Tahsis BC is a tiny town located on the west coast of Vancouver Island at the end of Tahsis Inlet. It’s remoteness and rugged nature make it your ideal destination for rest, relaxation and adventure. Miles and MILES away from the hustle and bustle of any city, you can truly get back to nature and invest in yourself.
We visited Tahsis in late June and found it to be super friendly and so full of sights to see, we feel that we may have missed out on some things and need to go back!
Read our guide to Tahsis below to get started on your adventure!
Jump straight to….
Things to see Along the Tree to Sea Highway from Gold River to Tahsis British Columbia
Click the link here for a detailed pdf file that shows you where all the cool sights to see are along the Highway.
The Points of Interest along the Highway that we checked out include:
- Cala Falls
- Upana Caves
- Inukshuk Waterfall
- Painted Rock
- Conuma Peak Viewpoint
- Moutcha Bay
- Head Bay
- 3 Sisters Waterfall
- Love Rock
- Leiner River
Next stop was Cala falls. It is marked with a handy green sign. The first view of the falls, makes you think you’ve come across a small waterfall. But, scramble down the rocks to the right of the bridge and the height of this waterfall is revealed! There are plenty of spots and a few diff POVs you can capture.
There is also a trail into the bush a tiny ways that leads to a large outcrop of rocks that puts you smack dab in the middle of the river/falls, another POV for you to explore, where you can catch an even better view of the very top of the falls.
This trail is to the right of the bridge as well, just walk and step over the large log and you’ll see a trail into the bush. Follow it for a min or two to reach the hidden Cala Falls POV. This is a year-round waterfall, fed by Mt Baldy. I can imagine the power of the water during spring run-off. Must be intense.
Drive down the road on the right with the sign that says “Upana Rec Area”. It’s not that far down the road from Cala Falls.
Upana caves, so cool, cold, damp and muddy inside, rocks are glistening with moisture and sparkling, fun to go inside, so dark when there is no natural light. Now, I am a bit of a pussy when it comes to tight spaces so we went a decent length into the long caves, but not too far, you know?
I could go on and on about how cool this area is, check out more information here.
This one isn’t on the map. Bonus if you can find it! The Inukshuk waterfall is on the left-hand side of road, after Upana caves recreation site. The road is very wide here, which leaves you room to park, but please, don’t park on the corners or curves and be mindful of large logging equipment and trucks towing boats.
For the best view of the Inukshuk, I stayed up top on the road with a spotter to watch for vehicles. I did try a few shots at the bottom of the falls, but the Inukshuk is not as visible from that angle.
To find Painted Rock, there is signage on the left-hand side of the road. Painted Rock could be so much more – the view at the rock of the Valley and Mountains is obscured by trees. Although, it is a nice big pull out for a rest to stretch your legs. You’ll find better views of the mountains and valley if you just walk a bit down the road towards Tahsis on the left-hand side and voila!
Conuma viewpoint – we caught this one on the way back to Victoria. You can see the huge Conuma mountain from the highway as your driving (add pic). We missed it on the way into Tahsis, but it was pretty obvious on the way home. Better view and easier to spot on the way out of Tahsis.
We drove in here to check it out on the way to Tahsis. It was super nice with RV camping, dock, marina and a ton of other luxurious goodies that would make your experience amazing.
Check them out on their website here for more information.
Head Bay Wildlife Viewing Area and Estuary
There is a beautiful estuary here that as you can imagine, attracts wildlife especially at low tide. There aren’t many pull-outs and unfortunately didn’t see any wildlife at this spot. I believe it would be gorgeous at sunrise or sunset, there was also some neat grass, rivers, and trees with mountains in the background.
There is what looks like access before Moucha Bay Resort on an old logging spur, but it’s pretty small spot to park. There are also small islands in Head Bay that would be amazing to photograph as well.
3 Sisters Waterfall
3 sisters waterfall is a triple waterfall, fed by Malaspina Peak. There is a pull out long enough for about 2-3 cars. 3 sisters had some decent run off for the end of June. It was definitely hard to see all 3 falls through foliage of the big trees. The devils club on the ground prevented me from getting closer to capture images.
This area has some of the biggest mosquitoes I’ve ever seen! They were the size of hummingbirds, so make sure you’ve got your bug repellent on. I could hear the river or another waterfall below us, but no way to access it!
Love rock is on the left side of road, and painted orange with a cute message for travelers. It’s located just after the Head Bay FSR 7kms sigh heading into Tahsis.
Leiner River’s Crystal Blue Glacial Waters
Leiner River Bridge is about 3kms out of town. It’s known for its crystal-clear blue waters that are glacial fed and ice-cold year-round. Right next to the river, there is a sign that leads you through the Leiner River Boulder Path where you climb over house sized boulders. We came at sunrise and captured moody images and drone shots of the River.
We found that the best point of view to capture the river is up top on the bridge. We climbed down to try and get a different perspective right from the water, but the top part of the river was obscured by the large boulder in the middle. The river is very bright even when it’s shaded with minimal ambient light.
