Adventure stories for kids often have a cave or two in them. I grew up on a steady diet of Enid Blyton’s books and caves are almost standard fare in her adventures. Remarkably, the caves in those books are described as perfectly dry with sandy floors and a convenient “sky light” for allowing the fire’s smoke to go out. They are a safe haven for the imaginary adventurer. The real thing is a bit of a different experience!
Caving is not for everyone. There is something about creeping into such dark and decidedly underground places that causes a frisson of excitement to travel up one’s spine (I am sure this is some primeval instinct rather than far too many adventure tales). For some caves, all that’s required is a good pair of shoes, a good light (extra batteries?), and a sense of adventure. For others, some serious expertise are required and a large dose of fearlessness.
BC has a rugged and challenging landscape, but it also boasts some easily accessible spelunking opportunities for the beginner or the newly curious, and some that are far less accessible for the experienced, committed caver.
Beginner or expert? Something for everyone
A good place to start seems Ainsworth Hot Springs Resort – what could be less like an adventure tale, right? Located in the Kootenays, there are the aforementioned hot springs and a beautiful resort which does have its own cave. There’s also a ton of stuff to do in the surrounding area, including the Cody Cave Tours. These guided tours of varying lengths come at a price, but if the thought of venturing deep into the depths of the earth on your own gives you the willies, this is a great way to start.
To get here from Vancouver: Take Trans-Canada Hwy/BC-1 to Ymir Road/BC-3A in Nelson, follow BC-3A to Balfour-Kaslo-Galena Bay Hwy/BC-31 N in Ainsworth (8 hr 18 min).
Horne Lake Caves, on Vancouver Island near Qualicum Beach, offers guided tours of various lengths and difficulties. There are also self-guiding caves, but these are currently not open due to the pandemic. Check the website before you go! Guided tours take you into a Journey to the Centre of the Earth type world that Jules Verne would have loved! The Adventure Cave tour will resume in May 2022 and is the ultimate underground guided experience featuring three crawls, two rappels, three ladders and two underground rock climbs. An outdoor practice session to learn how to rappel for the uninitiated is included!
To get here from Qualicum: Take BC-19 N and follow Horne Lake Road and Horne Lake Caves Road (32 min).
Also on Vancouver Island, Upana Caves in Gold River includes a trail system to the caves. There are five caves to explore, a viewpoint over a waterfall, and a viewing platform that showcases the Resurgence Cave entrance. This is a great one for the novice spelunker! Some caves allow a constant view of daylight for those who are a little nervous, and others that are more of a challenge. It’s a beautiful location – even if you prefer to stay above ground!
To get here from Victoria: Take Trans-Canada Hwy/BC-1 N and BC-19 N to Island Hwy/BC-19A N in Campbell River. Take Gold River Hwy to Head Bay Road in Comox-Strathcona G (4 hr 45 min).
Monkman Provincial Park, in north-eastern BC, is home to the Corral Cave. Even though the cave is only 20 metres deep, it has some amazing features. The high-ceilinged cave has smooth, vertical walls and it’s easy to walk in. There are tiny stalactites, and in the spring and early summer, the floor to the cave is an astounding collection of large icicles.
To get here from Vancouver: Take Trans-Canada Hwy/BC-1 E to BC 97 N to Chetwynd. Take highway 29. Monkman Provincial Park is located on the Kinuseo Falls Road, 60 kilometres south of Tumbler Ridge.
The Chipmunk Caves near Chilliwack are great for the experienced caver and hiker. Only one hour and 45 minutes away from Vancouver they make for a perfect day trip for the adventurous. The caves are reached after a hike and are accessed by a steep ladder.
To get here from Vancouver: Take Trans-Canada Hwy/BC-1 E to No. 3 Rd in Abbotsford. Take exit 104 from Trans-Canada Hwy/BC-1 E. Drive to Chilliwack Lake (1 hr 45 min).
As with any wilderness adventure, always let someone know where you’re going and when you’ll be back, be prepared for the conditions and mindful of your own level of experience.
Plan your adventures throughout the West Coast at westcoasttraveller.com and follow us on Facebook and Instagram @thewestcoasttraveller. And for the top West Coast Travel stories of the week delivered right to your inbox, sign up for our weekly Armchair Traveller newsletter!