Six Incredible Hiking Trails in Great Bear Rainforest: Recommendations for All Levels

Nestled along the pristine coastline of British Columbia, Great Bear Rainforest is a spectacular expanse of wild, untamed beauty beckoning hikers to explore its hidden peaks and secret depths. Spanning over 6.4 million hectares of lush, temperate rainforest, this ecological wonderland is home to an astounding array of flora and fauna, including the rare and mystical Spirit Bear. For many staying in Great Bear Rainforest, hiking is a major draw. It means exploring an ancient, verdant world of adventures for all skill levels – and an unparalleled opportunity to witness the awe-inspiring power of nature.

As you embark on your travels through the Great Bear Rainforest, you’ll traverse moss-laden trails, skirt crystal-clear rivers and scale mist-shrouded peaks, all while breathing in the crisp, revitalizing air that pristine wilderness offers. Along the way, you’ll be immersed in the rich cultural heritage of Coastal First Nations, who have called this land home for millennia and continue to cherish and protect it today.

With each step through the Great Bear Rainforest you’ll encounter both incredible views and an array of wildlife – from native bird species to marine mammals to bears. With over 20 hikes to choose from, it’s easy to see why this magnificent forest is a hiker’s dream. Come with us as we explore all there is to know about hiking in this enchanting realm, as well as what to expect and what you’ll need for this unforgettable experience. 

Six Incredible Hiking Trails – One Suited To Every Hiker 

There are many great hiking trails to choose from through Great Bear Rainforest and these are some top picks that we recommend you try on your next trip to B.C. It’s important to note that many of the hiking trails located within the rainforest are only accessible by forest service roads, or even by boat, so four-wheel drive vehicles or qualified boat captains are a necessity!

  1. Snootli Creek Regional Park: This is one of the most popular hikes among locals in Bella Coola. It consists of four distinct paths that take walkers on an easy trail through an ancient cedar grove. The trails range from short to 2km (1.2 mi) and are relatively flat. While on the stroll, take in a variety of natural sights and historic features – like an ancient grove of culturally modified Cedar trees, huge Cottonwood, Sitka Spruce and Douglas Maple, as well as second-growth forest and a beaver pond.
  1. Saloompt Forest Trail: This is another easy hike that consists of a number of picnic tables allowing for scenic lunch spots. This trail takes walkers along Bella Coola River where people can cross the Saloompt River bridge and watch salmon spawn during months of August and September. This area is frequented by bears during spawning season so caution and bear awareness are necessary.
  1. Medby Rock Lookout Trail: This hike is perfect for those seeking a challenge. This trail, though moderate, is a steep walk with phenomenal views that look down towards the Bella Coola Valley. 
  1. Grey Jay Lake Trail: This 4km (2.5 mile) trail brings you on a winding journey through alpine forest and meadows, along Grey Jay Lake. The trail ends at a fantastic viewpoint overlooking the North and South Bentinck Arms. Take the Clayton Falls Forest Service Road to access the M Gurr Lake Trail. At Blue Jay Lake look for the trailhead for the Grey Jay Lake/North Bentinck Lookout trail between the first two campsites.
  1. Hagensborg Loop Trail: This 4 mile long trail follows the Schoolhouse Mountain Falls Trail to the west falls, then heads uphill. The loop trail veers westward slightly downhill to a ford crossing of the creek. Keep an eye out for second-growth forest, an old quarry pit, and fabulous views of Mount Saugstad, as well as Chum (aka Dog) salmon spawning in early August.
  1. Clayton Falls: This is a short walk, perfect for those seeking a leisurely stroll. En route you can view the falls cascading through a canyon of cliffs and then have a picnic on the shoreline. Watch pink salmon jump the falls as they return to spawning grounds from late July to September. Access is found following the gravel road from the government wharf 1.8 km (1.1 mi) west and downhill.

