Nearby Getaways from Campbell River: Discover the Upana Caves!
Nothing like the feeling when a good day trip transports you away from your worries but still has you back to Campbell River in time for sunset beers and beach fire hangs! Tap into your sense of adventure with a journey to Upana Caves in North Central Vancouver Island (AKA the ‘Cave Capital of Canada’). This all season, all weather, accessible day trip will please everyone from families with young children, and even experienced spelunkers. Read on to find out everything you need to know before you go to make it a day to remember!
Exploring the Caves!
As soon as you get to Upana Caves, it’s time to get exploring! A self-guided tour through the cave system takes about one hour. In that time you can see:
- Old growth forests
- Viewpoints for photographers (one overlooking the waterfall, another overlooking the river canyon)
- Surface trails
- Underground trails
- Four interconnected caves
Upana Caves has a combined length of 450 meters and a vertical depth of 35 meters. Click here for a map of the region. While there are clear signs and trails to follow, common sense and appropriate outdoor gear are necessary to keep visitors safe and the caves in good condition.
Did you know? The Upana Caves are named after the river that flows underground through the cave system.
How to prepare for your visit to the caves
You can best prepare for the Upana Caves as you would for any outdoor excursion with one exception: a strong flashlight or head torch is a MUST. No, a phone flashlight won’t be good enough.
Here’s a helpful checklist for the road trip and cave experience:
- Strong flashlight/head torch to see in the dark
- Sensible footwear
- Water and snacks
- A raincoat (you are on the west coast after all!)
- Warm layers (it tends to be cooler in the caves)
- A change of clothes (prepare to get dirty if you choose to crawl in the caves)
- Your camera
- A first aid kit
- A packed lunch (to enjoy by the river or at a viewpoint)
- Music, audiobooks, or podcasts for the road trip
- Stay on designated trails
- Don’t litter – pack out anything that you brought with you
- Don’t feed wildlife
The drive from Campbell River to Upana Caves takes approximately two hours. The route takes you westward on the scenic Gold River Highway (BC 28W), passing by Upper Campbell Lake. Once you hit Gold River, head west following signs for Tahsis. When you turn left onto the gravel of Head Bay Forest Service Road, you’ll only have 15 kms left to travel. Last step: turn onto Branch Road H-27 to reach the parking area. Keep in mind, this last stretch from Gold River takes roughly 25 minutes. Please take care to make way for logging trucks in the area.
On your way back to Campbell River, there are plenty of sights to keep you in awe of the natural beauty in our backyard. Lady Falls in Strathcona Park is just off Highway 28 and a detour along Buttle Lake Road takes you to Lower Myra Falls. Choose to stretch your legs on forest trails, get one more photo for the ‘Gram, or simply enjoy the view from your vehicle as you pass by mountains and the waterfalls that form along the side of the road during our rainy months.
Local tip: Stop at the Campbell River Visitor Centre and pick up the “Forest Recreation Upana Caves Trail Self-Guided Tour” brochure to get the most out of your experience.