Starting from Vancouver, we ferry across the Orca-filled Strait of Georgia and begin our hike from the northern trailhead, building up to the more challenging terrain farther south. The West Coast Trail is a rewarding coastal trek - both for its spectacular scenery and for the challenge it provides. Known also as the 'Graveyard of the Pacific' due to the abundance of ship wrecks, it is rich in human history, wildlife, and natural rugged beauty, and is considered one of the world's top ten treks. The trail offers sandy beaches, rugged cliffs, blowholes, caverns, caves, waterfalls, bogs, rainforest, lighthouses, abandoned settlements, shipwreck relics, native culture, whales, sea lions, eagles, and giant trees. Not for the faint of heart, the trail includes numerous ladders, suspension bridges, and even cable car crossings. Although a full pack trek, our load is lessened by a food drop midway through the hike. After the trek, the tour ends in the pretty provincial capital of Victoria, BC, allowing for an easy extended stay on beautiful Vancouver Island.
The full pack and often unstable terrain give this trip a 'challenging' factor on an otherwise 'moderate' trek, but anyone undertaking a full pack trek should be aware of the physical and mental demands involved. These are designed for experienced adventurers who are seeking a challenge. The trek will involve off trail hiking, unstable footing, ladders, creek/river crossings, rough terrain, and long hiking days. All while carrying your own gear in a full pack. This trek is intended for experienced hikers only. We recommend that people begin their fitness preparation immediately upon booking. Solid work outs that are aerobic (hill walking, jogging, swimming, biking or gym work) of up to one hour each day is a guide to a routine training program. The best preparation is bushwalking with a full pack, involving relatively steep ascents and descents. If you can be as fit and prepared as possible, you will enjoy the trip so much more.
Meet at B.C. Ferries Tsawwassen Terminal for 7:00 am [your guides will meet you at the walk on passenger’s entrance]. It is usually possible for us to pick you up from the Accent Inn, however traffic or van availability may not permit us to do so.
The ferry crossing from Tsawwassen to Nanaimo on Vancouver Island is approximately 2 hours. From Nanaimo, it is about three hours by road to the trailhead at Pachena Bay. After registering at the trail head office, we will attend a Parks Canada orientation then take time to set up camp for the night at beautiful Pachena Bay. Tonight, we will head into Bamfield for a group dinner (not included) to get to know our traveling companions and discuss the trail ahead.
Near the start of our hike, we visit Pachena Bay Light Station. Built in 1906, it is the only remaining wooden light structure on the BC coast. Continuing on the trail, we enjoy a good warm-up, as the first 12km at this north end is considered the easiest portion of the trail, almost entirely in forest until we reach the beach at Michigan Creek. A great way to break in our hiking legs and get used to the the weight of our packs. From Michigan Creek, we will follow beach and shelf another 4km to Tsocowis Creek for our first nights camp. Tsocowis is home to the first of three Guardian Cabins where members of the local First Nations stay while helping to maintain the trail. It is also home to one of the trail's many beautiful waterfalls.
From camp, we head into the forest, across a suspension bridge over an incredibly beautiful gorge with waterfall, and follow an easy trail. We will stop where the trail overlooks the shelf to admire the views and imagine how, in 1906, the S.S. Valencia went aground here in a violent storm. The battering of waves eventually broke the ship apart and 126 passengers and crew lost their lives. This tragic event was the catalyst for creation of the Life Saving Trail, which would later become the West Coast Trail. From Trestle Creek, we will follow the beach to Klanawa River and our first cable car crossing.
Another short hour's hike will bring us to Tsusiat Falls, one of the many highlights along the trail and an incredible place to set up camp for the evening. The base of the falls is an ideal spot to go swimming, and arriving a bit earlier in the afternoon allows us to find great tent spots at this popular campsite.
