West Coast Trail

Description

  1. Name West Coast Trail (WCT)
  2. Length of trail 75 km, 47 miles
  3. Length in days 7 days
  4. Start of trail Bamfield
  5. End of trail Port Renfrew
  6. Traildino grading SW, Strenuous walk, mountain trail
  7. Hut tour grading T2, Mountain walk
  8. Access towns Port renfrew, Bamfield

West Coast Trail

Port Renfrew / Gordon River – Bamfield / Pachena Bay, 75 km (47 mile), 7 days

The West Coast Trail is one of the most popular trails in Canada. Expect a variety of beautiful coastal landscapes and mesmerising rain forests. Also count on some strenuous walks. Often you will gain no more than 1 km per hour. Completing the seven day’s trail is a real accomplishment.

Watch this video (https://youtu.be/pMQYMqDGsoE) to get an impression.

The trail partly goes through dense forest with century old sitka spruce and giant cedar trees. Alternatively, large parts are along the coast, on the beach, over rocky headlands or sandstone shelves. It’s quite probable you will see killer whales, humpback whales, black bears, sea lions, seals, snakes, otters and bald eagles. Wolves and cougars do roam the forests but are rarely seen.

Finishing the trail is easy under good circumstances but difficult in bad weather. Heavy rains are common along this part of the Pacific coast. Every year people have to be rescued because of hypothermia. Your main preoccupation therefore should be with your gear and clothing regarding wet weather. The point is: how will you get things dry after two days of walking and camping in continuous rain? Maybe – knowing rain is to be expected – a tarp will come in handy for making a roof and a fire. The campsites have plenty of driftwood for building all kind of constructions, benches, wind shields, poles for your tarp.

Second problem is the strenuous terrain: mud, roots, rocks, surge channels. Lots of people get stranded because of injured legs, feet, knees etc. Also there are ladders, lots of ladders, to pass creeks or to access the beach from the forest. The board walks that once helped overcoming wet sections are in multiple states of decay and present a risk of their own. The largest creeks are passed using suspension bridges or cable cars.

Still, many inexperienced hikers start off each day and make it to the end. They will assure you they liked it even if their limping bodies tell otherwise. To fully enjoy your hike, however, keep the weight of your backpack below 18 kg including food. This is possible, if you are willing to invest into light weight gear, draw a line on the “may be’s” and keep your nonsense stuff like jeux de boules at home.

Most children (note: they must be at least 6 years old) will love the trail and find it easy to walk. No wonder: every stretch of it offers new vistas, big and small animals, scrambling opportunities, beach campsites, rattling cable cars, natural swimming pools, pebbled streams…

The trail is maintained by Parks Canada. On the trail are rangers, for your safety. Some campsites have ranger cabins but you are not supposed to contact them but in case of emergency. The cap on the number of people allowed on the trail is 35 from each trailhead per day. Subscription starts somewhere in January, so be seated behind the buttons the day and hour registration starts otherwise you won’t get on the list. Of course you already created your Parks Canada web account long before. To finish registration you must pay online.

Logistics are a bit cumbersome: first you have to travel to Vancouver, then take a flight (expensive) or bus/ferry to Victoria on Vancouver Island. To get to the trailhead you must have your own car or take the West Coast Trail Express. Be sure to make a reservation for this bus because it may be fully booked. In case of having your own car, at the end of your walk you probably will need the West Coast Trail Express to get back to the trailhead you started from. All this will cost you a lot of money and time.

At the trailhead – either Port Renfrew / Gordon River (South) or Bamfield / Pachena Beach (North) – you will be welcomed by Parks Canada, pay for a National Parks Entry Pass, undergo a orientation session and receive your West Coast Trail User Permit. Without this permit you will not be able to hike because the two ferries needed to pass Gordon River and Nitinaht Narrows will not take you on board.

The orientation session is particularly useful because staff will tell you how the campsites work, what to do if you bump into a unfriendly bear (highly unlikely), but above all how to interpret the tides: you will get both a map and a tide table and using them correctly will help you in safely choosing the coastal track or sticking to the forest alternative. You are also supposed to understand that high tides may wash away your tent if you do not correctly interpret the last high tide garbage line on the beach and know when to add or substract a feet extra.

A word on the campsites: the official campsites have toilets and food storage lockers. Do not leave food or other smelly stuff in your tent but store it in the food lockers. From South to North, these are the official campsites and approximate hiking times (add up to 100% depending on your personal fitness and weather conditions.)

