Horne Lake Caves

Length of stay: 1 day
Visited: April 2022

Vancouver Island has the highest concentration of caves in North America and is commonly referred to as the Island of Caves for those that are into caving. One of the most popular and accessible caves in Vancouver Island is at Horne Lake Caves Provincial Park.

The forecast was calling for 30 to 40mm of rain today. What better way to escape the rain than by spending time underground at Horne Lake Caves. Since we were visiting the West (more like Wet) Coast in low season, there were only two tour options to choose from: the Riverbend Cave Explorer (which is the easiest tour that doesn’t require any crawling or climbing) and the Multi-Cave Explorer (which consists of visiting two caves and provides a glimpse into wild caving). Naturally we opted for the more adventurous tour.

We signed up for the first tour of the day at 10a.m. Once we turned into the park, the drive to get to Horne Lake Caves was mostly along a windy gravel road. The final couple of kilometres were a bit rough as the road was filled with lots of giant potholes. But we made it.

We donned our rain jackets, rain pants and hiking boots and reluctantly got out of our warm car. We were rewarded for our efforts though as it turns out that we were the only people that signed up for the Multi-Cave Explorer Tour. After checking in at the Visitor Centre, we had a briefing with our guide and were given a helmet with a headlamp.

The first stretch of the tour involved a 25 minute hike to get to the Riverbend Cave. We crossed a suspension bridge over the river and that was pretty much the only flat section of the trail. From there it was mostly uphill the rest of the way. The path was quite wide and in good shape. Along the way, our guide made five stops to explain more about why there are so many caves on Vancouver Island and about the caves in the park.

We had passed the fitness test and arrived at the entrance into Riverbend Cave. We climbed down a small ridge, navigated over a few mossy rocks and got ready to go underground and out of the rain.

The Riverbend Cave showcases some neat cave formations and doesn’t require much effort to navigate through the wide passageways, there were some wet sections with flowing water though. Along the way our guide pointed out the terms for these cave formations and explained more about the history of how the cave was formed and its geology. We also turned off our lights for an extended period of time to see how our eyes handled the dark.

Once we resurfaced, it’s about a 10 minute hike to get to the Main Cave. It involved a leisurely stroll through the mossy forest that was mostly downhill. When we reached the entrance to the cave, we had to shimmy through a vertical opening in the rocks.

This cave required some adventurous elements, including climbing up (and then back down) a couple ladders, navigating across and down a slide, and climbing up three short waterfalls. I’m glad we were wearing our rain gear.

Once we looped back to the cave entrance, it’s another short hike to reach the Visitor Centre. Overall our cave tour took 2.5 hours. Despite the rain, we had a wonderful time exploring underground and getting a taste of wild caving.


74 thoughts on “Horne Lake Caves

  1. kagould17 says:

    What an interesting tour. Will have to add that to our list for next visit. As long as the caves do not require crawling through tight passages, I would be in. Thanks for sharing. Have a great week Linda. Allan

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      I highly recommend a visit to Horne Lake Caves. It’s great that they offer a range of different cave tours depending on your level of comfort with navigating underground. Plus they keep the tour group sizes pretty small. If you’re not into squeezing through tight passageways, the Riverbend Cave Explorer tour is probably your best bet. Thanks for reading. Enjoy the rest of your week. Linda

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      I didn’t know that either. We would have loved to go on a few more cave tours, except most of them are further up north and were still closed for the season. I guess we’ll just have to come back someday 🙂

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Your friend lives in such a pretty area. I just love how lush and green everything is and how tall the trees are. It was nice to shake things up and head underground to do some caving. It was even better how there was no one else in our group so we essentially had our private cave tour. We had a blast.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      We had so much fun exploring underground. We were also the only ones that had signed up for this cave tour, which was such an added bonus. It was a great activity to avoid the worst of the rain.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The Multi-Cave Explorer was a great preview into wild caving and it was a fun way to learn more about the geology of caves. Horne Lake Caves offer two more adventurous cave tours, but only during the summer. I guess this means we’ll just have to return to check them out. If you’re not into crawling, climbing or squeezing through tight spaces, the Riverbend Cave Explorer is for you.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      I didn’t realize that Vancouver Island was a hot spot for caving either. It was a bit of a sketchy drive to get to Horne Lake Caves, but I guess that just added to the adventure. It was a fun way to spend our morning.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words. It was definitely a bit tricky to take pictures in general, but especially of some of the more adventurous elements of our cave tour, including climbing up the ladders and series of small waterfalls. It was a nice balance between hiking through the mossy forest, which looked so enchanting, and exploring underground.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Who knew being underground could be so beautiful!? It was nice to switch things up and go on a cave tour while still enjoying the lush greenery around us. It was an awesome adventure and even better considering there was no one else in our group.

  2. Book Club Mom says:

    Wow – this looks super interesting. I’ve never been in a cave before. Sounds like you were totally fit for the tour, too! Were you feeling claustrophobic during any of it?

