Hike of a Lifetime

Hike the West Coast Trail

Not a walk to break in new boots, the 75km trail from Vancouver Island’s Port Renfrew to Bamfield attracts hikers from around the world, and for good reason. The undeniable physical challenge is matched by stunning coastal wilderness. Along slippery boardwalks, up intimidating wooden ladders, across streams and sandy beaches, how you hike the West Coast Trail depends greatly on your luck with weather. Over a hundred hikers are evacuated each year, many due to hypothermia. That doesn’t stop folks snapping up the limited spots available. Once you’ve gazed into the tidal pools, showered under Tsusiat Falls, walked beneath old growth trees and befriended hikers around a driftwood campfire, the risks slip well beneath the reward.

Length of Trip : 5 – 7 Days

Cost : $300 +. Budget for your park permits, return bus ride, gear, food, accessories, ferries etc.

Best time to go : July and August. There’s less people in the shoulder season of September and June, although the weather can be even more challenging. Reservations are essential.

Wheelchair friendly : No

Family friendly : Recommended for teenagers up, although I did see younger kids on the trail.

Where to eat : Around the fire! Easy packaged meals are best. Don’t forget a bottle of hot sauce, and to tie up your food at night.

Official Site : Parks Canada’s West Coast Trail page.

Where to Stay : Make sure your lightweight tent is waterproof.

Getting There : From Vancouver to Vancouver Island: Car via passenger ferries, bus or air. To Pacheena Bay Trailhead near Bamfield; 3 hour drive from Port Alberni or Duncan or by West Coast Trail Express Bus email: [email protected] from Victoria or Nanaimo; or by Alberni Marine Transport Ltd. passenger ferry from Port Alberni; or by Western Bus Lines Bus from Port Alberni. The WCT Hiker Registration Office located 4 km south of Bamfield. To Gordon River Trailhead near Port Renfrew: Drive 2 hours from Victoria via Highway 14 or take the West Coast Trail Connector Bus from Victoria. To Nitinat Lake-Visitor Centre Trailhead:  2 Hour drive from Duncan or Port Alberni… by paved and gravel roads from Duncan, or Port Alberni, about 2 hours; by West Coast Trail Express Bus (reservations). The WCT Hiker Registration Office is located at the General Store. A water-taxi is required to get down the lake to the actual WCT mid-point at Nitinat Narrows. Between Port Renfrew, Nitinat Village and Bamfield… by Pacheenaht First Nation Bus Service about 3 hours; or by Trailhead Charters Boat Service (Port Renfrew – Bamfield) about 5 hours.

Note from Robin : Make sure you’re in decent shape. Check the tide tables. Watch out for slippery roots! Swim in the waterfalls whenever you get a chance. While you can do the trail faster, taking one day off to rest was magical.

Interested in this Bucket List item? Here’s some suggested readings:

Great Canadian Trails