Horne Lake Caves

Horne Lake Caves near Courtenay, BC

This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars
3 kms
Rock Climbing, Hiking
Spring, Winter, Fall, Summer
Courtenay, BC
User katherinebickford
NTS Map:92F7. The Horne Lake Caves Provincial Park was established in 1971 to prevent damage to the delicate crystal formations and fossils in the caves.

The park has three main caves that are open to the general public, and three caves that are closed to the public. The smaller Horne Lake Main and Lower caves can be self explored year round; exploring these two caves involves moderate climbing and passing through narrow areas that are largely stripped of formations by ransacking visitors.

The larger River Bend cave is 200 vertical feet deep, and has 1,200 feet of passages. Guided tours include a relatively easy 90 minute educational tour of the Riverbend cave that takes you through larger and easier passageways, as guides explain the geology and history of the caves. This tour is not recommended for small children. The seven hour Extreme tour starts off with a 7 story rappel down the Rainbarrel waterfall and ends with a demanding climb back up the Rainbarrel on a cable ladder. Recent rappelling experience is required to participate on this tour; training is available from the tour operator.

Passing over the Qualicum River on a suspension bridge, across boardwalks and many wooden steps, the 25 minute hike along the Karst Trail leading to the cave entrances is a steady uphill hike through heavily forrested areas. Along the trail, you get a chance to get up close and personal with the rock formations that guard the entrances to the cave entrances, and the ever present dripping and running water that bounces off of the exposed rock faces. At the first trail junction, branching to the west takes you 125 metres to Main cave, and then another 120 metres to Lower Main Cave. Staying on the trail another 420 metres brings you to the next junction; the 400 metre branch trail to the west taking you to the gated entrance of Riverbend cave.

Other than anchors and some fixed appliances the caves are mostly undeveloped, in keeping with the philosophy of protection and conservation. There is no lighting within the caves, making it mandatory to bring at least two lighting sources and a helmet. The cave floors are in their natural form; rough, uneven and wet; be sure to wear good footwear and bring a warm sweater or rain jacket.

Equipment rentals are available from the tour operator at interpretive center, located on the far side of the suspension bridge.

The nearest camping is at Horne Lake Regional Park.


Horne Lake Caves Provincial Park is located at the west end of Horne Lake, west of Qualicum. Take the Horne Lake exit off highway #19 or exit 75 off highway #19a. Take Horne Lake Caves Road following signs along the gravel road on north shore of Horne Lake. Pass Horne Lake Regional Park and proceed to the end of the road for Horne Lake Caves Provincial Park. The parking lot is at 10U 372962E 5467090N


Please check the bottom of the Description (above left; click) for the author's written directions.

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By lakelife31Posted By: lakelife31  - Fri May 16 20:02:19 UTC 2014 Not Rated Question Does the time indicated imply the entire trip eta? Or just one way? I assumed round trip, but you never know.

ANSWERS are in this forum:   Timeframe
By jennaPosted By: jenna  - Thu Dec 13 05:09:21 UTC 2007 Not Rated Upside The main caves that are open to the public for exploration are full of very interesting geographical features fully accessible to people who are not experienced in caving... The upper cave has a cool waterfall (among other neat things) and the lower cave has a wicked L-shaped room that opens to a big formation called the "Christmas tree" ... limestone and calcite I think in the shape of a big tree, all carved by the power of water! Really cool fossils everywhere on the ground - prehistoric sea creatures and plants fossilized for eternity in what was once the ocean floor! Tall ceilings in the L room and cool overhead rock shapes and displays! Downside At the entrance to the caves there are tonnnnes of spiders on the ceiling, but they are daddy long legs and completely harmless - they are there only because it is warm and they breed there.. so don't be intimidated! Once you get past them at the entrance (and it's not like they are anywhere near you, they are high above!) you won't see any more. Although you will see crickets.. big ones! Also, if you are claustrophobic, maybe take a few deep breaths near the entrances.. the narrowest parts. There is some tight squeezing and yoga-like manuevering around once you get farther in, but it's absolutely worth it. also, the public caves have not been protected against your average joe going in and breaking stalactites and leaving beer cans. don't do this, please. Comment An excellent day trip! Definite recommendation for anyone interested in exploring something that typically goes unseen by people... and there is a beautiful campsite right on the lake that would make the experience just that much more enjoyable! I recommend getting a guide to take you through the caves so that you don't miss anything... and if you are feeling adventurous, do the rapelling tour!

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