Things We Wanted to See, but Didn’t have Enough Time
There is never enough time is there to see everything! We hope to get back to the area and check out Lady Falls, the Nootka Island Viewpoint, hike Nootka Island, the Coral Caves, hike multiple trails in the area, and the Leiner River Boulder Trail. I love having a reason to go back to places!
4 Favorite Spots For Photos in/near Tahsis BC
My 4 favorite photography spots were the Leiner River Estuary, Muchalat Lake (Gold River) Malaspina Lake, and Tahsis Inlet for the Milky Way.
Leiner River Estuary
Leiner Estuary is a photographer’s dream! There are many trails to explore, leading to side adventures into the estuary which is a few seconds outside of the Village. Low tide is definitely the time to be there.
Wildlife photographers could find bears and eagles foraging at low tide like we did! Leiner River Trail is also accessed from here, although we didn’t have time to explore it.
Sunrise and sunset have some quality like filtering through the tree canopy. There are tons of neat individual trees that can be singled out during this time but be warned: due to the height of the mountains the sun goes down earlier (and rises later) than you think. We went back to the estuary 4 times to capture the light and we never saw another person or car. As with the rest of the area, there are a ton of bugs, so come prepared.
The pylons in the Inlet at low tide form some neat leading lines; they are remnants of the old logging operations. There is also a cool, heart shaped piece of driftwood near the beach that is perfect for some social media posts!
Muchalat Lake (Gold River)
Elk Portal Pull Off is a great view at sunrise/sunset of an island in the middle of Campbell Lake. it’s on the right side of the road heading to Tahsis, there is a large sign and a handy pull off rest area.
As we drove down the highway, the towering mountain faces were glowing in the fading light of sunset. Since we were late leaving Victoria and driving to Gold River to hopefully land a campsite at Muchalat Lake, we unfortunately couldn’t stop here.
The highway to Gold River was a beautiful drive in of itself, the mountains, trees and lakes were a sight to behold.
Once we arrived at Gold River we took a right and drove up Wikkinanish (which turns into Nimpkish Rd for about 16 or so kms until we reached the Muchalat campsite on the left.
The campsite was completely full, and there was even 2 groups camping in the day area. We didn’t expect this, but apparently, everyone in B.C is spending time in nature this summer.
We negotiated with the camp host and once he found out we drove from Victoria, and that we would be taking pictures and then leaving early morning, he graciously allowed us to park near the day use area and camp. He was super helpful, and gave us the tip that campsites 24/25/26 are the best ones in the whole campground because there is a view of the lake straight down into the valley on the opposite side and these sites are super private.
Because we got there so late, we missed the best light on the mountain side but I got some nice exposures of the lake regardless.
The next morning, we were up at 430 am, hoping to catch some sweet blue and golden hour images. It was overcast, (which was not forecasted, way she goes…) until about 8 am. But, we made the best of it by grabbing some long exposures of the lake and clouds over the mountains.The partly cloudy conditions added some context to the sky and eventually the sun did come out over the mountains!
We enjoyed a few sunrises and sunsets at Malaspina Lake, about 14 kms outside of Tahsis. There is a small sign that does mark the turn off. The road is becoming overgrown and will scratch your vehicle. Locals say the dirt/mud at Malaspina Lake is supposedly amazing for growing plants.
For sunrise, the sun comes over mountain around 830 am when we visited at the end of June. The first area where you can pull over, has a fire pit and a tiny area where you can launch a kayak, canoe, and go for a swim. The water was surprisingly still most of the time, allowing us to capture nearly perfect reflections of trees and mountains in the lake, while the sun peaked through the trees.
We found a second spot, where we hacked a trail from the road to the lake, but there was no real foreground to provide depth or context to the image. But, we did get to see a beaver and watch him pick and eat lily pads on a nearby log. Again, there are tons of bugs so come prepared. We also brought chairs to sit in while we waited for the light, which was a smart move!
I’d love to visit these places again after a snowfall, and capture the mountains in the distance all covered in snow.
Tahsis Inlet (+ the Milky Way!)
Tahsis is a pretty close to a dark sky area, although you do get some ambient light from the Village, depending on the angle of your shot. Because I was shooting down the inlet at 1am, I got some ambient light and also some moonlight from the half-moon even though it was behind the mountains (my moon cycle timing wasn’t the best).
The Inlet area didn’t disappoint and still delivered a decent shot of the Milky Way! This image is a blend of 15 shots at 15s each, ISO 8000, f 2.8 24mm on Canon 7D Mark ii, APS-C. If I had a do over, I would increase ISO, wait for a new moon, and go down onto the beach and get some pylons for leading lines into the frame. Next Time!
Check out my Vancouver Island Gallery for more shots all over Vancouver Island!
Tahsis British Columbia Quick Facts
- Where is Tahsis?
- Very brief history lesson
- Is the road to Tahsis paved?
