The Runners Trail section of VIT traces the route of a traditional First Nations trail, linking the Tuck Lake Trail at Nadira Main near Francis Lake with the Alberni Inlet Trail near Headquarters Bay.
From Nadira Main, a rough single track trail is located some 35-75 m above the left bank/north side of the tributary from Francis Lake (aka Francis Creek). It initially goes up and over a steep sided knoll and some 300 m along crosses over one larger creek by way of a split cedar bridge. Towards Francis Lake, the trail picks up and follows an old grade westward and then NW within 30-40 m of the Francis Lake shoreline. Beautiful Francis Lake is not quite 2 km long with a popular gravel beach at its NW end which is used for vehicle camping and swimming.
The 17-km long Runners Trail, built in 2010-11 largely by the Tseshaht First Nation, officially started at the Francis Lake beach and follows a traditional, indigenous cross-Island route. It is effectively a single track trail, although much of its length is located atop old, revegetated logging grades, commonly with lush sword ferns and mosses. It becomes much narrower single track on steep approach and leaving slopes to several creeks crossed with rudimentary bridges, apart from one major engineered bridge over Parsons Creek.
The trail crosses the mostly open site of the former Franklin River Logging Camp (Camp ‘B’) by way of old camp/community roads, some flanked by non native trees (maple, oak …) and vegetation of old gardens (daffodils in Spring).
“Opened in 1936 by the Bloedel, Stewart & Welch logging company, to log its vast timber holdings in the Franklin River valley, Camp B ultimately became one of the largest logging camps in the world. The operation eventually had over 100 miles of logging railway lines, hauling logs from the woods to Camp A at the mouth of Franklin River on Alberni Inlet. Originally built at Corrigan Creek, Camp B was moved twice, first to Parsons Creek and then in the mid-1940s to this location along Coleman Creek, as the logging efforts moved back into the timber.
Camp B became headquarters for the whole logging division. Almost a small town, Camp B became the most modern logging camp on the coast. Housing 400 workers and 35 families, it had all sorts of recreation and entertainment facilities including a swimming pool and recreation hall, and a school. Franklin River was noted for introducing new technology to the BC forest industry, including the first successful use of power-saws in 1936 when they imported a Stihl from Germany, and the early use of mobile steel-spar yarders. In 1938 Franklin was the site of the first reforestation efforts by a BC forest products company. Franklin started to switch over to logging trucks in 1946, and by 1957 trucks had supplanted the steam locies as the means of hauling logs out of the woods.
By the 1980s the camp accommodations had closed down as workers now commuted into the woods from Port Alberni.” (Franklin River Camp B, wikimapia.org)
Railway logging is shown in this old video – Railway Logging at MacMillan Bloedel’s Franklin River Camp.
The trail through the old Franklin River Logging Camp has bee closed since 2022 because of an active gravel pit, gravel conveyor and industrial activities related to the upgrade of the Bamfield Road. The temporary detour route which uses a section of Carmanah Main, the current road bridge over Coleman Creek, and a section of Bamfield Main is shown (red) on the following map:
Virtually all of Runners Trail is within forests that regenerated following the early logging (generally planted with Douglas-fir). The notable exception is a 2019 cutblock between Heather and Parsons Creeks where the second-growth has been harvested and re-planted.
Two of the original trail bridges along Runners are no longer usable. The bridge over Parsons Creek collapsed in October 2023 and the bridge over the South fork of Coleman Creek is now (as of February 2024) too rotten to be safe (see Trail Conditions and Safety). At South Coleman, a detour trail leads down to Bamfield Main which crosses the creek with the detour trail leading back up to Runners. At Parsons, detour from Heather Main to Headquarters Road via Bamfield Main so as to cross Parsons by way of the old logging road bridge.
North of Parsons Creek, hikers can choose to take the trail (not recommended, since not maintained since 2019) or hike the relatively narrow, shaded Headquarters Road, another former railway grade.