Why Canada’s West Coast Trail Is One Of Its Best (& How To Plan For It)

Quick links

  • The West Coast Trail – The breathtaking cemetery of the Pacific
  • Plan ahead and prepare for a challenging hike

For those looking for a great hiking trail on Canada’s stunning West Coast, one of the most spectacular and popular is the West Coast Trail (WCT). It runs around the southwest coast of Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada. British Columbia is known to have some of the most breathtaking and dramatic scenery in all of North America and there are many things to see and do.

The West Coast Trail is a multi-day backpacking trail through some of the island’s most famous backcountry. It’s a tough trail that can pose a challenge for even experienced hikers. Compared to America’s massive Pacific Coast Trail (something like the Appalachian Trail of the West), the West Coast Trail is on the short side—but it’s intense and very challenging.


The West Coast Trail – The breathtaking cemetery of the Pacific

The West Coast Trail was first built in 1907 to rescue shipwrecked people along the coast (the coast is part of the Graveyard of the Pacific). Today it is considered one of the best hiking trails in the world.

  • Length: 47 miles or 75 km
  • Location: Southwest Vancouver Island, British Columbia

The area has been inhabited by indigenous people for thousands of years and there were long routes used for trade and traveled well before European settlement. The area was the traditional territory of the Pacheedaht, Ditidaht, Huu-ay-aht and Nuu-chah-nulth peoples.

The European presence in the region began around 200 years ago, when foreign sailing ships first docked off the coast. Over the years there have been so many shipwrecks along the coast that the coast has come to be known as the “Graveyard of the Pacific”.

The trail begins near Barkley Sound at Bamfield and heads to Port Renfrew on Port San Juan Bay. During the days of the British Empire, Bamfield was the terminus of the All Red Line. The All Red Line was a system of electrical telegraphs that linked much of the British Empire and spanned the world linking Britain, India, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and back to Britain.

See Also: What to Expect When Visiting the Stunning Telegraph Cove on Vancouver Island, Canada

Plan ahead and prepare for a challenging hike

Hikers have to climb over 100 ladders with their backpacks. The trail has deep mud, mountain streams to ford, and sometimes the driving wind and rain of the wild west coast.

The trail is open seasonally between May 1st and September 30th. Reservations are required for the hike along the way, and reservations can be booked on the Parks Canada website. Hikers will need to plan ahead as spots fill up quickly and spots may not be available. Permits are only required for overnight hikers. Day hikers can use the trail for free.

  • Season: May 1st to September 30th
  • Closed: October 1st to April 30th
  • Reservations: Necessary

The trail passes through forests, bogs and beaches and sometimes requires abseiling. Hikers are greeted with mature trees, waterfalls, pebbly beaches, exposed boulders, and lots of mud. Parts of the beach can become impassable at high tide.

Parks Canada provides all hikers with tide charts and maps before they embark on their epic hike.

Although the trail is only 47 miles long, it typically takes hikers around seven days to complete the West Coast Trail. Around 6,000 people complete the trail every year.

The West Coast Trail is closed during the winter season due to prolonged periods of high winds, high takes, short days and high winds.

Related: See Bears & More in the Great Bear Rainforest. Here’s how to get there

West Coast Trail fees

The maximum group size is 10 people. There are a number of fairly basic campsites along the route and hikers are advised to start the trail at least five hours before sunset to get to the first campsite before nightfall. There are no services along the trail, so hikers must take everything they need with them.

West Coast Trail Fees:

  • Overnight permit: 136.00 CAD (103 USD) – per person per trip
  • Reservation Fee: $25.75 CAD ($20) – Per person

In addition, there are entrance fees for the national park (usually around 10.50 CAD).

Ferries are required to get to the trailhead. The ferry fees are:

  • Gordon River Ferry: $24.00 CAD ($19.00 USD)
  • Nitinaht Ferry: $24.00 CAD ($19.00 USD)
  • Water Taxi Fee: $62.50 CAD ($47.00 USD)

Total fees are expected to be approximately CAD 200 – CAD 250.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *