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San Josef Bay

The Sea Stacks
San Josef Bay
Atop the Sea Stacks
Dune Tansy
The Sea Stacks

San Josef Bay

North western Vancouver Island

The Cape Scott Provincial Park is a popular remote hiking destination on the extreme northern end of Vancouver Island and contains many unique landmarks and features. One of the more noticeable landscapes are the sea stacks located at San Josef Bay, in the western portion of the park. A unique feature on Vancouver Island, these incredible geological formations are a popular stopping point on many peoples’ trek through the park.



The sea stacks have been in San Josef Bay for thousands of years, and the area surrounding them has a rich history. Middens and other remains of settlements serve as evidence that local First Nations groups have been present in the area for hundreds if not thousands of years. The first European settlers (Norwegian) came to the area in 1897 and began to settle, attempting to build farms in what is now the provincial park. They were met with limited success, and left before any substantial settlement was set up. They left behind cleared patches and fields that are now semi-wild as well as many place names, including Hansen Lagoon, and Nissen Bight. The naming of San Josef Bay after the HMS San Josef of the Royal Navy, predates the Norwegian settlers, and was named on one of the many exploration voyages of the 1800s.


50°40’29”N 128°17’04”W


The sea stacks at San Josef Bay are some of the only ocean-eroded stacks on Vancouver Island, and are certainly the most extreme. Water surging through the sandy passages at high tide has slowly eroded the softer rock, leaving behind only the harder formations. In some spots, this effect has left behind the sea stacks, a remarkable feature, but one found fairly commonly around the world. Placed in a spectacular west-coast setting, the stacks are a common stopping point, and are the subject of a number of different paintings, both by Canadian and First Nations artists.

Sea stacks typically form when a crack in a rock face slowly develops into a hole, and eventually the funneling action of the water enlarges the opening, developing the surrounding rock into an archway. This archway continues to erode and with time, eventually the upper portion is either washed away or collapses, leaving behind just the founding pillars. Typically, these formations take thousands of years to form.




As part of Cape Scott Provincial Park, San Josef Bay is easily accessible on well maintained trails and boardwalks. From the nearest parking lot and trailhead, there is a three kilometer, fairly easy hike. The drive to the parking lot is not paved, and depending on the state of the roads can be quite difficult, but in general, the trailhead is reasonably easy to access for most vehicles.



Web site ©: The Institute for Coastal and Oceans Research (ICOR) at the University of Victoria, British Columbia Canada.