6 Reasons to Check Out British Columbia’s West Coast Trail


There are hikes, and then there are hikes. You know, the once-in-a-life­time treks that are equal­ly chal­leng­ing as they are inspir­ing; the ones that you’ll remem­ber for years to come; the ones that will ignite an instant con­nec­tion when you’ve met anoth­er per­son who has done the same trek.

The West Coast Trail is one of those hikes. Locat­ed on the West Coast of British Columbia’s Van­cou­ver Island, the “WCT” requires seri­ous plan­ning and prepa­ra­tion. In return for your hard work, it will reward you with one of the best expe­ri­ences you’ll ever live. Here are six rea­sons to check out the West Coast Trail.

It’s the Chal­lenge of a Life­time
It takes most peo­ple a week or so to trek their way through the gru­el­ing 47 miles of demand­ing ter­rain. Tack­ling the trail in a short­er amount of time is not rec­om­mend­ed: not only are you more like­ly to injure your­self, but you’ll rush through some of the most incred­i­ble sites in the world.

To get the most out of the West Coast Trail, make it an expe­ri­ence to remem­ber: ensure that you’re in tip top shape, get some decent back­pack­ing and hik­ing expe­ri­ence under your foot, and acquire (and learn how to use) the right gear. Be ready to tack­le some seri­ous­ly chal­leng­ing weather—6 inch­es of rain in 12 hours, anyone.

It’s Not Over­crowd­ed
The prob­lem with so many pop­u­lar trails is that they can get over­crowd­ed and overused. The West Coast Trail requires all hik­ers with­in a group (with a max­i­mum group size of 10 peo­ple) to secure a Trail Use Per­mit. A lim­it­ed num­ber of per­mits are issued every year, so the best plan of action is to apply for one at the begin­ning of spring. The trail is usu­al­ly open between June and Sep­tem­ber, so plan ahead to find a time that works for you—and be will­ing to be flexible.

Foggy path

You’ll Get to Expe­ri­ence the Rugged Wilder­ness
The West Coast Trail is sit­u­at­ed with­in the Pacif­ic Rim Nation­al Park. It cov­ers some of the most awe-inspir­ing ter­rain in the coun­try. There are two main points of ingress and egress on the trail: one at the north end of the trail in Bam­field, and one at the south end in Port Ren­frew. Hik­ers can start from either end, but most peo­ple pre­fer to start north and wind their way south. The most ardu­ous ter­rain is sit­u­at­ed towards the south­ern end, and it’s often eas­i­er to nav­i­gate with a lighter pack and tough­ened legs.

Between Bam­field and Port Ren­frew, hik­ers will plod through old-growth forests, trek through wild beach­es, and wade through bogs. They’ll encounter moss, mud, sand, peb­bles, exposed cliffs and ever-chang­ing tides. In oth­er words, it won’t be boring.

You Might Encounter Wildlife, Up Close and Per­son­al
Oth­er hik­ers aren’t the only ones you’re like­ly to encounter on the West Coast Trail. The pres­ence of wildlife is part of what makes the trek so excit­ing: black bears, wolves and cougars live in the forests, while seals and sea lions hang out around the shore. If you keep your eye on the water, you might spot some orcas or gray whales. Keep your eye sky­wards to see eagles soar­ing overhead.


There Are Sur­pris­es Along the Route
We won’t spoil all of them here—they are sur­pris­es, after all—but here are a few hints of what you might come across en route: Ship wrecks; log walks; hid­den coves; cable cars; and a spe­cial place called Hole in the Wall. Intrigued yet?

It Has a Great Sto­ry
The West Coast Trail has a rich his­to­ry that makes the hike that much more mean­ing­ful. The first inhab­i­tants of the West Coast of Van­cou­ver Island were the Nuu-chah-nulth group, a group of Abo­rig­i­nal Peo­ples who estab­lished a cul­ture based on the rain­for­est, the ocean and the inter-tidal zones that char­ac­ter­ize the area. The West Coast Trail is sit­u­at­ed in their tra­di­tion­al territory.

The 18th cen­tu­ry brought the arrival of Cap­tain James Cook to the West Coast of Van­cou­ver Island. The ocean route along­side what is now the West Coast Trail was a busy thoroughfare—one that was great­ly affect­ed by chal­leng­ing weath­er and tidal con­di­tions, even­tu­al­ly earn­ing it the moniker “the Grave­yard of the Pacific”.

In 1907, the West Coast Trail was roughed in as a way to assist those who sur­vived ship­wrecks along the Grave­yard of the Pacif­ic. Pri­or to its estab­lish­ment, it was next to impos­si­ble to reach ship­wreck vic­tims from the shore.

Ready to embark on the adven­ture that is the West Coast Trail? Check out the Parks Cana­da web­site to get plan­ning. Good luck—and don’t for­get your camera.