Tuck Lake Trail
The Tuck Lake Trail section of the VIT links up the Cowichan – Nitinat valley with the Runners Trail near Francis Lake, via a mix of single-track trail and logging roads. This is only a light trail where most of the trail tread is native forest floor and often quite rooty.
To reach the Tuck Lake Trail, walk west from Kissinger Lake along the main road for about 300 metres. Shortly after a gated logging road to your right, watch for trail markers that lead you onto an old grade which goes through shaded deciduous forest and cuts directly across to the Nitinat Main logging road. Bear right onto the logging road and continue for 2.4 km to the Tuck Lake trailhead where you will see a VIT trail sign and a red steel pipe gate on your left. If you go an additional 1.3 km to a road that bears left northwest through an open gate , you have gone too far. However, this is a useful route in the rainy season when the Nitinat River is in flood, as there is a bridge down this road which can be used to cross the river.
Proceed along the gated road through plantations and regenerating clear cuts initially westwards and then around a U shaped bend (first southwards and then northwesterly) down a hill alongside of a creek/gully. Stay on this gently-curving road and continue past five spur roads to where the road enters second growth forest and becomes somewhat overgrown. Proceed along this overgrown logging road for about 150m and then turn left onto single-track trail. The trail heads upstream on flat benches for about 800m to a ford over the Nitinat River. You drop off the trail onto an extensive, mostly open gravel bar. Search the bank on the other side for a trail marker attached to a tree, this is approximately the best place to wade across. In most seasons you can wade the river at this shallow, cobbly ford which is usually knee-deep in summer. Watch out for a rare plant growing in fresh sediments along the banks of the Nitinat – this is Scouler’s corydalis.
While drying your feet and putting your boots back on, enjoy the pristine flowing water of the Nitinat River (also a good place to camp overnight). On a cloudless day you can see Hooper Mt. to the north and Heather Mt. to the northeast. From the ford go westward, into tree farm license Crown lands, through a recent cutblock, joining an obvious ATV trail which climbs up to a logging road. Cross over the road and re-enter the timber, climbing steadily to a short steep pitch and eventually leaving the timber to join a regenerating cutblock. The trail merges with the road (extended southwards in 2022) that leads to the crest of Parker Ridge . Follow the road north to a road junction and fork left to descend a logging road heading northwest to join a well-traveled, valley-bottom logging road just south of Tuck Lake. Follow this road north 0.8 km as it passes along the east side of Tuck Lake, with a boat-launch and informal campsite. Tuck Lake is quite shallow and reedy along its shoreline and has been stocked with fish in the past. It is a popular spot for vehicle camping, boating and fishing.
The Tuck Lake Trail continues north on the logging road, curves to the west once clear of the lake and forks to the right at a triangular junction to continue northwards up a moderately steep grade. Watch for and go left at a junction onto a road blocked by a mound of dirt, now about 3 km from Tuck Lake. Cross the right-side ditch to hook up with and continue northwards on an old grade. After crossing a Parker Creek tributary, the trail follows up the left bank of Parker Creek (references to right/left bank are looking downstream) before turning away from the creek to where the trail has been impacted by recent logging. Maintenance work is underway to re-establish trail through the cutblock. Back inot forest, single-track soon attains a well-revegetated old grade. Follow this logging road westward 1.3 km to a recently opened up logging road (Nadira 700) pretty much on the height of land, where you go right to intersect Nadira Main. Because of the steep slopes flanking the Little Nitinat River, the route stays on Nadira Main westward and downhill for about 2.7 km to a 4-way intersection at the bottom of the hill, with Nadira 300 (right) and Nadira 400 (left). Go left on Nadira 400 and cross the bridge over Little Nitinat River. About 100m past the bridge watch for markers and flagging and go right onto single-track trail through older second growth forest, initially on an old, grown in grade. The VIT/Tuck Lake Trail is set back and more or less parallel to the left bank of the Little Nitinat River (river is only sporadically visible) for about 2.5 km to intersect yet another logging road (Summit Main). Go right here for a short distance to re-cross the Little Nitinat River. Just across the bridge, the trail re enters the forest and follows quite closely along the right bank. Watch for the beautiful ‘Emerald Pool’ (signed) in the river, a great spot for a rest and maybe a quick dip on a hot day.
The Tuck Lake Trail continues SW along the right bank of the river for 150 m or so, and then curves away to rejoin Nadira Main. Go left down Nadira Main for only about 100 m to just before a bridge over a Little Nitinat tributary that flows out of Francis Lake (just across the bridge, Nadira Main intersects Carmanah Main which is part of a road link between Port Alberni and Lake Cowichan). On the right, watch for single track-trail starting in the road ditch, this is the start of the Runners Trail section of the VIT.