Fire Restrictions in Effect for this Park
Activites and Facilities Available in this Park - Click icon to view
Activities Available at this Park
Facilities Available at this Park
Park Contact

Horne Lake Cave tour Operator
Phone: 250-248-7829
http://www.hornelake.com

Horne Lake Caves Provincial Park

Almost like being there! Click the play button to take a fantastic virtual tour of Horne Lake caves and learn about karst landscapes.

  • The lower cave gates are locked every night and re-open for self-exploration every day at 10am. The first 20 metres of Main Cave, Lower Main Cave, and all of Andres Annex are open for self exploration.
  • Riverbend Cave and Main Cave beyond the gate are only accessible by guided tour.
  • White-Nose Syndrome
    White-nose Syndrome is a fungal disease that has been linked to the mass die-off of hibernating bats in Eastern North America - it poses a significant threat to bats of the west and British Columbia. There is evidence that humans have accelerated the spread through entering caves with contaminated clothing, gear or equipment. Therefore, prevention strategies are focussed on public education/awareness to prevent the introduction of the fungus through human activities. There are currently (JUNE 2011) no reported cases of WNS west of the Rockies.
    To ensure the protection of bats and their habitat in this park, B.C. Parks strongly advises that personal caving gear that has been used anywhere east of the Rockies not be used in BC and that cavers and visitors read the following fact sheet on decontamination before entering caves in BC.

    http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/wld/documents/wldhealth/WNS_Decontamination_Protocol_Caves_Mines_2014.pdf


Know Before You Go

BC Parks, the Canadian Cave Conservancy, BC Speleological Federation and the Vancouver Island Cave Exploration Group are working together on a variety of projects to enhance conservation of the unique features of the caves and improve the visitor experience.  Park visitors are advised that work on these projects may be occurring in the park during regular hours.  Please stay alert for further information on the park during the next few months.

General Park Information

  • Bring your own drinking water as potable water is not available in the park.
  • Campfires are not permitted.
  • There is no camping available in the park but the Horne Lake Regional Park located next to the park offers camping opportunities.

Cave Etiquette and Safety

  • Carry at least two lights per person - flashlights and headlamps are the best choice. This gear is available for rent on site at the caving office during their business hours. The use of candles, torches and Coleman lanterns is prohibited because open flame can damage the special rock formations.
  • It is recommended that hardhats or helmets be worn in the caves.
  • Due to the cool damp air in the caves, even during the summer, you are advised to wear warm clothing.
  • Do not enter the caves alone. It is recommended that three persons are a minimum per party and six persons are a maximum on self-guided cave tours.
  • Leave precise information of your plans and your estimated arrival time home with someone responsible.
  • Routes within the caves are not marked and contain steep slopes, slippery sections and exposed drops. Self-explorers should exercise extreme caution while traveling in the caves.
  • Do not damage or remove any rock formations or features from the caves.
  • When visiting a cave follow in one line. This will reduce the spread of mud over the features and throughout the rest of the cave.
  • Pets are not permitted in the caves.
  • Please remove all litter. “Leave No Trace” of your visit.

About This Park

Horne Lake Caves Provincial Park The best in Canada! That is one way to describe the cave resources of Vancouver Island, home to more than 1,000 caves. At Horne Lake Caves Provincial Park you can experience the magic of the underground world in the many caves protected within this unique park. The park was established in 1971 at the request of public caving groups on Vancouver Island who were concerned about the potential damage of the caves and the fragile crystal formations they contained.

Spelunking is the art of cave exploration and Horne Lake Caves Provincial Park is the perfect place to discover this unique activity. From educational family-oriented tours to deep, dark adventure, the caves protected within this park offer something for everyone. Knowledgeable guides can lead visitors through the caves to discover this magical world of crystal formations and ancient fossils firsthand. Though the park has two small caves visitors can explore on their own, a guided tour of one of the larger caves offers more variety and a chance to learn about the cave’s unique geology and history.

For those that prefer their adventures above-ground, the park also offers a Cave & Karst Education Centre that features geology information, a small museum and fossil display in addition to Canada’s only Cave Theatre, so visitors can learn more about this unique environment without having to enter the caves. Other above-ground opportunities include a self-guided walk through the amazing surface geology on the new “Phil Whitfield Interpretive Trail” that highlights interesting surface features explained in a self-guiding brochure.

Easy 90-minute family tours into protected Riverbend Cave are conducted daily from 10 am to 5 pm from May to September. This tour is designed to teach the geology of the caves while exploring the larger and easier passageways and is available on a first-come, first-served basis from 10am to 5pm. Three-hour Adventure trips are available daily throughout the year. Reservations are required for all tours except the Family Cavern Tour and can be made by calling the Horne Lake Caves at 250 248-7829. Those wanting more adventure can try the FOUR-hour or FIVE-hour caving excursions offered at the park. The ultimate in caving challenge is the Underground Extreme tour, a FIVE-hour excursion that has cavers rappel down a seven-storey waterfall into the depths of a cave then climb out on a cable ladder.

Whichever method of exploring the caves you choose, you are bound to be fascinated by this amazing underground world in the heart of Vancouver Island.

Park Size: 158 hectares

Reservations

RESERVATIONS FOR CAVE TOURS can be made through the Horne Lake Cave tour operator, phone: 250-248-7829. More information and online reservations available at www.hornelake.com.

Please note - there is no camping in this park.
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Location and Maps

Please note: Any maps listed are for information only - they may not represent legal boundaries and should not be used for navigation. Horne Lake Caves Provincial Park is located 60 km north of Nanaimo and 26 km west of Qualicum on central Vancouver Island. The park can be accessed via the Horne Lake exit off Hwy #19 or Hwy #19a. Follow signs for 12 km to Horne Lake.

