When you think soaring Sequoias and Redwood trees—the ancient kind that can grow to be nearly 880 freaking feet tall—California’s northern coast is likely what comes to mind. The state’s Redwood Forest is world famous, with photographers from all parts of the world to flocking to it in search of the perfect snap. We get it. We did the drive earlier this year, and yeah, it was impressive.

But Canada has giants, too, most of them on Vancouver Island. They just don’t seem to be as famous. (It’s okay, ’Merica, we’re used to hanging out in your shadow.) But wandering through Cathedral Forest, tucked inside of MacMillan Provincial Park, will give you a nature buzz like no other.

Lisa at once with nature in Cathedral Forest.

Lisa at one with nature in Cathedral Forest.

Cathedral Forest and its Giant Douglas Fir blanket the centre of VI between Nanaimo and Tofino. The trees have a way of instantly making you feel like a miniscule spec on earth. At least, that’s how I felt walking along the unspoiled forest floor and pressing my palms against one moist trunk after another.

Look up. Look waaaaay up.

Look up. Look waaaaay up.

For the driver, it’s a test in skill; the road zig-zags messily through the mountains, and concentration is crucial with hairpin turns, frost heaves, and narrow lanes commonplace.

The first Coleman has ever felt short: amongst the ancient tree.

The first Coleman has ever felt short: amongst the ancient tree.

And the drive to get here is a thrill in itself. Stretching 163 kilometres east to west across the island, Highway 4 (also known as Alberni Highway or Pacific Rim Highway) is a winding stretch of road that connects Nanaimo and Parksville to the more remote towns of Tofino and Ucluelet.

Rainy drive along Highway 4 in late September.

Rainy drive along Highway 4 in late September.

For the driver, it’s a test in skill; the road zig-zags messily through the mountains, and concentration is crucial with hairpin turns, frost heaves, and narrow lanes commonplace. It’s easy to get distracted by the extraordinary views. But that’s the passenger’s job: capture as many photos/videos/Instagram Stories as possible.

All the twists and turns along Highway 4.

All the twists and turns along Highway 4.

Checking road conditions before you venture out on this drive is smart. Weather happens fast out here, and just this past November part of the highway was closed for days due to historic flooding. And not to let this deter your travels in any way, but this stretch can be dangerous. Embrace island time and don’t drive like a dink…especially if your van is older than you are.

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