Explore the Trails – Skookumchuck Narrows Provincial Park
The trails of the Sunshine Coast offer a wide array of experiences for travellers of all levels and walks of life. Ranging in length, difficulty, and medium of experience (by foot, bike, kayak…) the Coast’s trails are the epitome of the pristine beauty and epic landscapes of British Columbia. Join the adventure and share your photos with us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Youtube using #sunshinecoastbc. Happy trails!
Skookumchuck Narrows Provincial Park
My very first day on my very first visit to the Sunshine Coast, and well, to be honest, the west coast of Canada, involved a breathtaking hike into Skookumchuck Narrows Provincial Park. While spending an overnight in the tiny town of Egmont to catch a boat up to Princess Louisa Inlet the next day, one of the locals at the Backeddy Pub suggested my friend and I hike the “Skook”. My first question of course was, “What in the world is the ‘Skook’!?”. He just laughed and told me how to get to the trailhead so off we went.
Once we got to the trailhead, I laced up my sneakers and was secretly hoping we wouldn’t have to summit a mountain given it was somewhat late in the afternoon already. I was pleasantly surprised at the nice, soft, forested path under my feet that was wide and forgiving and not all that demanding physically– just some nice rolling hills at most and the occasional bit of roots and rocks to clamber over, especially in the last 1km of the 4km trail. The trail passes through second growth forest– there are interpretive signs along the way telling the logging history which I found to be fascinating given that I did not grow up in this land of giant trees.
After marveling for some time over the lush forest, we came to a sign directing us either to North Point or Roland Bay. I had no idea what was waiting on the end of the trail so we chose Roland Bay on a whim. When we came out of the trees, we had reached the beach– and lo and behold– Skookumchuck Narrows. Skookumchuck is a Chinook First Nations word meaning “strong water”. That should have been my first clue. I would later learn that one of the greatest natural spectacles in British Columbia occurs in the Skookumchuck Narrows. Twice daily, nature puts on a show as the tide changes and the flow of saltwater switches, reversing the direction and power of these incredibly turbulent rapids. The difference in water levels between one side of the rapids and the other sometimes exceeds 9ft in height, with 200 billion gallons of water flowing through the Skookumchuck Narrows connecting Sechelt and Jervis Inlets. The Sechelt Rapids are famous for their spectacular whirlpools and, for extreme kayakers and divers, “Skook” is one of the great white-water wonders of the world, attracting thrill-seekers from across the globe.
The trick is timing your hike right. You can check out the tide charts but the easiest way is to look at the Skookumchuck viewing times. The best waves are on the XL flood tide and viewed from Roland Bay. To my luck, that happened to be the scene we came up on my very first unsuspected hike to the Skook. A line up of kayakers awaited their turn to paddle the giant standing waves. Each one would plunge into the wave and flip and twist with a simple pull of the paddle! I could have sat there for hours and watched but as the sun continued to go down we decided to make our way back. You should allow about 45 minutes to an hour each way on the trail. On the ebb tide– try for North Point, which offers the best viewing from an open rocky outcrop (with fencing for safety) to see the gurgling whirlpools. There is also an abundance of marine life along the shores. A variety of sea stars, urchins, crabs, sea cucumbers and all sorts of interesting creatures call Skookumchuck Narrows their home.
Now for the disclaimer– while incredible, the rapids get their name for a reason. Please use utmost caution when near the water, especially with small children and pets who should be under constant supervision during this time. The waters are for highly experienced paddlers, divers, and boaters only and are extremely dangerous.
*Direction to trailhead: Drive north from Sechelt on Hwy 101 toward the Earl’s Cove ferry terminal. Take a right on Egmont Road just before the ferry (you’ll be sure to see the signs for “Home of the Skookumchuck Narrows”). Follow Egmont Road approximately 6km until you see the signs for the Skookumchuck Narrows Provincial Park on your right. There is a long row of parking along Egmont Road but it can get quite busy on summer weekends so plan accordingly. Then just follow the signs from the parking area to the trail. It’s well marked so you can’t miss it.
*Park Guidelines: Pets must be on a leash and please pick up after them.
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