Hiking the West Coast Trail

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The beautiful Pacific Rim National Park and Reserve is located on the rugged West Coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia.  There are 3 separate units in the Park Reserve: Long Beach is the most popular unit, and is easily accessible by car.  The second unit, the Broken Islands, is only accessible by kayak and boat. The third is the West Coast Trail, which is only accessible by foot from May 1 – September 30.Hiking the West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island, BC

The trail, popular with experienced hikers, is 75 km long, and the average time to hike it is anywhere from 5-8 days. On the south end is the community of Port Renfrew, and on the north end is Bamfield. We chose to start from the north end near Bamfield, as that is the easiest part of the trail, and we wanted to have lighter packs when we reached the harder part to the south.

After a mandatory half hour orientation session, we were on our way!  We started the first day by hiking along the beach.  In fact, we spent many of the days hiking along the beaches, as depending on the tides at the time, we often had a choice to walk on many beaches or on the forest trail.  We did make sure to be aware of the day’s tide schedules though, as we didn’t want to be trapped if the tide came in suddenly.  There were a few days where we had to walk on the forest trail, either because the tide was too high, or there was no beach access.  Both the beach and the forest routes had their challenges – slippery rocks, roots, mud, and deep sand.


Hiking the West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island, BC

We found that the campsites were well marked with buoys, and there were distance markers along the forest trail, so it was easy to keep track of where we were.  We stayed at the main campsites, but there are other options as well.  We looked forward to arriving to every campsite, as it gave us a chance to visit with the other hikers on the trail.

Hiking the West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island, BC

All along the trail, there was so much beautiful scenery, and lots of wildlife to look at.  We saw bald eagles, sea lions, seals and even grey whales!  It was also very fascinating looking at the tidal pools along the beaches that were filled with starfish, anemones, mussels and crabs.

Hiking the West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island, BC

If you are interested in hiking this trail, visit the Parks Canada website for more info.  It is very important to be well prepared for this trip and research beforehand.  I also recommend booking a spot on the trail as soon as you can,  as Parks Canada limits how many people can start on both ends every day and so space fills up quickly.