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      We had a blast on our cave tour. It was a great way to learn more about the geology of caves and all the interesting cave formations. The passageways were quite wide in both caves that we visited, but the Main Cave had some additional adventurous elements that were a bit scary. We had to climb up a series of waterfalls, which was way harder than we thought it would be. Thankfully there was no else in our group so we could just take our time.

  3. Vignesh M says:

    Great hike underground. One thing that I remember from caving in California was it was colder and pitch dark. But I hope you had similar experience. Thanks for sharing such a wonderful post.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It was neat how we had to hike to the entrance of the cave as the trail itself was quite scenic with all those mossy trees. The caves weren’t too cold, but they were really wet. Thankfully we weren’t slithering around or anything so we didn’t get too wet or dirty. I did get a soaker though when we were climbing up one of the waterfalls. I forgot to tuck my rain pants over my hiking boots and some cold water came in. It was a lot of fun though. We’ve been meaning to visit California, but the timing has never quite worked out. Perhaps next year. Good to know that there are caves there. Take care. Linda

  4. NortheastAllie says:

    This looks so neat, and thank you for sharing these awesome cave photos too. It is interesting to really get a good view of these unique underground structures.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words and for commenting. We had a lot of fun exploring underground and it was nice way to get out of our comfort zone by trying something adventurous. Plus, it was a neat way to learn more about the geology and formations within the cave.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      I had no idea there were so many caves on Vancouver Island. It was nice to shake things up and do something different besides hiking. It was a bit scary to climb up the series of waterfalls, but thankfully there no one else in our group so we could take our time.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It’s nice that they offer a range a different cave tours depending on your ability and level of comfort. The Riverbend Cave Explorer is their easiest tour and doesn’t involve any crawling or climbing. We visited this cave first as part of our Multi-Cave tour and the passageways were quite wide and comfortable to walk through. We were visiting in the spring so the water levels were a bit high though. The hardest part was actually the hike up to the entrance of the cave.

  5. Ab says:

    That looks like such a fun outing! I did not realize Vancouver Island has the highest concentration of caves. What a cool factoid!

    If you and K are into scary movies, I recommend The Descent, a UK horror movie that’ll make you think twice about cave exploring again. It’s so well done but definitely will creep you out next time you got cave exploring! 😆

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It was a fun way to spend our morning and to momentarily escape from the rain. It was also awesome how we were the only ones on the tour so we essentially could take our time.

      I have not seen that movie. I just read a summary of the plot on wikipedia and it seems scary and probably not something I’d want to watch alone!

  6. wetanddustyroads says:

    That certainly sounds like quite the adventure … starting off with the suspension bridge 😉. Some of the formations inside the caves almost looks like a meringue. Great escape into the wilderness I would say!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It was a pretty fun cave tour that also involved some hiking. I’m such a fan of suspension bridges so we were off to a pretty great start despite the rain. The cave formations were so cool. It was a fun way to learn more about the geology of the cave and about all the interesting formations along the way.

  7. ourcrossings says:

    Wow, what a fascinating place to explore, Linda! What can be better than experiencing the magic of the underground world and discovering the fragile crystal formations and creatures they often contain. I am glad to hear you had a great time! Thanks for sharing and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      We had a blast exploring underground. It was a neat way to learn more about the geology of the cave while also going on an adventure. Even the hike to the cave was beautiful as the forest looked very enchanting with all the moss and greenery. Thanks for reading. Happy Friday! Linda

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      A fun combination, eh? It was a bit scary having to climb up a series of small waterfalls, but I think the biggest concern was trying not to get wet. Thankfully there was no one else on the tour so we could go at our own pace. It felt very rewarding once we made it to the top though.

  8. leightontravels says:

    Well Linda, it sounds like you guys definitely chose the right tour! Especially with it being a private tour. The caves look excellent, as do the wonderful bits of forest in the lead-up and in between. It sounded like quite the workout too with all the hiking, slides, ladders and waterfalls.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      No kidding. It’s always tough to get started in the rain, but it was so worth it for this cave tour. Even the hike to the entrance of the caves was beautiful. It was quite the adventure. Climbing up the waterfalls was the scariest part, but it was also very unique and rewarding. It’s funny how we’re much stronger than we think we are.

  9. Linda K says:

    What an amazing adventure you had! I have been to Vancouver Island so many times and yet have never been to these caves. Guess it’s a case of needing to explore more close to home 🙂

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Glad to hear that I’m not the only one that takes where I live for granted sometimes. I highly recommend a visit to Horne Lake Caves though. It’s a great way to learn more about the geology of the area and go on an adventure. It was a nice combination of education and exercise. If you’re not into crawling or climbing, the Riverbend Cave Explorer tour is probably your best bet.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Neither did I. Apparently it has something to do with the composition of the landscape which makes it more likely for sinkholes and caves to form. It was a fun way to spend our morning and sneak some education in with our exercise.