  • 0 – Port Renfrew / Gordon River Trailhead (km 75)

Ferry over Gordon River between 8:45 am and 3:30 pm

  • 4:15 hrs – Thrasher Cove (km 70)
  • 5:30 hrs - Camper Bay (km 62)
  • 3:00 hrs - Cullite Creek (km 58)
  • 3:15 hrs - Walbran Creek (km 53)
  • 2:15 hrs - Bonilla Point (km 48)
  • 0:45 hrs - Carmanah Creek (km 46)

Chez Monique (km 45)
Carmanah Lighthouse (km 44)

  • 1:45 hrs - Cribs Creek (km 42)

Nitinat Narrows (km 32) ferry crossing between 9:30 am – 4:30 pm (crab restaurant, cabins, covered camping ground). From here you can start or finish your walk by taking a ferry crossing to Nitinat Village Trailhead

Comfort Camp (km 30)

  • 6:30 hrs - Tsusiat Falls (km 25)
  • 1:15 hrs - Klanawa River (km 23)
  • 2:30 hrs - Tsocowis Creek (km 17)
  • 0:30 hrs - Orange Juice Creek (km 15)
  • 0:15 hrs - Darling River (km 14)
  • 0:30 hrs - Michigan Creek (km 12)
  • 4:30 hrs - Pachena Bay Trailhead / Bamfield (km 0) (including sidetrips to lighthouse and sea lion colony)

If you rather prefer to avoid the crowds and pitch your tent on a pristine beach, which is perfectly fine, put your food in a bag and pull it three meters above the ground in a tree branch using a rope. This way the black bears will not associate tents with food and you will help your fellow hikers. As said above: the plenitude of drift wood gives camping a touch of pleasure: apart from its use in makeshift housing and creating works of art, it’s great for making campfires and guarantees hours of blissful meditation against a background of ocean sounds.

The 75 km stretch is not completely void of civilisation. There are two not to miss opportunities for a beer: “Chez Monique”, famous for its cheeseburgers (it may be closed in the near future because Monique passed away recently), and the Nitinaht Narrows restaurant at the ferry landing, famous for its fresh crab and potatoes. In at least one spot you can lodge in a “comfort camp”, potentially a relief in bad weather.

Walking part of the trail is possible. Go to Nitinat Village (the West Coast Trail Express does this), visit the Trailhead office, take the ferry to Nitinat Narrows, walk either south to Gordon River or North to Pachena Bay. Advance reservations via Parks Canada is necessary.

Select some tracks
West Coast Trail, 92km

Opinions

Rate 9.0 | 2 votes | No 3. in Canada
  • Erdnussflip April 2011
  • Rate 10
  • Positive The best hike in my life!
  • Argysh May 2008
  • Rate 8
  • Positive feels quite remote, challenging and diversified terrain.
  • Negative too many "improvements" like plank walks and ladders. Getting the Permit is quite expensive.
More opinions…

