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Princess Louisa Inlet | A West Coast Pilgrimage

There are many places in this world that are highly overrated. Princess Louisa Inlet is not one of them. Princess Louisa is one of those places that is, almost impossibly, even more beautiful than people say it is.

Nestled close to the end of Jervis Inlet between steep, high mountains and fast flowing rapids is a fjord known as Princess Louisa Inlet. This incredible place, which has become somewhat of a pilgrimage and rite of passage for boaters in the Pacific Northwest, is beautiful beyond words.

malibu rapids
waiting outside the rapids

I knew very little about this place before we decided to embark on the 9 hour journey up Jervis Inlet, but Logan had been dreaming about visiting for many years. In all honesty, I wasn’t very excited about the journey. Everyone we knew who had been up there had told us how amazing it was, but we had visited so many incredible, pristine natural places that summer and I found it hard to believe that somewhere that was so highly visited by people would live up to the hype. How often do you visit a tourist destination that is actually as amazing as people say it is? Almost never. I was convinced Princess Louisa would be the same.

Despite my reservations, this trip had been the pinnacle of discussion all summer. We planned to meet up with our friends Marty and Mae on SV Wind Gypsy for this journey. This would also be their first journey up the inlet and everyone was more excited than me about the adventure :)

schooner and a sunrise
SV Wind Gypsy in front of a perfect sunrise

By the time we were able to make our way up to Princess Louisa, September days were showing up shorter and shorter. The day we were to leave we woke before the sun, untied our stern line and headed out into Malaspina Strait before turning toward Jervis Inlet. the sky was clear without a cloud to be seen and the water was glass calm without a ripple. It was horrible for sailing but more than we could have asked for in terms of quality sight seeing. On top of calm weather, before we had even left our anchorage we witnessed a humpback whale feeding. This place was paradise before we had even reached our destination.

jervis inlet

It didn’t take long to change my mind about whether or not this adventure was worth the hype. Before we had made our way into Jervis Inlet proper, the inlet that leads to Princess Louisa, we were surrounded by towering mountains and steep cliffs that plummeted into the sea. This was not a place to attempt to anchor as the water right up to the shore was hundreds of feed deep, but it was a magnificent place to be exploring while motoring.

jervis inlet

Our trip up was 90% motor and 10% sailing in very light winds, but we took advantage of every breeze we could and enjoyed every moment of sunshine and calm when the sails weren't up. Honestly the journey to the inlet was one of the biggest highlights to me. Spending time in Princess Louisa was also amazing, but this journey was so beautiful and so peaceful (minus the engine) that I wouldn't have minded if it had lasted a few more hours.

jervis inlet

We made it to Malibu Rapids just outside of Princess Louisa Inlet about an hour before slack. These rapids run very fast with dangerous rocks, so we were not willing to chance them before the water was calm. Instead we rafted up to Wind Gypsy, made some dinner and enjoyed the evening before heading through the rapids at slack.

We arrived to the first park moorings as the sun was setting and settled in while watching the stars appear in the clear sky above us.

The next morning couldn't have been more different from the day before. Our warmth and clear skies had been replaced with a classic Pacific Northwest day. Clouds snuggled the mountains as the rain drizzled and fell on us and Papa Rumba.

We decided we would wait until boats were leaving for the rapids and then head down to the other end of the inlet to snag a buoy or dock space closer to some waterfalls, but first we wanted to go for a hike and enjoy the beautiful forest along the inlet. The hike from the first park moorings is a beautiful, mostly flat wander through pristine temperate rainforest and although autumn was starting to set in, the forest was incredibly lush and green.

temperate rainforest

Later that day we puttered over to the waterfalls. We found a spot at the dock while Mae and Marty took the only free mooring beneath a couple of beautiful waterfalls along the cliff's edge. The dock was great. It was easy to walk Max, easy access to Chatterbox Falls, the large waterfall at the end of the inlet, but it just wasn't quite as secluded and quiet as we were wanting.

chatterbox falls
chatterbox falls from the dinghy

So the next morning with the wave of people leaving, Logan and I hurried our way over to the moorings so we could also snag ourselves a spot beneath the cliff waterfalls. This was my favourite decision all trip. I don't know what it was about being anchored beneath a waterfall that we could swim into from the boat, being surrounded by misty clouds and being hugged by the incredibly cliffs of rainforest, but this place felt like the most peaceful and healing place I have ever been. I could have spent months just hanging out on that mooring and staring at the scenery all around us.

moored below a waterfall in princess louisa inlet
moored below the waterfall :)

swimming in princess louisa inlet
swimming from the boat :)

waterfall from sailboat window in princess louisa inlet

We spent a day just enjoying the majestic scenery and west coast weather and then decided to do something else a little but nuts and hike up to the trapper's cabin. The trapper's cabin, just like it sounds, is the remains of a cabin. But the cabin isn't nearly as amazing as the hike itself. I highly recommend watching the video below to get a good understanding of what it was like to do this hike. Photos don't do it justice and I'm not sure my words could either, but video may do it some.

large cedar with exposed roots
Large cedar tree along the trail

The view from the top of the trapper's cabin
The view from the top of our hike

Old growth cedars on the Trapper's Cabin Trail
Old growth cedars on the Trapper's Cabin Trail

wild salmon meal in Princess Louisa Inlet
The meal Marty and Mae had ready for us when we arrived from our hike!

We hung out there for a couple more days, which in my mind was not nearly enough, before heading back out and across the Salish Sea to Nanaimo- battling a 20 knot head wind the entire way.

You can watch this entire adventure in video form below AND many of our images from this trip are also available for purchase! You can buy them here :)

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