  10. Casey says:

    I don’t consider myself a claustrophobic person but just looking at your photos made me sweat! haha I’ll just live vicariously through you! Thanks for sharing!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It’s funny because to me the scariest part was when turned our lights off to see how dark it was inside the cave. It was good to push ourselves out of our comfort zone and to try something a little different than hiking. Our guide was also super amazing and it helped that we were the only ones on the tour so we could go at our own pace. Thanks for reading. Linda

  11. BrittnyLee says:

    Horne Lake Caves sound like my kind of adventure. You had to shimmy through bits of it and climb. That had to be so much fun !! The photos are beautiful ❤️. I’m glad you guys wore your rain gear and were able to stay mostly dry 🙂 great post !

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks! Despite the rain, the cave tour was a lot of fun. It was also awesome how we were the only ones who had signed up for the tour so we could go at our own pace. It was good to get outside of our comfort zone and try something different, like climbing up a series of small waterfalls. Can’t say I’ve ever done something like that before!

      • BrittnyLee says:

        That had to be amazing 🤩 I would love that !! Yes! It’s always nice when you’re the only ones on a tour or in a small group. You don’t have to worry about people getting annoyed while you explore and take photos . Matt and I do not like being rushed so we completely relate. The Pittsburgh trip is going well so far! We went to the history of art museum and the Andy Warhol Museum. They were both magnificent and so informative. I might even do a post about it haha 🤣😜. I will see though. I’m not sure I’d be too good at that. We are on our way to Kennywood now. I’m excited 😁 I will keep you posted on Kennywood as I know you told me you were curious one of the times we spoke about it 🙂 have a great day, Linda !! 😁☺️🤗😃😎

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        I was really happy that we were wearing our waterproof gear, otherwise I’m not so sure how I’d feel about climbing up those waterfalls! Agreed, it’s so much better without the crowds. I hate that feeling of being rushed.

        Glad to hear that you’re enjoying your trip to Pittsburgh. You should definitely do a post about it. We didn’t have enough time to visit either of those places when we were in Pittsburgh, so I’d be curious to see what we were missing. Enjoy your time in Kennywood!

      • BrittnyLee says:

        Thank you, Linda! 🙂 I’m glad you both were safe and not soaked climbing. Kennywood was very nice. The rides are intense but fun 😊 I was daring with a few. We are going to try more on Friday ☺️ so I will let you know how they are. I think I will do a post since you’ll be interested 🙂 . I know it will be read by a good friend. I would highly recommend Kennywood if you enjoy some thrill rides and coasters. I enjoy coasters and some thrill rides. I didn’t expect to enjoy these rides as much as I did. Matt was also impressed that I did them haha 🤣😆. I am not shy with too many coasters but these were a lot higher than I’m used to .

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        That’s awesome that you’re having a blast in Kennywood and are enjoying your holidays. It’s been a few years since I’ve been on a roller coaster, but I used to love them when I was younger. And yay, I’m glad to hear that you’ll put together a summary post about your adventures. Have a wonderful weekend.

  12. alisendopf says:

    I never knew there was this massive cave system there. How cool! What an amazing adventure.

    I’m imagine you’re back home now, but Canmore has the Rat’s Nest Cave and you can do tours there. My hubby is claustrophobic so I have to cave by myself. Anyhoo – I know what I’m doing next time I’m on the wet coast.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      We actually visited Rat’s Nest Cave the first time we went to Banff back in 2016. Out of all the caves we’ve explored, the one at Rat’s Nest Cave still stands out as being my favourite. It was quite the thrilling adventure and fun to shimmy through some of the tight spaces. There are a few different cave tours at Horne Lake Caves, but the more adventurous ones weren’t being offered yet because we visited during low season. I guess we’ll just have to return someday to check them out.

      • alisendopf says:

        Wow! Good for you! Rat’s Nest is quite adventurous. If you’ve done that, then I’d recommend Cody Caves, just north of Nelson near the town of Ainsworth Hot Springs. I had to watch my two girls shimmy down a black hole, while raising their arms above their heads to fit through…. Horrible, knowing I had to go next. We were down for HOURS.

        Thanks again for the info on Horne Lake Caves. I will definitely look it up when I’m there next.
        Again – way to go Linda! I’m impressed!

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        I just looked up Cody Caves and their Adventure Tour sounds like a lot of fun. I find caving can be a good way to get out of my comfort zone and find beauty in the darkness. Going down feet first sounds terrifying because you can’t see where you’re going. Sometimes the anticipation is even worse when you know what’s coming!! Sounds like a thrilling experience though. I’ll have to add it to the list for the next time we’re out west. Thanks for putting it on my radar.

      • alisendopf says:

        You are so welcome. If you go for the more adventurous tours, you might have the guide to yourself like we did. I will admit that after several hours and continuous climbing, that I was pretty happy to see daylight again.

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        Having a private cave tour is the best! We’ve had a couple of those and they stand out as being so memorable. You get to interact more with your guide and it just feels more personalized. I imagine it was quite the adjustment for your eyes after being underground for so long!

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