It has been more than four years since we last visited the south loop of the Lighthouse Country Regional Trail system near Qualicum Bay. In the past we have stuck to the easily-traversed and beautifully-constructed main trail, which now also links up with the north loop trail (despite what the Regional District of Nanaimo information tells you.) The last time we tried to tackle what is called ‘the rough trail’ that forms the backside of the loop through Wilson’s woodlot, we battled through mud bogs and underbrush. Several years of work on the part of community volunteers, though, have made a huge difference to the rougher trails to the point where anyone in half decent shape should be able to handle the entire walk without difficulty.
Thanks to the long-term efforts and commitment of many area volunteers, the Regional District of Nanaimo and a job opportunity program, the 2.5 km. (2 mile) trail has undergone major upgrades to the point where it is accessible to those in wheelchairs and on medi-scooters. The wide, level pathway has a fine pea gravel surface and features many thoughtful designs that accommodate the disabled. There is a picnic table that has the table surface extended well past the end of the fixed seating, allowing a wheelchair to be pushed right up to the table. Wooden logs laid along the perimeter of the trail provide a tapping edge for the visually impaired. The mud bogs and streams that we slogged through in the past are now easily negotiated thanks to the construction of sturdy wooden and aluminum bridges.
The trail meanders through a stretch of Douglas Fir forest, providing a delightful outing for anyone who appreciates the outdoors. A couple of fish-bearing streams and many interpretive plaques add to the interest. There are sturdy benches to rest on, and whimsical wood carvings nestled in the undergrowth along the way surprise and delight.
For those of a more adventurous bent there is a connector road that leads to Wilson’s Woodlot, a 402 hectare (1,000 acre) preserve that is criss-crossed by hiking trails and roads.
The trails at the woodlot are not wheelchair accessible, but those able-bodied adventurers looking for more of a challenge (or, simply, a different route back to the trailhead at Lioness Boulevard) may like to veer off the pea gravel and into the woodlot. This was the route we chose this time around and, although I think we may have missed the turnoff for the (allegedly short) ‘rough trail’, we enjoyed hiking through the forest on decent pathways, eventually winding up back at the main entrance to the south loop. All told, we spent 1 hour and 20 minutes, hiking a total of 4.3 miles (7 kilometres). If you do choose this option, good walking shoes or hiking boots are a must.
Now that the north and south Lighthouse Country Regional Trails are linked it would be simple enough to do the entire length of each trail, leaving a vehicle at either end if you don’t feel inclined to walk the whole thing in both directions. Access to the north loop is off McColl Road, where there is a wheelchair-accessible Porta Potty.
Kudos to all those who contributed to the successful completion of this lovely community feature – it is a real asset, being one of only three truly handicapped-accessible trails in the area.
Walkers, cyclists and those in wheelchairs and medi-scooters are welcome on the Lighthouse Country Regional Trail, as are dogs. Motorcycles, trail bikes and other motorized vehicles are prohibited. If you are taking your canine companion please keep in mind that it must be under control at all times in order to ensure the safety of those with disabilities who may be using the trail. Equestrians and hikers with off-leash dogs are also welcome to utilize the woodlot, which commences at the McColl Road end of the trail.
For further information, directions to, and maps of the Lighthouse Country Regional Trail, go to:
GPS Co-ordinates for the McColl Road trailhead (North Loop) are:
Lat. 49.417087727761 Long. -124.65100765228271
N 49 25.025 W 124 39.060
The southernmost trailhead on the Lighthouse Country Regional Trail is near the Lighthouse Community Centre, off Lioness Boulevard.
GPS Co-ordinates for this trailhead are:
Lat. 49.403335950026246 Long. -124.63362693786621
N 49 24.200 W 124 38.018