What to Expect on the West Coast Trail, BC - Trail Conditions
The West Coast Trail along the western shores of Vancouver Island, BC is a spectacularly beautiful and remote wilderness trek in Pacific Rim National Park. If you decide to hike the West Coast Trail, expect to see the rugged beauty of nature along the thin strip of land where the rainforest meets the sea.
The trail follows the coast along the foot of the Pacific Coast Mountains where the open Pacific Ocean meets the Canada's western shores. You hike and camp amongst some of the oldest and only remaining temperate rainforest in the world.
Expect to Create Great Memories on the West Coast Trail
Here's what you'll encounter on this epic hike in British Columbia:
- Hike amongst the largest & tallest trees in the world. Some of these Douglas fir, Cedar & Hemlock are over 400 years old.
- Witness some of the unfortunate shipwrecks that made this trail necessary in the first place (the West Coast Trail was formerly known as the Dominion Life Saving Trail). The Graveyard of the Pacific claimed over 60 ships (and hundreds of lives) along this coast. You can stil see some of the wreckage in the off-shore waters.
- View the beauty of the coast that was carved by the Pacific Ocean. You'll see surge channels, caves, coastal shelves, gorges and waterfalls. The pristine beauty changes as frequently as the tide.
- Walk along the secluded sandy beaches, rugged shores and intertidal zones where the land meets the sea. Even when the trail is full with the maximum number of hikers, you'll enjoy the rugged beauty in solitude.
- Learning to read the tide table for the West Coast Trail isn't hard. Use good judgement so you don't get caught by the rising tide.
- Challenge yourself physically & mentally. You'll be self-sufficient for at least 6 days. Hike at your own pace and endure the fiercest weather in Canada (outside for the Arctic of course).
- Expect the extremes along the West Coast Trail - extreme natural beauty, extremely friendly hikers as well as EXTREME storms, rain, mud and ladder-climbs.
Other Things to Expect on the West Coast Trail
Here are a few things that can not be stressed enough:
- The trail is not a nice, flat groomed trail. It's rough and slippery and pitted with THICK tree roots. Expect to fall at least once.
- Parks Canada warns that the trail is strenuous and difficult and beginner or novice hikers should not attempt it. However, we found plenty of 'out-of-shape' people on the trail who were successfully going at their own pace. They had the right attitude of excitement, joy and determination. We would suggest having a moderate fitness level to hike the West Coast Trail, but you don't have to be in peak physical condition.
- Mud, mud & more mud! The region receives over 3 meters (11 feet) of rain annually. Even in autumn, expect to find HUGE, deep mud bogs on the path.
- The good news is that there are very few mosquitoes on Vancouver Island since there's so much salt water around. However, for those who are squeamish, be warned that there are large slugs & spiders in the rainforest. They keep to themselves but don't be surprised if you squash one with your hand on a ladder.
- Expect some rain and even a storm. The open Pacific Ocean is just offshore.
- Bring a pair of cycling or workout gloves. They come in handy for the ladders.
- When crossing ravines on horizonal logs (with no handrails), don't stop to think that if you fell 4 meters (13 feet) to the rocky bottom that it would take hours for the rescue personnel to get to you. Ignorance is bliss.
- We encounter warm bear poop on the trail... the fact that it was still warm was troubling. Always make lots of noise because black bears could be around the next corner, and there are plenty of corners and hills on this trail.
- Bring dehydrated & powdered meals that you can digest properly. And bring more toilet paper than you expect to use.
View Hiking the West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island in a larger map
You wouldn't expect so many extremes when hiking the West Coast Trail - extreme beauty, trees, mud, rain & storms. But the friendly hikers and the great campfire conversations are the best memories of all.
Get more insider tips on Canadian Adventures at Scenic Travel Canada.