It’s a little confusing trying to decide where to start out, but Parksville’s Top Bridge Regional Trail is worth the effort of spending a few minutes on-line to figure out how to access this pretty network of hiking trails, mountain bike tracks, suspension bridge and meandering riverside walks.
Top Bridge is accessible from several points in the Parksville area, giving visitors a variety of choices as to how far they want to hike and what their preferred activities may be. The trail stretches for 5 kilometres (3 miles) between the very beautiful Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park up to the bottom tip of Englishman River Falls Provincial Park. Those looking for a bit of a less strenuous outing might want to consider beginning their adventure from Tuan Road in the industrial park (3.5 kilometres, or 2 miles) or it is possible to drive almost right to the suspension bridge on both sides.
We began our exploration at the end of Allsbrook Road, where Top Bridge Community Park bumps up against Englishman River Falls Provincial Park. We scrambled down one of the steep mountain bike trails rather than taking the road down to the 81-metre (265 feet) long suspension bridge. Completed in 2007, the bridge spans the Englishman River and offers pretty views in all directions.
We discovered after crossing the bridge that it is also possible to drive almost right up to the bridge on the other side, (Chattel Road) where a spacious parking lot acts as the jumping-off point for adventurers of all ages. Easy access to the river means folks – and their dogs – are able to enjoy the rushing water and the many interesting rock formations that, in some spots, run right down to the riverbed.
At the end of the parking lot nearest the bridge we found the trail that would lead us all the way to Rathtrevor Beach.
While the trail is a little rough in spots it is very well constructed – good solid footing and substantial railings and stairs made the hike very enjoyable. We marveled at the sheer rock faces running right down to trail level, and dreamed of returning during the warmer months for a picnic on the riverbank. There are several quiet swimming holes, and even in the dead of winter we saw anglers on the opposite bank. The Englishman is a good spot for fishermen hoping to catch salmon, winter steelhead and cutthroat trout.
The Top Bridge Trail wends its way up hill and down dale, through some private property, under Highway 19 and concludes (if you do the entire hike) in the heart of Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park. We didn’t do the whole trail, but plan in future to work our way up from the Rathtrevor end.
There is also a comprehensive mountain bike circuit on the Chattell Road side of the bridge, and many minor trails lead off the main one, either into the forest or down to the river. Plenty of opportunity for exploring and enjoying the wild beauty of this pristine area, thanks to the foresight of the Nanaimo Regional District.
Further information on Top Bridge Regional Trail, including an excellent map with trailhead markers, can be found at:
GPS co-ordinates for the Chattell Road access point to the trail are:
Lat. 49.297843 Long. -124.266254
N 49 17.871 W 124 15.972