Map

Hiking Map West Coast Trail

Books

The Book Depository
United Kingdom
Bol.com
Netherlands
  • The West Coast Trail
  • This life changing backpacking trip, on the West Coast Trail, begins with a wistful remark in a coffee shop and ends with a book full of belly laughs. The author takes us on the real life journey that challenges every part of himself and then sprinkles his book with enough insight and information to make the reader feel like they are on the... Read more
  • Also available from:
  • Bol.com, Belgium
» Click to open
Bol.com
Belgium
  • The West Coast Trail
  • This life changing backpacking trip, on the West Coast Trail, begins with a wistful remark in a coffee shop and ends with a book full of belly laughs. The author takes us on the real life journey that challenges every part of himself and then sprinkles his book with enough insight and information to make the reader feel like they are on the... Read more
» Click to close
The Book Depository
United Kingdom
  • Also available from:
  • Bol.com, Netherlands
  • Bol.com, Belgium
» Click to open
Bol.com
Netherlands
  • Hiking the West Coast of Vancouver Island
  • The rugged west coast of Vancouver Island offers some of the most spectacular and storied hiking in the Pacific Northwest. Home to the world-famous West Coast Trail, once a lifeline for marooned sailors and still among the most breath-taking yet demanding hikes on the continent, the island’s western shores also feature lesser-known coastal... Read more
Bol.com
Belgium
  • Hiking the West Coast of Vancouver Island
  • The rugged west coast of Vancouver Island offers some of the most spectacular and storied hiking in the Pacific Northwest. Home to the world-famous West Coast Trail, once a lifeline for marooned sailors and still among the most breath-taking yet demanding hikes on the continent, the island’s western shores also feature lesser-known coastal... Read more
» Click to close
The Book Depository
United Kingdom
  • Also available from:
  • Bol.com, Netherlands
  • Bol.com, Belgium
» Click to open
Bol.com
Netherlands
  • Walking Distance
  • Long-distance walking is good for you and good for the earth... But most of all, walking is a joyful celebration of life and the diverse, beautiful, and curious world in which we live. -from the Introduction Walking is simple, but it can also be profound. In an increasingly complex and frantic world, walking can simplify our lives. It... Read more
Bol.com
Belgium
  • Walking Distance
  • Long-distance walking is good for you and good for the earth... But most of all, walking is a joyful celebration of life and the diverse, beautiful, and curious world in which we live. -from the Introduction Walking is simple, but it can also be profound. In an increasingly complex and frantic world, walking can simplify our lives. It... Read more
» Click to close
Bol.com
Netherlands
  • Portrait of the Pacific Rim
  • Portrait of the Pacific Rim is a photographic tour of the awe-inspiring sights and activities on the far edge of Canada. The wild, raw beauty of the Pacific Rim is captured in dozens of colour photographs, as accomplished photographers Ole Hoyer and Wendy Snowdon share some of the gorgeous sights the west coast offers.Pacific Rim National Park... Read more
  • Also available from:
  • Bol.com, Belgium
» Click to open
Bol.com
Belgium
  • Portrait of the Pacific Rim
  • Portrait of the Pacific Rim is a photographic tour of the awe-inspiring sights and activities on the far edge of Canada. The wild, raw beauty of the Pacific Rim is captured in dozens of colour photographs, as accomplished photographers Ole Hoyer and Wendy Snowdon share some of the gorgeous sights the west coast offers.Pacific Rim National Park... Read more
» Click to close
Bol.com
Netherlands
  • Also available from:
  • Bol.com, Belgium
» Click to open
Bol.com
Belgium
» Click to close
Bol.com
Netherlands
2012
  • Kanada: West Coast Trail
  • Über 75 km verläuft der West Coast Trail auf Vancouver Island entlang einer einzigartigen, spektakulären Küste. Unter Trekkingfreunden ist der Trail berühmt-berüchtigt: Häufige Regenfälle, verschlammte Wege, steile Leitersysteme und dichter Urwald stellen Wanderer vor große psychische und physische Anforderungen. Dieses Buch informiert über... Read more
  • Also available from:
  • Bol.com, Belgium
» Click to open
Bol.com
Belgium
2012
  • Kanada: West Coast Trail
  • Über 75 km verläuft der West Coast Trail auf Vancouver Island entlang einer einzigartigen, spektakulären Küste. Unter Trekkingfreunden ist der Trail berühmt-berüchtigt: Häufige Regenfälle, verschlammte Wege, steile Leitersysteme und dichter Urwald stellen Wanderer vor große psychische und physische Anforderungen. Dieses Buch informiert über... Read more
» Click to close
The Book Depository
United Kingdom
  • Also available from:
  • Bol.com, Netherlands
  • Bol.com, Belgium
» Click to open
Bol.com
Netherlands
  • A Tale of Two Trails
  • It was the best of trails and the worst of trails. Each year, thousands of hikers from around the world make a pilgrimage to the West Coast Trail: a rough and tumble trail along the coast of Vancouver Island lurking with dangers and difficulties, home to hundreds of shipwrecks and rated as one of the most scenic trails in all of North... Read more
Bol.com
Belgium
  • A Tale of Two Trails
  • It was the best of trails and the worst of trails. Each year, thousands of hikers from around the world make a pilgrimage to the West Coast Trail: a rough and tumble trail along the coast of Vancouver Island lurking with dangers and difficulties, home to hundreds of shipwrecks and rated as one of the most scenic trails in all of North... Read more
» Click to close
More books…

Maps

Stanfords
United Kingdom
  • West Coast Trail & Carmanah Valley ITMB
  • West Coast Trail in the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve and the Carmanah Valley in the Carmanah Walbran Provincial Park on the western coast of Vancouver Island at 1:50,000 in a series of topographic survey maps of selected areas of British Columbia and the Canadian Rockies from ITMB with cartography from Canada’s national survey... Read more
  • Also available from:
  • De Zwerver, Netherlands
» Click to open
De Zwerver
Netherlands
  • Wandelkaart West Coast Trail & Carmanah Valley | ITMB
  • Gedetailleerde kaart van deze prachtige meerdaagse wandeltocht. Met alle noodzakelijke informatie als campsites, afstanden en gevaarlijke river- of strandpassages. Onmisbaar voor diegenen die deze tocht gaan doen! This is actually completely new artwork, thanks to ITMB’s relationship with the Canadian government’s mapping office. We have... Read more
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More maps…

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