Sombrio Beach Old Growth Fringe

Old growth Sitka spruce hang on in a narrow fringe behind Sombrio Beach.

The easy 10 minute hike to Sombrio Beach is a lot like many of the trails that lead from Highway 14 to the cobble beaches below. After passing through second or third growth forests of mostly small, closely spaced Western hemlock, the trails lead into a narrow old growth fringe of fat Sitka spruce bordering the beach.

Old growth stump surrounded by smaller regenerating trees on the trail to Sombrio Beach.

While most of the west coast of Vancouver Island has been clear cut logged long ago, the Juan de Fuca trail, which runs for 47 km along the ocean between China Beach to Botany Bay (Port Renfrew), retained narrow strips of old trees in some places.

Toward the bottom of the Sombrio trail you enter the magnificent
old growth fringe.

Stunning Sombrio Beach is one of those places that escaped the saw, and its narrow old growth fringe harbours some big and unusual trees. The forest combined with the beach and ocean make this a magical place to be, as many have discovered.

Nice campsite on the sand under old spruce trees at East Sombrio.

While at Sombrio you may feel it beautiful enough to live permanently among the salt sprayed spruce, and indeed in simpler times a group of freedom-loving people did just that. The establishment of the Juan de Fuca Trail in 1994 meant the end of an era, and by 1997 the last Sombrians were served eviction notices.

Looking down Sombrio River from the suspension bridge toward the surf.
Photo: introvert3

You may not be able to stay for decades as some did in the past, but today you can camp under the canopy of the big spruce trees for up to 14 days. Most people take 3 to 5 days to complete the trail, although there are ambitious types that run its muddy, glorious 47 km in a single day.

Not me.

Western hemlock often start on logs and stumps. Eventually, the log or stump
 rots away leaving trees on root stilts like this one behind Sombrio Beach.

When I do the trail, I will max out and plan on 10 to 14 days to really let the magic sink deep into my bones.

Just enjoying the old growth in the Sombrio area could keep me busy for days.


  1. I remember in the mid 80s fighting to keep the Sombrio old growth forest intact

  2. Anonymous13/4/18

    My one and only time visiting Sombrio beach was in the early 70's. Words cannot describe the intense beauty of the magnificent old growth forest one had to climb through to get to the water. I was deeply saddened to know that it would be sacrificed for fleeting profit.

    1. I consider it to be a crime against Nature.


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