Hike the West Coast Trail (Vancouver Island, BC)
The West Coast Trail is located on the Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada and is one of the most challenging long-distance hike and backpacking trails in the country. It’s the third and southern most section of the pristine Pacific Rim National Park and is considered one of the best multi-day adventures in the world and possible the best hike in Canada.
Stretching for more than 75 kilometers, the West Coast Trail weaves along the rocky and rugged shores from Bamfield, BC to Port Renfrew on the western shores of Vancouver Island. This is a remote location about 2 hours from the capital city of Victoria, BC and is exposed to strong winds and surging tides. Under the protection of Parks Canada, the area is home to some of the oldest trees in the world and is a haven for cougar, black bear and hundreds of species of birds on the Pacific Flyway. Just offshore, migrating Orca and humpback whales feed in the fertile waters.
Thousands of hikers from all over the world come to experience the nearly untouched area and to camp under some of the last remaining ancient forests of the world. To limit the amount of damage to the BC ecosystem, Parks Canada
The trail is opened from May 1 to September 30. It’s recommended to attempt the hike in September when the summer crowds thin out and the weather is warm and dry.
Hiking the West Coast Trail is hard but not too difficult to complete. In sections, people will be pushed to their physical limits as they encounter:
- towering ladders that take you down deep gorges and up the other side.
- thick, lush forests with trees wider than cars.
- deep creeks and trenches that you’ll cross on fallen logs with no handrails.
- endless sandy beaches with the mighty Pacific surf at your footstep.
- rocky coastal shelves teaming with sea creatures in the intertidal zone.
- unobstructed gale-force winds that blow ashore during a Pacific storm.
- mud, oh the mud, deep and thick and unavoidable on the trail.
View Backpacking the West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island in a larger map
The West Coast Trail was cut through the wilds more than a century ago to help rescuers reach survivors from the numerous shipwrecks that occurred in the Graveyard of the Pacific. Over 60 ships met their demise off the west coast of Vancouver Island and the fortunate survivors who reached land followed the Lifesaving Trail to safety. Today, it’s known as the West Coast Trail and is one of the best outdoor adventures in Canada.
The West Coast Trail can be hiked in either direction. The northern end is easy for the last 5 kilometers while the south end is twisty, muddy and filled with tree roots and steep sections. Hiking during the off-season is not recommended because of bad trail conditions, heavy storms and a lack of readily available rescue personnel.
The West Coast Trail BC is open daily during the regular season and can be reached at 1-250-728-3234.
Get more insider tips on Canadian Adventures at Scenic Travel Canada.