One of the last stretches of unspoiled wilderness in Canada is home to some of the most beautifully unique wildlife in the world, and it's a must-experience for responsible outdoors enthusiasts.
The Great Bear Rainforest is a vast grid of naturally occurring lakes, streams, rugged fjords, deep valleys, and towering mountains. It’s the home of over 20 First Nation societies, 1,000-year-old Western Red cedars, giant Sitka spruce trees that can grow to over 300 feet tall, and an amazing network of wildlife that creates an amazingly diverse ecological community.
It’s an archipelago of Haida Gwaii and the Great Bear Sea, a land of old-growth forests that meet the wild sea. It’s a place of critical importance to the people who have lived here since humanity began and to those around the world who may not even know it exists.
What Makes The Great Bear Rainforest So Famous?
The Great Bear Rainforest is one of the most unique ecosystems on Earth. Located in coastal British Columbia, Canada, this rainforest is home to a variety of plant and animal species, including cougars, black bears, grizzly bears, deer, beaver, and wolves.
It’s also home to the Kermode bear, or spirit bear, which is a subspecies of the black bear that has an extremely rare recessive gene that causes their fur to be white. Subsequently, you can find whales and orcas in the coastal waters during summer.
The woodland area is 6.4-million hectares or 15.8-million acres of coastal temperate rainforest, which makes it one of the largest intact coastal temperate rainforests in the world. To put it in perspective, the rainforest area is roughly the size of Ireland.
Given its size and highly protected status from logging and development, the Great Bear Rainforest is an unspoiled portion of the wilderness.
It remains a vital nature corridor where once-decimated populations of otter, grey wolves, and brown bears have slowly started to rebuild their numbers thanks to tireless conservation efforts.
This enormous rainforest, like other beautiful rainforests across the world, also plays an incredibly important role in the overall ecosystem of not only Canada but the planet, too.
Of all the species in British Columbia, 66% of the mammals and 75% of freshwater fish live only in the coast region.
It’s also important to note that the forest and surrounding lands are the home of many First Nation peoples, including the Heiltsuk, Gitga’at, Kitasoo Xai’xais, Haisla, and Henaaksiala.
These First Nation peoples warmly welcome visitors and, with permission, will serve as guides to help guests locate bears and other animals for photos and observation.
Fewer Than 400 Kermode Bears Live In The Rainforest
A name like “Great Bear Rainforest” is going to naturally lead some to conclude that the forest is teeming with bears. While the Canadian grizzly bear population is estimated to be more than 25,000, the number of those bears inside the rainforest is hypothesized to be somewhere around 1,400.
The Kermode bears are thought to have a community of less than 400, which makes spotting these majestic creatures an even rarer treat when traveling to the Great Bear Rainforest.
Near the end of summer, salmon return to the area to spawn which means bears descend on the rivers to have their fill. Companies have set up guided tours along rivers for guests to get unprecedented views of these amazing animals as they catch their meals.
- Best time to see bears: August to September during the salmon runs
- Book a tour fast: The late summer / early fall season is extremely popular with tourists and photographers, so book a tour as soon as possible or risk missing out.
Visiting The Great Bear Rainforest
Visiting the Great Bear Rainforest can be a bit tricky, so it’s definitely not the best place to consider when looking for a quick weekend trip. There are a very limited amount of roads leading into the forest. Because of that, the best way to travel to the Great Bear Rainforest is by floatplane or boat.
If you’re determined to visit the area by vehicle, then you’ll head out on Trans-Canada Highway 1 from Vancouver to Highway 20 on a nearly 12-hour drive to the town of Bella Coola. For an even more scenic experience, consider taking BC-99 through the mountain regions and reward yourself with dazzling vistas.
Book a flight and save yourself hours of travel if you’re short on time on your holiday. Great deals can be found, and a flight to Bella Coola takes less than two hours, but these flights usually book fast, so you’ll want to act as soon as you can.
If time is a luxury, you may want to sail along the coast via the BC Ferries or depart from Northern Vancouver Island. It’ll take a little longer, but there may be no better way to get a firsthand look at the forested shoreline and everything it offers to visitors.
There are a number of companies that offer all-inclusive tour packages that will help you see the very best of Great Bear Rainforest without the trouble of having to deal with the small details that trips such as this require.