The Chin Beach Trail Lone Cedar

Chin Beach Trail Cedar - old growth remnant surrounded by tiny trees
During my local big tree safaris I usually meet individual trees that are satisfyingly large. The Chin Beach Lone Cedar, along Highway 14 west of Sooke, BC, is one such tree. What makes this colossal Western red-cedar seem even more impressive is the fact that it is surrounded by much smaller, more recent trees. The Lone Cedar is an individual island of ancient in a sea of young upstarts.

Third growth trees

The Juan de Fuca Resource Land, where the tree in question grows, is a large industrial-focused area on south Vancouver Island. It is industrial, not wilderness, because resource extraction has been occurring here for a long time.

The Lone Cedar is located on coastal land that has been logged once or twice already. Although this tree is not protected in a park, it is close to Juan de Fuca Provincial Park and the Juan de Fuca Trail, which do protect some old growth trees.

The Juan de Fuca Marine Trail has several unofficial trails leading to it from the Coast Highway (#14), west of Sooke. The trail to Chin beach is one of those. 10 minutes along this trail grows the Lone Cedar.

On the short hike to see this amazing holdout from the primal forest of old, one passes through a forest in several stages of succession. The trail first passes through small, tightly packed hemlock trees, more than likely third growth forest. Quickly the trail enters an area of larger trees that look more like second growth. Some of these are reaching a nice size. A few more steps, and the Lone Cedar looms into view.
Second growth

It is a Western red-cedar wall of wood that has been growing here since the beginning of the Empire of Charlemagne in the 800s. Aged, stringy reddish-grey bark covers the fluted trunk. In places the bark is covered in a stubble of moss.

The thickness of the bole rises up and disappears into the canopy above. At the right angle the candelabra top of the tree can be seen jutting into the sky. The multiple dead, grey spires form an impressive cathedral.

The Lone Cedar: a weathered old growth survivor with candelabra top

One wonders how any old growth trees survived the logging operations that have taken their contemporaries. It is not hard to imagine the primal forest, of which the Lone Cedar was a part. It was an integral member of a vast, gigantic, ancient forest system that cloaked the Pacific coast from Alaska to California.

No doubt these remnant cedars appreciate the small forest that is growing up to provide them with support. Lone trees left after logging are prone to blowing down in the next big wind, but these trees have survived countless storms that slam into this coastline every winter. Stand beside this tree, and feel its antiquity, its strength, and its ongoing life. It stands as a reminder of what once was.

Getting There

From Sooke, drive to China Beach (Juan de Fuca Provincial Park). Set your tripometer at the park entrance, and drive about 13 km further along the highway to the (unofficial, unmarked) Chin Beach trail head. Park well off the highway, and look for the flagging in the trees on the ocean side, marking the entrance to the forest. The flagging is the only indication that something special is here.

Hike about 10 minutes along the trail watching for the flagging tied to trees to help you navigate to the Lone Cedar. If you feel like hiking past the big trees, and making the beach your destination, the  trail continues down a steep gully for another 40 minutes and takes you to the Juna de Fuca Trail and Chin Beach.

A good reference to the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail is Giant Cedars, White Sands, by Donald C. Mills.

View Chin Beach Trail: The Lone Cedar in a larger map


  1. Anonymous23/6/11

    Exciting! I would like to visit this tree! what colour is the flagging?

  2. Anon,

    This is a great tree to visit, and if you have time the hike past the tree to the beach, it is nice too (if you are fit and like a bit of scrambling).

    The trail to Chin Beach and the massive cedar is fairly well marked by flagging - I think it is orange. It would be easy to get lost along this trail. Do not take too many steps without being able to see either the last flagging you passed, or the next flagging coming up.

    This awesome tree is only about 10 minutes from the highway, and the beach is about 40 minutes past the tree. Watch for bears and cougars. Enjoy!

  3. That must be the biggest tree in the Juan de Fuca area! I hiked the trail this spring and didn't see any trees even close to that size. The trail is still very impressive for other reasons, but it's obviously second growth.

    Have you written anywhere about the planned resort coming to the area? See my website (link) for details

  4. BMTR,

    The Chin Beach Trail cedar is definitely one of the largest cedars I have stood next to in this area. And just a short walk from Highway 14. So happy that it has survived.

    I have not written about the Marine Trail Resort... yet. I will be visiting your website to learn more.

  5. An incredible bit of forest! Thank you for sharing this. There are a number of other stunning trees within the vicinity, very highly recommended.


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