The primary value of Seal Bay Nature Park is that it is a large contiguous stand of regenerated second-growth forest. The park is one and half times the size of Stanley Park in Vancouver, protecting 642 hectares (1,585.6 acres) of biodiversity and treasured wildlife habitat. Seal Bay forest features rare plant communities such as hardhack (spirea), wetlands, trembling aspen, Pacific crab apple and slough sedge.
Bates Road divides Seal Bay Park into two sections. The water side (on the east side) has well groomed meandering trails leading through a second-growth forest of Douglas fir, big-leaf maple and red alder, with steep ravines lined with gigantic sword ferns and a seasonal waterfall. Three trails lead down to the waterfront: Seacliffe, Don Apps and Seabank. There is nearly one kilometre of beach frontage from which to spot seals, birds and maybe even a whale. You will find harbour seals loafing on rocks dotting the bay throughout the year. Paths to the water unfortunately come with a somewhat strenuous climb back up from the beach. No bikes or horses are allow on this side of Bates Road and dogs are to be leashed year round.
Enjoy a creek side walk to Melda's Marsh, so named by Ruth Masters in memory of Melda Buchanan. Melda campaigned tirelessly to have the area protected as a park and made many of the wooden trail signs mounted on trees throughout the park. The “Swamp Loop” around the marsh is a leashing-mandatory trail. Other trails on this west side of the park are leashing-optional other than during nesting and fawn season (April 1 to June 30).
Trails in the park are well-liked for hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding and dog walking. They are also known as one of the best places for trail running with signed 3, 7 and 10km loops The 7.3km long multi-use loop makes for an invigorating run or 90 minute hike. Bikes and horses are welcome. A couple of new connector trails completed in June of 2019 now allow bikes and horses to circle through Seal Bay Park without riding along Bates Road.
Expect some rocks, wet spots and roots on trails. The west side of Bates Road is level and fairly easy walking or riding.
The K'ómoxs First Nation call the park Xwee XwhyaLuq, (pronounced Zway Why Luck) meaning “a place of serenity and beauty.”
The CVRD prepared a new Park Master Plan for the park in 2018. This plan was adopted in February 2019. For more information, visit the management plan project planning page.
- 2100 Bates Road
- Main parking lot at Bates Road entrance
- Small parking areas at Hardy Road, Mitchell Road and Seabank Road entrances
- Lazo North (Electoral Area B)
- Size: 642 ha (1,586 acres)
- Cobble beach
- Forested trails: multi-use (horses, bikes and hikers)
- Pit toilets
- Dog bag dispensers
- Pet leashing is required year-round on the Swamp Loop and on all trails on the water side of Bates Road
- During fawning and nesting season, from April 1 to June 30, leashing is required in the entire park.
- Thank you for doing your part to reduce park visitor impact on wildlife
Seal Bay Nature Park was first logged in approximately 1913 and then again in the early 1920s. Springboard marks are still visible on the old-growth stumps. Several trails, such as the Mitchell grade, follow rail or logging grades once used to haul logs. There was a small Japanese camp on the beach along with a sawmill where Seabank Road trail reaches the water.
The area on the water (east) side of Bates Road and the marsh area on the inland (west) side of the road were originally part of a larger area offered to W.W.I soldiers as settlement lands. The soldiers opted not to claim the lands, leaving the area as Crown land. In 1971, the Comox-Strathcona Natural History Society started lobbying the Comox Valley Regional District (CVRD) and the provincial government to have the area designated as a park. In 1975, approximately 135 hectares (335 acres) were leased to the CVRD as a park for a 20-year term. In 1985, the area under lease was transferred to the CVRD by the Province through a Crown land grant. An additional area of approximately 16.2 hectares (40 acres) was added through another Crown land grant in 1988.
The provincial government, school district and the CVRD have all put forward plans in the past to harvest some of the trees from Seal Bay forest but all were tabled due to opposition from local residents. In 1990, Comox Valley residents sent more than 3,000 letters to the provincial government in support of a proposal to have the forest added to the existing Seal Bay Park. The CVRD has obtained successive 10-year licences of occupation over the forest to manage it as a park. In 2012, the CVRD was successful in obtaining a long-term lease until October 2040.
The remainder of Seal Bay Nature Park, the area surrounding the Swamp Loop on the west side of Bates Road, remains Crown forest under long-term lease to the CVRD as park.