Zeballos & Fair Harbour - rugged NW ride

October 5, 2017

This is a specialty ride, for hardcore backroad riders who like to get into remote corners of Vancouver Island. There's rugged beauty amongst steep rising valley slopes (including Zeballos Peak - 1,578m) and sharp, tough up and down riding hills, though the route elevation tops out near 400m.

 

Riding the grand shores of NW Zeballos Inlet. just south from town, on the road to Fair Harbour

 

It's ~45km into Zeballos (the toughest part of the ride), and a further ~37kms to Fair Harbour. This ride fills in a section of the map where there's very little else around. Both destinations have fine camping options, though my favourite camping spot is tiny (4 sites) Resolution Park Rec Camp (aka Rhodes Creek), just south of Zeballos (see pic at bottom), fronting majestic Zeballos Inlet. It's also worth checking out Atluck Lake Rec Camp, ~4 kms off the road, with the turnoff 9kms west off the highway. In summer, bring a dust mask if it is hot and dry. Be alert for logging traffic at all times. 

 

The top left pic above is from the shores of Atluck Lake Rec Camp. Top right is the General Store at Fair Harbour marina: when I was there in September, it was only open Mon-Wed-Fri, 11am to 3pm. Lower right from along the road into Zeballos: it's not a long ride, but it's hard earned passage through tough country. Bottom left shows the docks at Fair Harbour.

 

Today, Zeballos, at the north tip of Zeballos Inlet and the mouth of the Zeballos River, only has a population of over 100, but in the not so distant past, the population was ~5,000. It has a fine deep sea port, was a logging centre, complete with mill, and swelled with a heady gold rush back in the 1930s. Today, forestry remains the economic base, with adventure tourism (fishing, boating) struggling to grow. Expect available services to be limited.

 

The Ehattesaht First Nation is centred around Zeballos: it is one of the 14 Nuu-Chah-Nulth Nations.

 

Marina and deep sea port at Zeballos, at the NW tip of rugged, mighty Zeballos Inlet 

 

Fair Harbour is not a community - it's more a staging post set up around the docks for people heading off into the incredile array of islands, remote settlements (mostly 1st Nations) and marine parks along this stretch of the wild west coast. Perfect for kayakers and sport fishers. I was surprised at the number of vehicles left for longer term parking at this end of the road harbour, even in September. Fair Harbour has a marina 'general store', though outside of summer it is mostly closed (see pic collage above).

 

Mouth of the Ka'ouk River, just before one reaches Fair Harbour. Just past the bridge here, there's a fine campground.

 

Getting in to Zeballos and Fair Harbour is straight forward, as there's one main road to follow, with signs (see map below). The turnoff west to Zeballos from the north Island Highway is ~22+kms north of Woss, or 42kms south of Port McNeill. Some folks leave their vehicles just off the highway junction: I left mine at Woss.

 

 

The shot below shows 'Mason's Falls' from the highway viewpoint on the road in to Zeballos. This pic highlights the steep rugged terrain in this part of Vancouver Island. There's no shortage of rain, with streams and waterfalls cascading down averywhere.

 

 

 

Finally, a shot from the seaside dock at Resolution Park Rec Camp looking up Zeballos Inlet, ~5kms south of Zeballos along the road to Fair Harbour. This is a beautiful little camping spot, recommended, though things could get stirred up in stormy weather. There's no piped water, but a number of streams running close by.

 

 

This ride in to Zeballos and Fair Harbour may not be for everyone. But it's a fine option for hardcore backroaders to get into a far flung corner of wild Vancouver Island.

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