Get high #ExplorePortAlberni



"Do you feel like an eagle?" the voice behind me said in a hushed tone. I was thousands of feet in the air, quietly soaring in awe alongside the Beaufort Mountain Range.

The beauty of a glider is that there is no engine noise, and you don't need a headset and microphone to hear the pilot in the seat behind you. Like magic, a pocket of invisible thermal energy lifted us up, the pilot banked to the left, wingtip bowing over the Alberni Inlet, rolling on invisible waves of wind energy.

#ExplorePortAlberni. Start by checking out the Alberni Valley Tourism website.

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I quickly understand why pilot Christophe Labat is so smitten with his favourite thing to do when he’s not at his day job piloting a commercial airplane.

“You’re engaged with Mother Nature; you’re 100-per-cent in the moment,” said Labat, before our flight as we sat on the grass under a canopy at the Alberni Valley Regional Airport. A tow plane and glider awaited us on the tarmac. Labat likes to spend his spare time at the Vancouver Island Soaring Centre (VISC) and there’s no place he’d rather be than in a glider above the Alberni Valley.

Vancouver Island Soaring Centre

Port Alberni flying
Photo: Doc Pow

Tow plane, line, and glider getting ready for take-off at the Alberni Valley Regional Airport.

“What I love about gliding is a mix of everything: There’s the scientific aspect, the poetry of the flight, and the challenge - and of course the views.”

VISC hosts gliding tours for visitors, complete with GoPro video package deals, to let you silently slip through the air, above waterfalls, mountain ridges, lakes, and rivers. When you’re up this high on the tow line, you can also spot both coasts of Vancouver Island. It’s surreal. “It’s like meditating. It’s soothing,” Labat says.

Soaring in Port Alberni
Photo: Doc Pow

Take a quiet glider ride along a mountain ridge with VISC. It feels like a gentle roller-coaster in the sky.

There are only a few places in B.C. where you can experience a glider flight, and Port Alberni is one of them. “It’s paradise! Take advantage of the beauty of this place. There’s Sproat Lake, Great Central Lake, the mountains; this is the most beautiful part of the island,” said Labat.

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My colleague commented, “You don’t get to see that every day, to which a grinning Christophe replied, “I do.”

Alberni Inlet Trail

Hiking in Port Alberni
Photo: Rebecca Bollwitt

A look back at town when you're just 2 kms from the start of the Alberni Inlet Trail.

But if gliding is not your jam or you just want more sky-high views, there are other ways to get amazing vistas in Port Alberni on the many lookout and viewpoint hikes. The best introduction is the Alberni Inlet Trail, which has been carefully mapped and detailed in two stages by the folks at Valley of Trails. These 12-km and 8.5-km hikes are two of the best on Vancouver Island because you trek through a privately owned working forest in the traditional territory of the Nuu-chah-nulth people.

Port Alberni HIking
Photo: Rebecca Bollwitt

From the evergreens to the arbutus trees, everything makes a beautiful frame for this view at the top of the Alberni Inlet Trail.

For the best, and quickest lookout view, begin at the Stage 1 parking lot at Ship Creek Road and Anderson Avenue. Just 2 kms in from the trailhead, you’ll see views of the city behind you along with majestic Mount Arrowsmith to the east. Moss hangs from tree limbs as bird calls resound through the boughs above and ferns below.

You’ll gain almost 400 metres in elevation during this hour-long hike, which splits into two. You can choose to take a trail that continues along the inlet (and onto Stage 2) or a quick vertical scramble that will lead you to a cliffside grove of arbutus trees with 360 views of the inlet, the city, and the expanse of the valley below. It’s a great place to stop, catch your breath, sip some water, and take all of the photos - all of them - because you’ll want to capture the beauty of this Instagram- and photo-album-worthy scene (or make it your iPhone lock screen wallpaper too, like I did).

Port Alberni HIking
Photo: Rebecca Bollwitt

From the Pacific Ocean at Barkley Sound, the Alberni Inlet stretches 40 kms inland terminating at Port Alberni.

Last year I ventured to Gracie’s Lookout at sunrise, another fantastic lookout. The trailhead is farther away from town (a 32-km drive), but the 10- to 15-minute hike in is much shorter. You won’t see the inlet but you’ll have an amazing view of Sproat Lake if you go at sunrise when the mist is burning off its glassy surface.

With pristine lakes, an ocean inlet, expansive evergreen forests, ancient maple and fern gullies, why wouldn't you want to get a bird's eye view of this lush coastal landscape? When you're visiting Port Alberni, epic views and rewarding hikes are easy to achieve when you get this high.

When You Go

Search #ExplorePortAlberni for more inspiration. Be sure to tag #ExplorePortAlberni while exploring the region as you could be featured on our social media channels.

Start planning your adventures in Port Alberni at Alberni Valley Tourism

Start exploring your Port Alberni region options with Destination BC

Find out more at the City of Port Alberni’s website

Uncover more about what the Port Alberni region's offers for adventure. Check out ZenSeeker’s #ExplorePortAlberni Expedition page to see how you can have an adventure like this.

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