As an alternative to the very popular Ripple Rock trail consider the Campbell River Lookout trail. While the Ripple Rock trail might have a full parking lot, the lookout trail can be less busy. The views are just as good and perhaps better than Ripple Rock because the elevation and viewpoint is higher. In addition, fewer people seem to hike this trail because it is not as well known and requires more effort to complete.
What to Expect
The Campbell River Lookout trail is short and sweet, around 3 km up to a view point and then return to the parking area for a total out and back trip of about 6 km. This is shorter than the nearby 8 km Ripple Rock trail, but don’t let the length fool you. There are some steep sections (including a few “rope assists”) so it is definitely a workout and will require effort. The rope sections are steep but not very exposed. As someone who doesn’t like heights, these weren’t difficult.
Note that there are two trail access points at the parking area. The older trail follows a deactivated logging road before entering the forest. The newer trail starts at the parking area and follows a stream through the forest before it joins up with the older trail.
Botanical Highlights on the Campbell River Lookout Trail
Several typical low elevation flowers are found in the forested areas of the lower section of the trail and on the edges of the overgrown track higher up. At the viewpoint, look for Davidson’s penstemon (Penstemon davidsonii) growing in the rocky area that is a bit more exposed. This wildflower is a species that you typically need a bit of elevation to see reliably. Photographs taken in late May.
The Views are Worth the Effort
The views from the lookout are definitely worth the effort. From the viewpoint, it is possible to see as far down the coast as the Comox Valley and Hornby Island. Menzies Bay is directly below and looking across the Salish Sea, Quadra Island and Cortez Island are visible. Turning towards the Beaufort Range, you get good views of Mohun Lake and the Sayward Forest canoe route. Logging cutblocks are also very visible in the landscape below.
As a short day hike near Campbell River, the lookout trail offers a good workout, excellent views and the opportunity to do some botanizing along the way. If the parking lot at Ripple Rock is full, consider driving a bit further and giving the Campbell River Lookout trail a try. You won’t regret it!