The world famous West Coast Trail is located on the Pacific Ocean (western) side of Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada. The trail, considered one of the world’s top hiking trails, is part of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve of Canada. The West Coast Trail is described as a near perfect hiking experience in a pristine Canadian wilderness.
Hiking the West Coast Trail is not for the faint of heart – it is a 75 km (47miles) long backpacking trail through some pretty rugged country. It is only open from May 1st to September 30th as there can be severe weather and adverse trail conditions during the “off season”. Amazingly most people finish the full trail.
What You Need To Prepare For
All campsites are first come first served basis. There is no fixed itinerary, so you can hike at your own speed. Very fit hikers can do it in 5 nights but better to plan on 7 or 8 nights, so be sure to take enough food and water. During the hike you can choose between the costal path or the inland path. The coastal path will have the spectacular views but you need to study a tide chart to hit the tides just right as high tides can prevent beach access.
You will need appropriate clothing and boots as you will be on an irregular trail with slippery terrain and you will have to wade rivers. Everything you pack in must be packed out. Expect rain, fog, mud as well as warm days. You should hit the trail a minimum of 5 hours before sunset to ensure you reach a camping area before nightfall.
Highlights of the West Coast Trail
• hiking through old growth forests
• spectacular remote beaches
• lots of wildlife to see – bears, whales and sea lions
• experience log walking
• a “hole in the wall” along the beach
• exceptional sunsets and amazing dawns if you are up early
• ladders and cable cars as part of the hiking experience
• view ship wrecks along the coast
Reservations for the West Coast Trail
Although this hiking trail is wilderness in the extreme, if your planning to stay overnight you need a reservation which opens on April 1st. You can register by calling 1-800-HelloBC or online. Parks Canada limits to only sixty the overnight hikers to start the trail each day – thirty from the Pachena end and thirty from the Gordon River end.
If you can’t get a confirmed reservation you can go standby. All overnight users must attend an orientation session before starting the hike.
How to get to the West Coast Trail
Entrance points are Pachena Bay (Bamfield/north) and Gordon River (Port Renfrew/south).
Pachena Bay (Bamfield/north)
From Victoria travel Highway 1 north towards Nanaimo, then exit onto 19 heading to Parksville and Campbell River, exit west on Highway 4 heading to Port Alberni (80km – 50 miles). Then follow the signs to Bamfield on logging roads (83km – 51 miles).
Make sure you fill up in Port Alberni and watch for logging trucks on the road. Pachena Bay is approximately 3 km (1.8 miles) south of Bamfield, take the turnoff before you reach Bamfield – it is about a 1.5 hours drive from Port Alberni.
Gordon River (Port Renfrew/south)
Port Renfrew is located on the south west coast of Vancouver Island. It is about a 2 hour drive north from Victoria to Port Renfrewon the scenic Pacific side of the Island.
West Coast Trail Express offers daily shuttle services to PachenaBay from Victoria, with stops at Port Renfrew and the Juan de Fuca trail head. For information call 1.888.999.2288 or 250.477.8700. Pachena Bay Express has charter shuttle to all points on Vancouver Island, and local service. Tel: 877.728.1290.
The MV Frances Barkley provides freight and passenger and freight service to communities along Alberni Inlet and Barkley Sound. The sailing leaves Port Alberni down Alberni Inlet to Barkley Sound to Bamfield and takes 4 1/2 hours.. Tel: 250.723.8313 or 1.800.663.7192
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