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.