The Beauforts section of the VIT to Cumberland includes both private forest lands and two parcels of Crown land surrounded by the private lands.
VITA is currently working on a co-operative agreement with private landowners to allow the Trail to traverse their lands, hence the final route and official opening of the VI Trail across the Beauforts Range cannot be finalized until agreement(s) are in place with the private forest landowners and Regional Districts.
There is, however, a well-known route along the crest of the Beaufort Range which has been lightly used for several decades. A search of the web will yield substantial information about this route. Apart from the substantial climb up from the Alberni valley and the descent into Cumberland, the route is at moderately high elevations (1000 – 1600 metres along the crest) through a mosaic of subalpine forest communities, much of the way with small lakes and tarns after snowmelt. This includes semi-open mountain hemlock ‘parkland’, characterized by patches of forest interspersed with heaths (heather meadows); more or less open rock along some of the ridge crest, and some closed mountain hemlock forest generally on the uniformly, steep slopes, locally with substantial brush/shrub cover. The route has a well-defined tread in most forested sections (e.g., on the climbs up from both the N and S ends of the ridge road between Mt. Hal and Mt Joan) and through some of the heaths. It is not well-defined but easy enough to follow on open rock ridges (e.g., around/above Beaufort Lake and its spectacular views). But the route can be difficult to follow in the open heather meadows and where the crest widens out to become more of a hilly plateau than a ridge (e.g., south of Mt. Apps). With proper trail marking rather than with a mishmash of various flagging, the trail tread should become more defined with time and foot-traffic.
Hikers should be aware of and prepared for white-out conditions in fog and low cloud (a ‘cloud-cap’) that is common along the crest even when clear, sunny conditions prevail at lower elevations. As an elevation profile shows (see Map 3), there are lots of ups and downs on what on the map or from a distance looks like an easy ridge (e.g., Mt. Cameron to Rosemarie Lake), resulting in a physically challenging and tiring hike.
After a steep climb via Don’s Trail, the proposed route (from south to north) along the crest of the Beauforts starts as Don’s Trail transitions from the uniformly steep valley wall to the more moderate but variable slopes along the crest. Northwards, the route is more or less along the height-of-land over the summits of Mt. Hal, Mt. Joan, the Squarehead, Mt. Apps, Mt. Cameron, Mt. Henry Spencer and Mt. Stubbs, as far as Tsable Mtn. An earlier route from Tsable Mtn. by way of the flank of Mt. Chief Frank to Mt. Clifton is no longer recommended. A safer route that descends the NW ridge of Tsable Mtn. has been cleared and marked. It leaves the height-of-land/ Beauforts crest about 150 metres north of the summit, initially drops down to the west thence onto the NW ridge and on down into the upper Katlum Creek valley. The upper part of the ridge is steep, in places quite narrow and with one short ‘notch’ through a band of rock that requires a couple of handholds. Lower down the ridge, the steepness mellows out and lower yet, the route leaves the ridgeline and bears northeast to cross a couple of creeks, before joining a short section of roads in the valley bottom. Two short spurs interspersed with a short section of branch logging road links with a trail back up to the ridgeline west of the Mt. Clifton summit near Three-heather Lake, so named because all three of Vancouver Island’s heather species (red, white, and yellow) grow in this area. This is a beautiful area for camping, but be sure to keep your impact to a minimum in the fragile heath plant communities. (Mt. Clifton is now an optional 500 m side trip, affording great views of the Comox Valley). The route continues along the ridgeline from west of Clifton via a light trail over four minor summits to drop down into as small hanging valley with two small lakes (‘Twin Lks’) . About 50m before the outflow creek/culvert from the lower lake, watch for a light trail on your left (easy to miss) that drops down a steep gully to Tsable Lake, where there is good shoreline camping on Crown land. The trail then skirts around the south end of the lake through impressive, high-elevation old-growth forest of mountain hemlock and yellow cedar (cypress) and then climbs up through mainly amabilis fir and yellow cedar regeneration to join a logging road on the west side of the lake. In mid-summer, watch for the rather rare white fool’s onion (Triteleia hyacinthina) on the rock outcrops.
From Log Train Trail via Don’s Trail up to the Beaufort Crest
Don’s Trail to Mt. Henry Spencer
Tsable Lake Trail
The Tsable Lake Trail involves a combination of light trail and old logging roads that descend to a crossing of the upper Trent River.
From the road/landing on the west side of Tsable Lake, the route follows logging road through early immature forest for 1.8 km (left at first junction, right at third, straight at fourth and left at fifth junction). Single-track trail starts with a steep pitch off the road, then across a series of rocky knolls to a section of side-hill trail with mature to old-growth, montane forest (the one small creek crossed is not a reliable water source). It passes by a group of felled trees that were not yarded and a small lake just past the high-point. From this small lake, the route heads NW through a linear draw, then across and down a small creek before swinging west to the top of a steep slope with regeneration overlooking Tremain Creek valley. After angling down this steep slope, the trail picks up a section of road through regeneration (left at one junction) to cross Tremain Creek (water source). About 400 m past the creek, turn right past a small lake to the resumption of single-track on the left just before a high point in the road overlooking the Comox Valley (excellent viewpoint). Ahead the trail follows along a ridge with patchy forest and frequent rock outcrops, several providing expansive views to the Comox Valley across Georgia Straight to the Mainland (Coast Mtns.). The final pitch down to the Trent River and its ‘potholes’ is steep. The upper Trent is not wadable at moderate to high flows; but easy to hop across during the summer months. The trail links up with revegetated old road-grade (go right, downhill at one junction) to a section of open, more recently active road before single-track trail resumes on the right. This is the Trent Canyon section of the Trent River mountain bike/hiking trail that follows quite closely down the Trent for 5.3 km, crossing the South Trent Main at 3.7 km, and providing good views of several waterfalls and pools.
UROC Mountain Bike Trails
From the Trent River to Cumberland, the hiker follows a series of mountain biking/hiking trails (see the Trail Forks app) that are managed pursuant to a land use agreement between private forest landowners, the Village of Cumberland and the United Riders of Cumberland. After the Trent River Trail, the route we suggest includes Spaghetti, Meatballs, Buckrub, Cabbage Patch, 50:1 and either roads or Josh’s Trail into Cumberland, although there are other options. Be sure to keep ears and eyes open for mountain bikes so you can get clear and give them the right-of-way. An alternative is to just hike down the Trent Main logging road to the eastern end of ‘Cumby’ and into the village center on Dunsmuir Avenue.
This old coal-mining town has several restaurants, a great brew-pub (the ‘CBC’ – Cumberland Brewing Co), the Waverly pub (known earlier as the ‘Bucket of Blood’), a popular hostel (Riding Fool Hostel) and stores for re-supply before starting on Section 4 of the VIT (bus service is available to Courtenay for additional services and supplies). The Cumberland Museum is also worth a visit to learn the wealth of early coal-mining history.