This is your complete guide to the Great Bear Rainforest.
The Great Bear Rainforest on the pacific coast of British Columbia is a world-famous temperate rainforest. The area covers more than 16 million acres of land. It extends from the Discovery Islands in the south to the British Columbia-Alaska boundary in the north.
Great Bear Rainforest includes all the offshore islands that lie within this range, except for the archipelago of Haida Gwaii and Vancouver Island. On February 1, 2016, the rainforest was officially recognized by the Government of British Columbia.
But do you know what’s so great about the forest?
Well, to start with, the forest is a vast area of wilderness, and it is the only corner of the planet where you are likely to spot the Spirit Bear, aka white Kermode bear.
The rainforest is a natural wonderland, being home to three different types of bears and various other marine and land animals. And for thousands of years, this place has also been of cultural significance for the Indigenous people.
The Great Bear Rainforest doesn’t have great attractions because the place is more about exploring and experiencing the wilderness rather than sightseeing. And this is why the forest is also known as the “Amazon of the North.”
Reason to Visit the Great Bear Rainforest
Let us now check out the top 5 reasons to visit the Great Bear Rainforest:
1. Record Holding Rainforest
The Great Bear Rainforest is one of the world’s most visited and impressive coastal temperate rainforests. The forest has 1,000 years old Cedar trees and 90-meter tall Sitka spruce trees. These are some of the oldest and largest trees that exist on the earth.
2. The Spirit Bear
As we have already mentioned, the rainforest is home to one of the rarest bears, the Kermode bear. And this is one of the main reasons people visit the Great Bear Rainforest.
There are around 400 Kermode bears in the wild; however, only one in ten is likely to carry the gene that gives them this rare creamy coat. And it a subspecies of the common black bear only.
3. Adventurous Activities
Although the rainforest is popularly known for the bears and other outdoor activities are for the visitors to enjoy. There are various guided adventure tours such as whale-watching, where you can spot orcas and humpback whales.
There are other activities as well, such as kayaking, boating, sailing on the ocean, or rafting down the Atnarko River. There are also sports fishing charters that you can choose from.
4. Rich First Nations People’s History
The rainforest, apart from its wildlife, is also home to various First Nations communities & villages. The local First Nations people guide the visitors on cultural and wildlife watching tours.
These people create a massive conservation economy in the rainforest through investments in sustainable development. In 2006, an agreement, The Great Bear Rainforest Agreements, as it is called, was signed by First Nations and the Canadian province. This was in the wake of land-use agreements.
The First Nations are protecting this global ecosystem for generations to come. And when people visit the rainforest, they can very well experience and learn the history of the First Nations.
There are totem poles and traditional artworks visible all across a smaller community in the rainforest known as the Bella Coola Valley.
5. Amazing Hikes
One of the most amazing ways to experience the unparalleled beauty of the rainforest is to forget the outer world and face the pristine wilderness through unbeatable hikes.
There are plenty of hiking trails in every corner of the rainforest. All of which are accessible on foot, by ferries, boats, or cars. The most popular hiking trails are in the Bella Coola Valley region and Ocean Falls.
The trails in and around Ocean Falls are only accessible by boat. However, the set of tracks there is excellent for all levels of hikers. The Bella Coola Valley region has the maximum number of hikes in the area, with a total of 10 hiking trails.
And a majority of these hiking trails are easy or moderate, so anyone can hike through these trails and witness the old-growth forested area at its best. The trails offer scenic views of natural sights.
Some of the trails will take the visitors through Indigenous community areas, and visitors can then learn about the people, take photos of the buildings, artifacts with the prior permission of the people.
Now that you are well aware of the Great Bear Rainforest’s reasons let us tell you how and when to visit.
How to Visit the Great Bear Rainforest?
There are several different ways to get to the rainforest and access the wilderness, such as by seaplanes, ferries, chartered tours, cruise ships, and roadways as well. However, access via roadways is limited to a certain point.
Visitors can drive up to one of the area’s main getaways, the Bella Coola region. This region is also accessible by air and sea. Highway 20 from the interior of British Columbia connects straight to Bella Coola.
And if you are not much in the mood to drive, you can always travel by air. There are various private planes available in addition to Pacific Coast Airlines, which flies daily from Vancouver to Bella Coola.
You can also enter by sailing along with the BC coast; BC Ferries depart from Vancouver Island and returns to the Island. The ferries also stop at other entry points such as Bella Bella, Klemtu, and Ocean Falls.
Whichever mode of transportation you choose, each option will offer you excellent photography opportunities and experience.
When to Visit the Great Bear Rainforest?
Depending on what you want to see, the best time to visit the rainforest slightly differs. The warmest months to visit the rainforest is June to August. If you want a good chance at seeing the grizzly bears, the best time to visit is in August.
However, the overall bear-viewing season is from June to October. And the best chance you will have at a white spirit bear is from September to October.
Bear-viewing is best in Autumn because that is when the annual salmon run takes place. You can catch a sight of the magnificent bear hunting their prey.
Now consider the rest of the rainforest, the hiking trails, the marine mammals (sea lions, whales, sea otters), the meadows, the coastal wolves, human culture; these experiences are available at all times.
So, now you know it all depends on what you seek to see. If you seek exploration of the entire natural wonderland, then the Autumn season or any time of the year is best.
If you particularly seek to catch a sight of the spirit bear, you must visit in September or October.
Now that you know how to visit the Great Bear Rainforest or visit and why to visit. It’s time you check out a few must-visit destinations within the Great Bear Rainforest.
Enclosed by the rainforest, Klemtu is a small isolated community located on Swindle Island, about 230 km northwest of Bella Coola. Upon reaching here, you can learn about the history of local Kitasoo and Xai’xais first nations.
You can visit the indigenous sites of the area, including the famous traditional Big House, which is a community meeting place. Visitors can get on boat tours with local guides. Also, you can book a stay at the Spirit Bear Lodge. Here, you will get to enjoy delicious local delicacies seven ocean views.
2. Tweedsmuir Provincial Park – South
Tweedsmuir Provincial Park, close to the Bella Coola community, is one of the largest parks in BC. The area is certain to offer you more picturesque scenery than you can even think of.
Tweedsmuir Park is a wonderland for recreational activities such as hiking, horseback riding, camping, canoeing, angling. Even for the winter season, it offers snowmobiling.
The area is best for camping, as it offers two front-country campgrounds with scenic views.
3. The Khutzeymateen/K’tzim-a-deen Grizzly Sanctuary
The Khutzeymateen Park is the first area in Canada to be protected, particularly for grizzly bears. This is by far one of the best areas to see these bears in their natural habitats.
Visitors are focused on bear viewing, natural and cultural education, and traditional activities upon reaching the area. You can take a boat tour to catch sight of the grizzlies roaming the shoreline.
The popularity of the Great Bear Rainforest spiked even higher when in 2016, a Spirit Bear Entertainment film was produced in association with Destination BC. By now, you already know that the rainforest is a very remote destination in BC, Canada.
So whenever you feel like visiting a place deep-rooted in nature and is off the grid, this is the place to be in. This place is for those who seek to connect with nature at its best and experience a cultural and spiritual journey.
Visitors can be a part of as many as adventure activities they like. Activities such as guided salmon-snorkeling, hiking through Bella Coola Valley (as previously mentioned), joining grizzly tours, and much more.
I hope this article is of help to you with your trip. Do let us know if you have any questions or feedback regarding this post. You can leave your queries behind with your name & email address over the comment section.