- How far is it from Campbell River/Victoria
- Real Estate
Where is Tahsis BC?
Tahsis is located on the West Coast of Vancouver Island, towards the northern end of the island. The village is right at the end of the long and beautiful Tahsis Inlet nestled between the mountains. The one official road in is called the Tree to Sea Highway, and you gain access to Tahsis via Campbell River.
I love the locals in Tahsis! They are super helpful with recommendations and also passionate about their community. People give each other a friendly wave when passing on the roadway instead of the one finger salute you get in the City.
Tahsis BC: A Very Brief History
Inhabited by First Nations for at least 4200 years, Europeans set foot there starting in the late 1700s. Most recently, Tahsis is known for its forestry industry and sawmill operations. Incorporated in the 1970s, it was finally connected to the rest of Vancouver Island by road in 1972. As the mills and logging industry began shutting down, Tahsis is now looking to re brand itself as an eco-tourism destination.
To learn more, please visit here for a detailed history lesson on Tahsis.
Is the Road to Tahsis Paved?
I was surprised to find the road (which is called the Tree to Sea Highway) was paved for a significant portion! You can easily make it in a 2 wheel drive. Some parts are gravel, but it was so well maintained, nothing like any other gravel roads I’ve driven on southern Vancouver Island, filled with holes, sharp blast rock, and washboards everywhere.
There are plenty of pull outs along the Tree to Sea Highway to check out waterfalls, wildlife, amazing views, and estuaries. Tons of tiny forest service roads lead to lakes or other neat spots to check out.
Careful! Some of them are still active or they have been decommissioned and are heavily overgrown. Our SUV left with a few more scratches than it had going in! Worth it.
How far is Tahsis from Campbell River? What about Victoria?
Tahsis BC is about 153 kilometers (95 miles) from Campbell River and 481 Kms (260 miles from Victoria). It took us about 4.5 to 5 hours to reach Gold River, which is along the route to Tahsis and our camping spot for the first night. Don’t forget to add about 30-45 mins to your commute from Victoria due to traffic backups and constructions along Highway 1 heading north during the evening commute.
My Frugal Tip: Check gasbuddy.com and save yourself a few bucks on our high gas prices by filling up, usually in Campbell River, for the best rates.
Our Top Tahsis BC Travel Tips
Tahsis Weather: So, What’s Tahsis Weather Like?
Tahsis is on the West Coast of Vancouver Island. You’re guaranteed to experience temperate rainforest weather here like rain, humidity, and winds. Be ready for all 4 seasons when visiting.
Tahsis BC Fishing
While we didn’t go fishing this time, Tahsis is a well-known destination for West Coast Fishing. You can catch all sorts of fish, but salmon and halibut are definitely the biggest reasons to go to Tahsis and charter a fishing boat.
There is plenty of camping up old logging roads and spurs for free if you bring your GPS and backroads mapbook.
For a more organized, but still super rustic experience, you can try the Leiner River Campground, which is a very small recreation site right on the crystal blue river just outside the Village of Tahsis. Each site was really private with lots of brush to divide up the sites. Downside is it looks like it could be pretty buggy, so netting and bug repellant is a must.
We heard there was an RV Park with full hookups but didn’t go searching for it. Seaside R.V and Campground Park is right on the edge of Tahsis Inlet with great views.
Tahsis BC Real Estate
Real Estate in Tahsis is cheap compared to the rest of the Province due to its isolation, lack of services, and slim career opportunities. A 3 bedroom, 1 bath house will run you around $150,000 CAD. Most of the homes were built in the middle of the last century, on dirt foundations, and could use some serious updating.
During normal years, you could expect an influx of fishing tourists mostly from the US. At this price point, you could turn a decent profit with a short-term rental property. Here is a direct link to property listings for the area.
Inlet water changes color at low tide as glacial waters from McKelvie River Valley fills the head of the inlet, turning the brackish water a blue/turquoise color. Winds do whip up the inlet into white caps as the howl through the valley that the Inlet carved out of the mountains. While we didn’t kayak, I suspect that the islands and the wind might create some wicked tide rips.
Tahsis BC Population
Tahsis is one of the smallest municipalities in the province with just 248 people according to the 2016 Census. At one point, Tahsis had about 2500 people living there and was host to a ton of businesses, mostly related to the forest industry. As the industry wound down, the majority of people left for jobs elsewhere.
There are a number of quaint short-term rentals you can stay in while visiting Tahsis. Everything from rustic cabins to newly renovated suites. You also have a hotel or 2 to choose from. There is something to suit all budgets.
We stayed at the Discovery House (link here). It was an older home, which is common in Tahsis, but we liked the mid-century charm and the fact that it was a whole home rental and not a suite in a home.
Final Thoughts on Tahsis BC
The next time you want a rugged adventure, visit the birthplace of British Columbia: Tahsis BC! Hopefully, you’ve found some good tips and info for adding Tahsis to your list of places to visit when you’re on Vancouver Island.