Port Alberni’s historic Log Train Trail has been one of my favourite destinations for almost 40 years. At the beginning of my journalism career I enjoyed long, serene walks with my dogs along this forested trail; I am happy to report that little has changed there since the 1970s, other than some welcome upgrades.
The trail’s history dates back to the early 1900s when it was originally constructed as a railway line to service the Bainbridge Mill, which operated from 1917 to 1927. Located at the base of the Beaufort mountain range, the mill included a small settlement of homes and a school. Bainbridge was internationally famous for the size and quality of lumber it produced. Some of the timbers were close to 90 feet long and four feet square, requiring three rail cars for transport. Wood processed at the mill was used to construct the Welland Canal bridging Lake Erie and Lake Ontario.
When the mill closed the railway was abandoned, only to be re-opened and extended in 1937 when timber rights to the Ash River area, further out the Alberni valley, were purchased by logging giant H.R. MacMillan. Ultimately the logging grade ran a total of 15½ miles (or 25 kilometres, for those readers who aren’t dinosaurs of another age….), beginning in downtown Port Alberni and concluding deep in the northern end of the lush Alberni valley. The railroad was abandoned a final time in 1953 when logging trucks became the preferred mode of transporting the area’s bountiful timber harvests.
Happily for those of us who enjoy the outdoors and the natural world, the Port Alberni Equine Society recognized a great opportunity when they saw it, took the bit between its teeth (sorry, couldn’t resist!) and lobbied to have the old railway grade made a linear regional park. The end result, thanks to hundreds of volunteer hours and contributions, is a year-round trail that meanders through endless tranquil miles of second-growth Douglas fir, western red cedar and western hemlock. Walkers and hikers, cyclists, equestrians, joggers and mountain bike enthusiasts all make good use of the trail. Motorized vehicles such as dirt bikes and all-terrain vehicles are not welcome. For those who like to take their canine buddies along there are no posted leash restrictions but there is occasional wildlife, so dogs must be responsive to recalls if you choose to let them off leash.
In addition to the fact that there are a number of offshoot trails off the Log Train Trail (including the Horne Lake Trail, which goes overland and ends up in the Qualicum area), there are several access points, so depending on your ambition and fitness level you can choose any number of options, from a day-long excursion to a short nature walk. There is easy access to the Log Train Trail off Mozart Road in the Cherry Creek area. If you are planning on taking a bicycle and are not a rough-and-tumble mountain bike type I would suggest accessing the trail via the McLean Mill National Historic Site, a little further out the valley. You can get to the McLean Mill site by following the distinctive yellow saw blade signs that start on Cherry Creek Road.
Further information on the Log Train Trail (including a printable map of its entire length) can be obtained by going to www.acrd.bc.ca/cms.asp?wpID=151 and clicking on Log Train Trail brochure, below the photograph.
GPS co-ordinates for the Mozart Road access point are (roughly):
N 49 16.357 W 124 45.940
GPS co-ordinates for access via McLean Mill National Historic Site are:
Lat. 49.30866544272342 Long. -124.82910633087158
N 49 18.520 W 124 49.746