One of Vancouver Island's green gems, Little Qualicum features both roaring waterfalls and quiet patches of majestic old-growth forest. Encompassing over 1,000 verdant acres (400 ha), the provincial park has several miles of walking trails that offer fantastic views of the rushing Qualicum river and its dramatic falls. Just down BC-4 sits Cameron Lake, a limpid body of water surrounded by tall trees and even taller mountains. Windsurfers take advantage of the lake's often-blustery conditions, while anglers from far and wide come to fish for brown trout - which are a rarity in British Columbia - as well as cutthroat and kokanee. Canoeing, kayaking and swimming are also popular at Cameron, which is accessible via two of the park's day use areas. A few miles further down the road is MacMillan Provincial Park, which also offers several miles of hiking trails and is home to some of Vancouver's most spectacular old-growth groves (Qualicum itself has some small patches of old-growth too).
Qualicum's lovely, forested campground sports 96 sites, most of which can accommodate RVs and trailers. Reservations are taken from mid-May through the end of August; during April, September and October, the campground remains open, but all spots are first-come first served.
Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park is located just off of BC-4, which cuts east-west across the whole of central Vancouver Island. For those who need to ferry to Vancouver, the nearest ferry terminal is at the town of Nainamo, which is itself about a 50-minute drive from the park. If you're coming from Vancouver's eastern coast (which you will be if traveling from Nainamo), you can take BC-19 up the coast until reaching the junction with BC-4.
Travel along this route is mellow for the most part, with gentle grades and no sharp turns. Even those driving large rigs should have no trouble.
Campsites at Qualicum are divided among an upper and lower loop. All sites at these are back in, but ample space between sites and the gentle turns of the campground road mean parking shouldn't pose much of a problem.
There's a lot of additional parking available at the day-use area, which is right next to lower waterfall. There's also a smaller parking area right near the upper falls. From the campground, you could drive to the falls, or, take one of the short walking trails that winds alongside the Qualicum River.
Parking is also available at both the Beaufort and Cameron Lake Day use area.
Little Qualicum's lovely campground is set in a thick temperate rain forest and offers easy access to the park's river and falls. In total, the park boasts 96 campgrounds, most of which are suitable for travelers with RVs or trailers (there is no set length cap given, but several spots can accommodate "32 ft +" rigs). Sites are well-spaced, for the most part, and offer partial to full shade.
Qualicum is a primitive campsite, offering no hookups for water, sewage or electric. There are, however, several potable water spigots spread throughout the campground. Nearby Rathover Beach Park has a sani-dump station that can be used for a small fee. Flush toilets are available during the campground's main season, while pit-toilets are available year-round. The campground sports a playground and a lovely picnic day-use area, too.
81 of Qualicum's 96 sites are reservable during the park's peak season, which stretches from mid-May to the first of September. Sites can be reserved up to four months in advance. The campground remains open from mid-April to mid-October, with all sites becoming first-come first-served during the off-season.
Little Qualicum has 3.7 miles (6 km) of gorgeous walking trails, while nearby MacMillan Provincial Park offers several miles of its own. At the former, you can take trails meandering alongside the rushing Qualicum. The sweet, earthy scents of the forest mingle with the cool mist thrown up by the river's turbulent waters. Obersvation decks sit near the edge of the dramatic upper and lower Qualicum falls.
Trails at nearby MacMillan wander through one of the most majestic groves of old growth forest on Vancouver. This is a land of ancient giants; centuries old Douglas fir and western red cedar grow to spectacular heights and tremendous girths (one specimen of the latter is nine meters in circumference!)
Cameron Lake's waters remain cool year round, making it a popular place for swimmers, especially during the warm and (relatively) dry months of July and August.
Swimming is also allowed in some portions of the Qualicum; there, you can take a dip underneath the great moss and lichen clad branches of cedar and Douglas-fir. Some portions of the river are periodically closed however, especially during the high-water season, from spring through early summer.
Visitors should also note that Little Qualicum does not staff any lifeguards.
Crystal-clear Cameron Lake offers up over 1,110 acres (450 ha) of surface to play on. Strong winds are often funneled through the mountains ringing the lake, and consequently Cameron draws many windsurfers. Waterskiing is another popular activity; the lake's elongated shape lends itself to long, clear runs. Those looking for a quieter experience head out on kayak or canoe and explore the conifer-lined shores on the lake's north side.
Boaters can access the lake via the Cameron and Beaufort day use areas.
Surrounded by forested mountains and rich with game species, Cameron Lake draws anglers from around Vancouver and beyond. Trout fishing is good year-round here. The lake's cool waters host a sizable cutthroat population; brown trout abide here, too - Cameron is one of the only lakes in British Columbia where they can be found. In the cool days of late autumn, anglers can cast for Kokanee.
As is always the case in British Columbia, make sure you have a proper fishing license before casting.
Little Qualicum's rich, temperate rain forests, which include a few old-growth groves, support a wide variety of fauna. Mammalian residents include black bear, cougar, deer and elk. If you look to the tree-tops, you may catch site of a handsome pileated woodpecker, or perhaps even a stoic great-horned owl or barred owl. On rainy days, or at dusk, look and listen for some of the park's herpetofauna; pacific chorus frogs, northwestern salamanders, rough-skinned newts and northwestern garter snakes are among the more commonly seen species.
Year-round, Qualicum presents wonderful opportunities for all sorts of photographers. Capture a dramatic shot of the upper or lower falls' rushing water, or capture the quietude of Cameron Lake as it placidly reflects mountains, trees and sky. A host of flowers, ferns, fungi and more cover the forest floor - all are potential subjects for those with an eye for macro photography. With patience, you can snag a photo of a bear or elk ambling through the thick forest, or perhaps you can catch an owl as it takes flight from a moss-covered bough.