The Artlish Cave Provincial Park is located northwest of Zeballos on northern Vancouver Island. The park is known for its incredible karst features. The wilderness park has two large cave entrances and the Artlish River runs beneath an old-growth forest environment. The people of Zeballos had for many years fought for the protection of this area and their efforts paid off, the Artlish system and surrounding forests were established as a park in 1996. Accessing this park is quite an adventure. You will quite likely encounter loaded logging trucks while traveling these roads, these are big off-highway trucks, they have the right of way, so please pull over as far as possible to let these trucks get by you.
Roads along the way have been deactivated, and after you turn onto the East Artlish Mainline. You will only go about 50 more meters, and you will see that the bridge has been removed. Park here and look for the trail on the left side of the bridge area. It’s a bit of a scramble both down to the creek edge and then up the other side. After that, you will travel on old, overgrown logging roads for quite some time before veering off on the trail. At one point on the trail, you will need to cross crystal creek, sometimes it’s a fairly easy crossing but at times the creek can be quite full, and you find it quite difficult to reach the far side. There are several creeks that need to be crossed.
The trail is not very well-marked, and it’s easy to lose your way, only experienced hikers should attempt to reach the park, the going is rough, and you should be in good shape. It’s a long hike in and out, a day’s journey.
If you are a caver from east of the Rockies, please do not use the same gear in our island caves, it has been shown that cavers have accelerated the spread of white-nose syndrome by entering caves with contaminated clothing and gear. White-nose syndrome is a fungal disease that has been linked to the deaths of hibernating bats in Eastern North America, and it poses a significant threat to bats of western Canada. Before entering our karst systems, please visit the WNS website to learn more.
The artlish cave system is located within the territories of the Kyuquot/Checleset people, you just might see CMT’s (culturally modified trees) within the park boundaries. This is Vancouver Islands’ last remaining wild karst system that has a river incorporated within the cave, please leave this system just as you found it.
In this park, you will also find an old-growth valley bottom containing both caves and coastal western hemlock, western red cedar, amabilis fir, and Sitka spruce. Wildlife like Elk, deer, black bears, cougars all can be seen here as well as Sockeye, Coho, Chinook, pink salmon, steelhead and rainbow trout can be seen in the Artlish River.