Soon after leaving the falls, we arrive at another trail highlight, Hole in the Wall; a wave-worn hole cut into the rock at Tsusiat Point. Forest trail leads us to the remnants of the Didadaht Warrior village from the turn of the century where old lodge poles still stand in tribute to the memory of its coastal inhabitants. Many hikers feel that the trail from here to Nitinat Narrows presents some of the most dramatic and beautiful scenery along the trail. The Narrows must be crossed by boat with the assistance of local natives who will normally have an assortment of beverages for sale. Nitinat is also home to some of the tastiest seafood you are likely to find - Our trekkers often rave about the sweet crab, but you can also enjoy BBQ Salmon, Ling Cod, and Halibut.
The next section of trail is primarily on boardwalk util we reach the village of Clo-oose, an area intended to be the location of the most magnificent resort on the west coast at the turn of the century. Many settlers moved to the area only to be disappointed by the failed venture. Depending on the tide, we will either hike the beach or follow the trail as it edges along steep cliffs. Either way, the views will not disappoint with some interesting features, including a surge channel, abandoned house, blowhole, and honeycombed rocks. We emerge at a natural breakwater formed by volcanic rock - An area called 'The Cribs' - where we set up camp and explore nearby tide pools.
The beach from The Cribs to the Carmanah Light Station is one of our favourites. After a quick visit to the station, where we may see resident sea lions enjoying the rocks below, we will hike a short distance through forest to Chez Monique's. Monique has been a fixture here, with her husband Peter, for many years. They will produce a delicious brunch or early lunch for us, offering up great food and equally great conversation. This is also where we pick up our food drop and continue with bellies full along some of the nicest beach sections of the entire trail. Our destination tonight is Walbran Creek which has another great swimming hole!
The remaining days represent the most difficult sections of the WCT. We have outlined our probable campsites based on a scenario where circumstances (i.e. weather and group ability) warrant a slow pace. Regardless of the campsites we select, the overall experience will not be affected.
Though not the longest in distance, the hike from Walbran to Camper Creek is the longest where duration is concerned, as it includes 8 large sets of ladders to climb up and down. We head into the rainforest which has its own character and incredible beauty. Most of the ladders along the trail will be located from here to trail's end - Considered the 'adult jungle gym' portion of your adventure. At km 56 we will cross the famous Logan Creek suspension bridge, then continue along a boardwalk-covered bog toward Cullite Creek, passing interesting flora such as stunted cousins of hemlock, spruce, cedar, and a species of carnivorous plant! Our destination is Camper Bay - a campsite located by a creek and flanked by magnificent sandstone bluffs.
From Camper Bay, we will continue through rain forest - If the tide is in favour we will leave the forest and enjoy a hike along the shelf, to Owen Point; a route with wonderful views of the Olympic Peninsula. The shelf near Owen Point features sandstone bluffs, caves and caverns, unusual rock formations and surge channels. Many hikers believe it resembles a moonscape. From Owen Point, we either take the beach or the trail to our campsite at Thrasher Cove (tide-dependent). The beach hike is characterized by huge boulders which take some time to navigate, but this route is shorter than the trail. Our campsite is located at a small cove with excellent views of Port San Juan and Port Renfrew across the water.
Although not a long distance, the terrain is such that our hike will take us most of the day (elevation gain +/- 180m). From Thrasher Cove, we say goodbye to shore hiking and negotiate our final series of ladders to return to the trail. It's all forest, creeks, and waterfalls from here until we reach the end of the trail at Gordon River, where we celebrate the success of completing one of the world's top treks. We are ferried across by 'Butch' and then met by our van to be transported to the charming provincial capital of Victoria, BC.
The drive is approximately 2.5hrs to the city centre where you will be dropped off at a central location. Expected arrival by 6:30pm. Accommodation is not included tonight, but can be arranged upon request.
The whole thing!! The scenery was spectacular, the guides (Gill and Tom) were excellent and the food fabulous. Canada must be the most beautiful country in the world. Thank you for having such an amazing trip in your list of tours.
Mark Baines, QLD, Australia
A must do trek - the West Coast Trail is one of the top 3 scenic treks in the world and the trip was 5 out of 5 the whole way.
Ken Harris, Armidale, NSW
Per Person, Twin Share