Best Time to Go Hiking in the Great Bear Rainforest

The best time to go hiking in the Great Bear Rainforest region largely depends on your preferences and tolerance for different weather conditions. Generally, the best time for hiking in the Great Bear Rainforest is between late May and early October. During these months, you can expect relatively mild temperatures, less precipitation, and longer daylight hours. 

Here’s a breakdown of the conditions to help you plan your trip;

  • Late May to June: Springtime brings mild temperatures and blooming plants, making it a beautiful time to explore the rainforest. However, there can still be significant rainfall during this period, so come prepared with waterproof gear.
  • July and August: These are the warmest and driest months, with temperatures ranging between 50°F (10°C) and 70°F (21°C). Wildlife sightings, including bears, are more common during this time. However, this is also the peak tourist season, so expect more crowded trails and limited availability for accommodations.
  • September to early October: The fall season can be an excellent time to visit, with cooler temperatures, fewer crowds, and the chance to see the vibrant autumn colors. However, rainfall may start to increase as October progresses and weather can turn wild.

Packing Essentials for your Hiking Trip to the Great Bear Rainforest

  • Appropriate Clothes: Remember that the weather in Great Bear Rainforest can be unpredictable, so it’s essential to pack appropriate clothing and gear for various conditions. Rain jackets, waterproof hiking boots, thick socks and multiple layers are just some of the essentials for any hiker’s backpack. 
  • Gear: Important hiking gear like headlamps, compass, multi-tool or knife and camping gear if you plan on sleeping in the wild. A first aid kit should be included in any hiker’s backpack for safety. Trash bags are also good to have so you adhere to the Leave No Trace principles to minimize your impact on the environment. Hiking the Great Bear Rainforest is all about responsible and sustainable tourism!
  • Personal Items: Toiletries like deodorant, toothpaste, sunscreen and lip balm are essential. A portable phone charger is great for charging your devices on the go, especially in case of emergency. A handheld GPS never hurts as well. Here is a digital map to help you plan your route.
  • Food and Snacks: You’ll need lots of energy for your hike so be sure to pack lots of snacks like energy and protein bars for the trip. Have a light, reusable water bottle that’s easy to carry. 

Happy Hiking!

Great Bear Rainforest serves as a hiking lover’s paradise. With so many hikes to choose from, for both skilled and novice hikers, this forest is the ideal destination for your next on-foot adventure. With so many sights to explore, like ancient forests, impressive waterfalls and glaciers, deep gorges, running rivers and not to mention the iconic wildlife. Explore this unspoiled, magically wilderness for yourself, we promise it’ll be a trip to remember. So, happy trails and remember to tread lightly as you immerse yourself in the magic of Great Bear Rainforest.

Some Questions About Hiking Trails in the Great Bear Rainforest

1. What is the best time of year to hike in the Great Bear Rainforest?

The best time to hike in the Great Bear Rainforest is during the late spring, summer, and early fall months (May through September). During this time, temperatures are milder, days are longer, and the risk of heavy rainfall is reduced. Keep in mind that even during these months, the weather can be unpredictable, and rain is always a possibility. Be prepared with appropriate rain gear and layered clothing. Planning for the elements is key to hiking in GBR!

2. What wildlife can I expect to see hiking in the Great Bear Rainforest?

You can expect to see a wide variety of wildlife while hiking through the Great Bear Rainforest. If you’re lucky you will come across the Kermode bear (Spirit Bear), for which areas of the forest are famous for. You can also expect to see grizzly bears, wolves, deer, whales, orcas and lots of avian species like ospreys, peregrine falcons and the famous bald eagle. It’s amazing, but all this is possible hiking Great Bear…and the regenerative experience can be like nothing else.

3. What are the safety precautions to consider while hiking in the Great Bear Rainforest?

Safety precautions include traveling in groups, making noise to alert wildlife to your presence, carrying bear spray, and knowing how to use it, and respecting wildlife by maintaining a safe distance. If camping, make sure to bring bear-resistant food storage containers.

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