• Rick McCharles

Trail Report: West Coast Trail

besthike.com is a website dedicated to recording the best hikes, trails, and tramps in the world. They're an excellent resource for hikers planning trips or going to unfamiliar locations, giving all the details you need for a successful hike. We especially love their top 10 lists, they're a great starting point for exciting hikes all over the world! -Victoria

AT A GLANCE

  • 75 km (47 mi), 5-7 days traditional route

  • 3-5 day routes possible via Nitinat

  • southwestern edge of Vancouver Island

  • Pacific Rim National Park

  • open May 1 – September 16

  • NO permit required September 16-30 (recommended)

  • NO permit required May 1 – June 14 (risky)

  • extremely rugged, requires a high level of fitness

  • 6,000+ backpackers / year

  • permits limited and in high demand — WCT Trail reservations

  • … most expensive hiking permit in Canada

WHY WE LIKE THIS HIKE

  • #1 on our top 10 hikes in the world

  • it’s a near perfect hiking experience in pristine Canadian wilderness

  • very careful Trail management

  • on no other trek have we taken as many photos

  • mystic dawns and mind-blowing sunsets

  • pretty beaches, cool caves, hidden pocket coves, weird cliffs and coastal geology

  • WCT is in a well protected National Park, but access is easy from Victoria or Vancouver

  • it’s challenging — though 99% of those who start (somehow) finish

  • evacuation in case of disaster is efficient

  • thrilling boulder and log walking between Thrasher & Owen Point

  • scrambling up slippery Sandstone Creek

  • playing at Hole in the Wall

  • impossibly situated, gorgeous Tsusiat Falls

  • walking impressive old growth forest

  • share the trip with whales, sea lions, mink. Maybe bear and cougar. Or even wolves!

  • ship wrecks and other historical artifacts

  • cable cars and ladders can be “fun”

  • campfires below the tide line

  • no biting insects

  • excellent hiking guidebooks available

  • optional side-trip up to see the Canada’s tallest tree, the Carmanah Giant, at 95.836 m (314 ft)

  • fun (optional) boat trips connecting the Bamfield trailhead

CONSIDERATIONS

  • quota system limits the number of people

  • get the 24 hour emergency phone number from Rangers. Use that only. Not 911.

  • some cell phones work on the beaches. A safer option is a marine VHF radio.

  • hikers have died on the West Coast Trail

  • rogue waves and surge channels pose the greatest risks

  • this is not a good hike for those who have never done a long multi-day trip

  • though the WCT is improved a little each season, it is still tough

  • slippery footing causes almost everyone to fall multiple times

  • few finish this adventure pain-free

  • you must carry your own heavy pack

  • you may need to climb as many as 50 HUGE ladders

  • miserably exposed, rain and wind is the norm. You need a good tent.

  • can you handle 6 inches of rain in 12 hours?

  • summer highs around 14C (57F)

  • risks of both hypothermia and heat stroke

  • river crossing are normally no problem

  • food is available to purchase about half way through at km 44.5

  • bring rope to hang food away from bears

  • more bear-proof food caches have been added in recent years

  • footwear is critical. Most carry at least 2 pairs of trusted walking shoes, one suitable for water.

For more logistics, resources, and information about how to make your own West Coast Trail trip, click here for the rest of the article!

#trailreport #canada #pnw

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