Cape Scott Provincial Park is at the northern tip of Vancouver Island. The conventional way of visiting the northern part of the Park is to backpack from the trail head. Nels Bight is 16.8 km from the trail head and the trail can be muddy and difficult. However, you can avoid the long hike in with a loaded pack by taking a water taxi from Port Hardy. Our group of seven shared the cost and was delivered to the beach at Nels Bight. By bringing our supply of drinking water with us, we were able to avoid the crowded part of the beach near the water supply. At the end of our trip we hiked out, our packs considerably lightened. Our leader arranged a pick up from the trail head back to Port Hardy.
A visit to Cape Scott combines hiking a wild, rugged and beautiful coastline with the historical interest of its attempted settlement between 1897 and 1917. You should read up on the history before visiting the area. You will be in awe of the difficulties the pioneers faced in attempting to conquer this land. The dyke they made by hand and oxen (twice, the first effort washed away) still survives.
A stay of 5 days would not be too long. There are numerous trails and beaches to explore. The manned lighthouse can be reached by trail. Be warned that the weather can be very wet and stormy at any time of the year. Bulletproof rain gear and a sturdy tent and fly are essential. Carrying an extra tarp for a cooking shelter is always a good idea. Detailed information is given on the BC Parks website.
From a photographer’s point of view, there are many scenic opportunities and a challenge is to portray the extreme wildness of the area, especially on a bland sunny day. Cameras have to be protected from the severe conditions. I carry a DSLR in a waterproof kayaking pouch and spare lenses in waterproof clothing bags. I have a spare camp towel for drying and cleaning off the cameras. You need enough batteries and memory card capacity for the entire trip. I found the best lighting conditions in the late summer evenings. Black and white renderings of the images best conveyed the feeling of place.
Those wishing to explore Cape Scott Provincial Park have a couple of options. The Cape Scott trail head is located 64 km from Port Hardy on rough gravel logging roads. Water taxi service and shuttle service are available from Port Hardy:
- Cape Scott Water Taxi (drop off and pick up)
- Catala Charters (water taxi)
- North Coast Trail Shuttle (water taxi and shuttle bus to Cape Scott trail head)