Qualicum Beach has some great woodchip trails running through town, looked after by town staff. There are also some wonderful networks that have been created and are maintained by members of the community. The Arbutus trails are a good example!
Keep your eyes open as you explore! The trails are full of trinkets and messages. Ideal for walks and gentle bike rides with friends or family!
Can you keep a secret? There’s a magical micro-kingdom of cute creatures and intriguing characters sandwiched between two of Qualicum Beach’s better known thoroughfares. What started off as a small network of rough game trails evolved a decade ago into part of the mountain bike network used by Qualicum Beach Middle School’s Bike Club and from there into a quaint woodland theme park, adopted by some of the local residents and other artistic, enthusiastic contributors.
What we now know as Laburnum Road, which connects Rupert Road with Highway 19 near to the Little Qualicum River, was once a muddy trail, known to its users as Black Bog (yep, there’s a clue about its nature in the name), which led from the Middle School on Claymore Road, uphill to the labyrinthine network hacked into the woodland, hydro cut and tree farms between there and Whiskey Creek. The development of Laburnum Road and Rupert Road, West of Arbutus Street, made access to the trails on the Arbutus side less attractive for school groups and subsequently these trails have taken on a completely different character.
The trails are on Town of Qualicum Beach land but do not form part of the official trail system. While the town’s woodchip trails are excellent in their own right, the advantage of these trails being excluded is that they retain a far more natural feel, making them fun for walking, running or, if done at a leisurely pace, cycling. As with many of the area’s trails their layout has been chosen to avoid the most waterlogged areas, particularly relevant here as the network straddles Grandon Creek. Where marshy sections, standing or running water and muddy slopes would provide obstacles duck boards, drainage channels or bridges (some rather rickety) make passage much more pleasant.
In common with most trail networks, this one continues to develop. Currently there are around 2.5km of trails in this little wedge of woodland, but becoming acquainted with them all requires covering the same trails more than once, meaning that a complete discovery session will total somewhere between 3 and 4 km. The beauty of these trails, however, is that if you take your time to explore them over a number of visits you will find them so much more rewarding. A huge part of the reason for this is that the trails have become a gallery for dozens of pieces of home-made artwork, scarecrow-like life-size figures and painted or carved messages encouraging love of nature, community spirit and other positive, uplifting subjects.
The compact nature of the trails and the entertaining ornaments scattered with great regularity around the area make this the perfect destination for a walk with children, or in the company of visitors with whom you’d like to share our area’s appreciation of community and nature. Naturally, respecting the work of both nature and community is important, so dog owners and visitors in general need to come with the attitude that they will take memories away, perhaps in the form of photos, and leave nothing but the odd footprint, perhaps a painted rock or seashell and a few appreciative words in the comment book.
The trails themselves take the form of a perimeter of around 1.5km, with a number of spurs exiting at Arbutus Road and Rupert Road, and with several intersecting trails crossing the middle of the loop. Entering at Arbutus Street, close to Birch Avenue, you’ll pass through a gateway which welcomes you to the forest. Take the right fork here, keep your pace slow and your eyes peeled through a full 360 degrees as the route’s embellishments begin immediately. The number of subtly placed items is impressive enough that every visit, and every backward glance, seems to result in the discovery of yet another trinket. Cross the bridge with the painted, serpentine handrail and continue on your way.
Soon you’ll arrive at the Maple Grove, which overlooks Grandon Creek from the top of a reasonable sized gully. This area, complete with little bench, is particularly attractive during fall, when the wind waltzes maple leaves from the height of the treetops down into the creek. Look up before rejoining the trail and you’ll see a carved tribute to one of the early contributors to the beauty and character of this area.
As a guideline for navigation, I’d recommend sticking to this Western perimeter for now. There are two distinct trailheads which lead off to the right, and both should be avoided in order to stay within the network. The first dead-ends on private property, so is of no interest. The second is a useful link for accessing the Laburnum Trails. It crosses rougher woodland over the course of around a kilometre, until it emerges at the top of Laburnum Hill, so is an effective dead-end in the context of this network. Back on the “Maple Grove” trail, stay on course until Rupert Road is in sight. At this point a left turn takes you Eastwards along a trail which will re-cross Grandon Creek at a concrete culvert before diving back into the trees on the Eastern side of the area on a trail which brings you past the impressive stump of a 1,000 year old cedar, logged in 1920, straight back to Arbutus Street around 200 metres South-East of your start point. Once familiar with this outer loop, orientation is easy and discovery of the trails in the middle can begin. If in doubt, using a compass along the way will allow you to head back towards your entry point, and an area like this makes practising navigation a fun exercise in its own right.
The Arbutus Trails area is a real gem and kudos must be given to all those who contribute to the magical ambiance. While every outing here feels like a treasure hunt, given the time of year, I can’t help but think what a great place it would be for an Easter egg hunt, maybe with name-tags on the eggs to avoid confusion if the idea takes off!
Getting there- From the roundabout at Memorial and Rupert in Qualicum Beach, head West along Rupert Road. After approximately 1km, turn right onto Arbutus Street. Look for Chestnut Place on the right, and park (considerately, of course) near the wooden handrails you’ll see on the left, just before the trees give way to houses.
What to take- Always carry a whistle (I have one on my keys and attached to my pack.) Check weather forecast and choose appropriate clothing and footwear for your activity. Remember to bring any prescription medications, snacks, water and camera. If setting out in the evening bring a flashlight or headlamp. This is a perfect area to pack a picnic. It is a good idea to carry a personal 1st Aid kit and to let someone know where you are going and when you expect to return.