Port Alberni’s historic Log Train Trail a mecca for outdoors enthusiasts on foot, horseback and bicycles

Access to the Log Train Trail is available from several points in the Alberni Valley

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 offers 15 1/2 miles of mostly-easy terrain

            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.           

Trilliums are not an unusual sight in early spring

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.

There are a number of pretty streams and waterfalls along the trail

            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.           

If you access the trail via the McLean Mill National Historic Site, this is one of the sights you will see

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):

            Lat. 49.272617383982876

            Long. -124.76566672325134

                                                                                                  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




About Shirley

More years ago than I like to remember, I completed the Journalism program at Vancouver Community College and launched straight into a career as a newspaper reporter (thanks to my journalism professor Nick Russell and an opening at the venerable daily Alberni Valley Times.) My work as a news reporter/feature writer/columnist and ultimately, newspaper and magazine editor, took me to many interesting places and introduced me to hundreds of interesting characters over the years. I loved every minute of it, but burnout caught up with me while I was trying to juggle the simultaneous editing of five trade magazines, and for 27 years I abandoned my keyboard (on a professional basis, at least) and followed my heart in a variety of other careers. In 2010 I returned to the journalistic fold, thanks to the encouragement (nay – nagging!) of my husband. I feel no regret – only great joy to be back at the keyboard, and to be spending time interviewing interesting folks and discovering great places.
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2 Responses to Port Alberni’s historic Log Train Trail a mecca for outdoors enthusiasts on foot, horseback and bicycles

  1. Diane McEvilly says:

    Hi Shirley ….

    You are being read today by a desert dweller (Santa Fe NM) who found you while looking up rail-trails on Vancouver Island. Oh! how I dream to return to that region of quiet greenery! Five years ago I made a 6 week, 6200 mile road trip with my 11 yr old grand daughter …. which included limited time on Salt Spring Island, Victoria, Sooke – not at all enough time – but we had our bikes and at least did some of the Galloping Goose rail-trail out of Victoria …. We stayed with SERVAS families in both places. I noticed there are many Servas hosts on the island. (I am also one in Santa Fe.) This is just a Hello! So nice to read a person’s voice among all the tourist literature. Wish me luck on getting back so far!
    Congratulations for going back to journalism!

    • Shirley Shirley says:

      Hi Diane – so glad that you are enjoying the website – at least you can live the dream long distance 🙂 Cheers – hope you manage to get back at least for a visit soon.

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