Maps and Brochures

Any maps listed are for information only - they may not represent legal boundaries and should not be used for navigation.
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Nature and Culture

  • History - The first written records of caves in the area came after the turn of the century, in 1912, when a geologist noted the presence of caves at the north end of Horne Lake. A few years later, when the area was opened up for logging, the loggers knew the location of the caves. It is not known if the loggers ventured into the depths of the caves but a stream in one of the caves was dammed to provide water for the steam donkeys used in early logging practices.

    It was not until 1939 that the caves gained public attention. Two cave explorers were responsible for rediscovering what they named the “Horne Lake Wonder Caves”. At this point only the Main and Lower Main Caves were known, although some speculated on the potential for more caves in the area. The presence of a noticeable air current at the mouth of Main Cave led people to believe there must be a system of caves, of which Main was just a part. In 1941, a storekeeper from Qualicum reported entering a sizable cave almost a quarter of a mile long, some distance from the already discovered caves. This was probably the first discovery of Riverbend Cave.

    By 1945, the caves had become a known tourist stop for people looking for adventure. This increased use of the caves, however, took its toll and by the summer of 1945 a party of explorers noted that many of the once beautiful formations were either broken or removed by souvenir seekers. This same party found the storekeeper’s cave, Riverbend.

    In 1957, the Horne Lake Caves area of approximately 29 hectares was established as a recreation reserve in an effort to ensure opportunities for the public to continue to view these caves in the future. Six years later a group of cavers from Victoria discovered the two entrances to Eggshell Cave. The value of this area was recognized by members of the Canadian Speleological Society, who then approached the provincial government to have this area protected. Horne Lake Caves Provincial Park was established in February 1971.
  • Conservation - In addition to protecting the karst features and caves, this park includes a forested addition that protects approximately 1 km of the Qualicum River adjacent to Horne Lake Caves. This forest provides a visual buffer for visitors to the existing park. The area also protects high fish and wildlife values.
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Management Planning

Management Planning Information
  • Approved Master Plan [PDF 661.29KB] for Horne Lake Caves Provincial Park is available online in pdf format.
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Activities Available at this Park

Canoeing

Canoeing

There are opportunities for canoeing or kayaking in this park. Big Qualicum River runs approximately 1 km downstream into Horne Lake. Please note there is no easy access to the river and during the summer season, the river becomes very shallow or dries up.

The Horne Lake Regional Park is located adjacent to the provincial park. The Regional Park 900 metres away allows access to Horne Lake which provides recreation opportunities for camping, swimming, fishing and picnicking nearby.
Caving

Caving

From educational family-oriented tours to deep, dark adventure, the caves protected within Horne Lake Park offer something for everyone. Knowledgeable guides can lead visitors through the caves to discover this magical world of crystal formations and ancient fossils firsthand. Though the park has two small caves visitors can explore on their own, a guided tour offers more variety and a chance to learn about the cave's unique geology and history.

Easy 90-minute family tours into protected Riverbend Cave are conducted daily from 10 am to 5 pm during July and August. This tour is designed to teach the geology of the caves while exploring the larger and easier passageways and is available on a first-come, first-served basis from 10am to 5pm. Three-hour Adventure trips are available daily throughout the year. Reservations are required for all tours except the Summer Family Tour and can be made by calling the Horne Lake Caves at 250-248-7829. Those wanting more adventure can try the FOUR-hour or FIVE-hour caving excursions offered at the park. The ultimate in caving challenge is the Underground Extreme tour, a FIVE-hour excursion that has cavers rappel down a seven-storey waterfall into the depths of a cave then climb out on a cable ladder.

More information available at: http://www.hornelake.com
Climbing / Rapelling

Climbing

There are opportunities for rock climbing/rappelling in this park through the Horne Lake Caving Centre.
Cycling

Cycling

Cycling is permitted on roadways only. Bicycle helmets are mandatory in British Columbia.
Hiking

Hiking

A short trail takes you from the parking lot across a suspension bridge over the Big Qualicum River to the Caving Centre and information kiosk. From here a 1.3 km trail system leads to the various caves.

Please note: the trails and caves are NOT wheelchair accessible. For your own safety and the preservation of the park, obey posted signs and keep to designated trails. Shortcutting trails destroys plant life and soil structure.
Interpretive Programs

Interpretive Programs

The Caving Centre offers a variety of regularly scheduled and guided tours and educational programs for individuals and school groups. Phone 250-248-7829.

More information available at: http://www.hornelake.com
Pets on Leash

Pets on Leash

Pets/domestic animals must be on a leash and under control at all times. You are responsible for their behaviour and must dispose of their excrement. Pets are not permitted in the caves. Backcountry areas are not suitable for dogs or other pets due to wildlife issues and the potential for problems with bears.
Swimming

Swimming

The day-use area, located next to the Big Qualicum River, offers a shallow area suitable for swimming or wading. There is no safe access to the river. The Horne Lake Regional Park is located adjacent to the provincial park. The Regional Park 900 metres away allows access to Horne Lake which provides recreation opportunities for camping, swimming, fishing and picnicking nearby.
Wildlife Viewing

Wildlife Viewing

There is no viewing platform but the area offers viewing opportunities to see birds, bears and deer. During the fall season, you can see eagles feeding on trout at the campground area next to the park.
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Facilities Available at this Park

Picnic Areas

Picnic Areas

This park has a day-use/picnic area with 2 picnic tables and pit toilets. The Horne Lake Regional Park is located adjacent to the provincial park. The Regional Park allows acces to Horne Lake which provides recreation opportunities for camping, swimming, fishing and picnicking nearby.
Pit or Flush Toilets

Pit or Flush Toilets

This park has 2 pit toilets, located at the day-use area.