park obey posted signs and keep to designated trails. Shortcutting, switchbacking, skirting mud holes and trampling across meadows and boggy ground destroy the plant life and soil structure, thus increasing erosion and deterioration of the trails.
Facilities Available at this Park
Pit or Flush Toilets
December 12, 2018: Capital Road upgrades June 2019
Capital Road upgrades will be occurring on the San Josef Main FSR during June 2019. The access road will be closed to public and industrial traffic, and there will be no access to or from the Cape Scott parking lot during the following periods:
- June 3 – June 7, 2019
- June 10 – June 14, 2019
Please plan your trip accordingly, and thank you for your cooperation during this capital road upgrade.
There are 11 designated camp pads located at Eric Lake, available on a first-come, first-served basis. There is no longer a campsite at Donaldson Farm.
Random wilderness camping is also allowed in this park, though no facilities other than food caches (at Guise Bay, Nels Bight, San Josef, Nissen Bight and Eric Lake) and pit toilets are provided. Please camp on the beach whenever possible. If you should choose to erect a temporary shelter from the elements, please dismantle it entirely when you are through with it and return the site to its natural state so that others may enjoy the surroundings as you have. Please practice “Leave No Trace” camping ethics.
Dogs are permitted in San Josef Bay ONLY. Dogs are prohibited in all other areas of Cape Scott including all sites on the North Coast Trail.
Cape Scott Park is open year-round (check website for updates on trail conditions in case areas are closed for safety reasons), however fees are only collected from May 1 to September 30 when backcountry services are provided. Self-registration vaults are located at the San Josef River boat launch and trailhead or you can use the Backcountry Registration System.
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BC Parks Backcountry Registration System allows you to purchase a backcountry camping permit before leaving home. Although the system does not reserve a campsite, the system provides visitors the convenience of prepaying for their trip and not having to carry cash. We encourage all visitors to register online so we can reduce the need to collect fees in the field.