Re-visting Comox Lake Bluffs Ecological Reserve

It has been a while since I’ve visited the Comox Lake Bluffs Ecological Reserve but this spring I had a chance to return to catch and photograph the early April bloom. It was truly spectacular and well worth the short hike.

Wildflowers at Comox Lake Bluffs
Wildflowers on the steep mossy slopes above Comox Lake.
Comox Lake Bluffs
Approaching the steep slopes of the bluffs of the ecological reserve
following the trail beside Comox Lake.

There are a couple of ways to access the reserve and it is possible to make a bit of a loop of it by following the trail through the forest and then returning along the shoreline (or vice versa). The shoreline trail can be difficult in places and drops off steeply. For the most part it is easy going.

Wildflowers at Comox Lake Bluffs Ecological Reserve
Yellow Monkey-flower and Sea Blush create a wash of pink and yellow.

Comox Lake Bluff Wildflowers

Depending on the time of year you can expect a number of different types of wildflowers. In April, the wildflower bloom was stunning with good displays of sea blush ( Plectritis congesta) and yellow monkey-flower (Mimulus guttatus). Less common was the chickweed monkey-flower (Mimulus alsinoides) in the wet seepages. Chocolate lily (Fritillaria affinis) was also in flower closer to the water’s edge in several locations. Several saxifrage species were also in bloom.

Sea Blush (Plectritis congesta)
Sea Blush (Plectritis congesta) carpets the mossy slopes of the south facing bluffs.
Yellow Monkey-flower (Mimulus guttatus)
Yellow Monkey-flower (Mimulus guttatus) is prolific at Comox Lake Bluffs.
Chickweed Monkey-flower (Mimulus alsinoides)
Small pockets of the diminutive Chickweed Monkey-flower (Mimulus alsinoides) can also be found at Comox Lake Bluffs.

The exposed aspect of the bluffs makes photography challenging since the light is often bright and harsh. Overcast days are ideal for plant photography, but if the weather isn’t cooperating consider bring along a white reflector that can be used to shade the plant being photographed to create more even light. These macro images were made with a Fuji X-T2, a 35mm f/1.4 lens, and the 16mm extension tube.

The Comox Lake Bluffs Ecological Reserve is a botanically worthwhile place to visit during the spring and early summer, especially before it gets too hot and dry. A number of rare plants can be found here and it is important to be aware of the ecological sensitivity of the place. Make sure to stay on the trails and minimize your impact on the environment at all times.

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Getting There:

From Courtenay, follow Lake Trail Road until it passes under the Inland Island Highway. Look for your next major left which is Comox Lake Road. Follow Comox Lake Road until it crosses Bevan Road (which takes you to the old townside of Bevan)—keep on straight through this intersection and the road becomes Comox Lake Logging Road. Continue on Comox Lake Logging Road past the Courtenay Fish and Game Club. Drive over the bridge just above the Comox Lake Dam and continue on Comox Logging Road until you find a small gravel pullout on the left hand side (see map below). Zoom out to get a better idea of where the reserve is located in relationship to Courtenay or click on the the red marker to get directions to the reserve from your starting point.

Entering the trail at this point you’ll take an old decommissioned road through a logged over section until you reach the edge of the forest. Here you have the option of continuing straight or turning right. Follow the trail to the right through the forest. You’re on the right track if you start to see rudimentary wooden bridges crossing streams (used by mountain bikers). Once the trail hits the gravel access road (visible on the Google Map) continue over it and look for a rough road that climbs up hill. There are a number of access points onto the open bluffs from the rough road.

It is also possible to access the bluffs using a trail that follows the shoreline. Note that this trail is steep in places.