Canada’s West Coast draws people in from far and wide. The lure of pristine forests, beautiful blue waters, diverse food options, wineries left, right and centre, and Adventures galore. But a stunning spot to get your West Coast fix is the multi-day backcountry West Coast Trail (WCT)- one of the top ten, worldwide, hiking spots!
What’s So Awesome About the West Coast Trail?
The WCT gives you a healthy dose of everything. Sitting at 75km length, this is the “granddaddy of all coastal hikes on Vancouver Island.” This incredible backpacking trail came to exist as part of the ancient paths and paddling routes, once used by first nations for trade and travel. You’ll get sandy beaches, sandstone shelving, beautiful boardwalks and dense coastal rainforest. From day one to day seven, you’ll be engaged and immersed in a hike that’ll leave you with amazing memories and experiences.
What Can You Expect on the WCT?
The West Coast Trail starts at Pachena Bay- about four hours from Port Renfrew. Everyone tackles the trail differently, but we’ll walk you through the way our Local, Sean, will guide you through the experience!
Born in Vancouver and raised in the UK, Sean spent his twenties travelling the world. He eventually found himself back in BC, living life as a Whistler ski bum. His passion for showing people around the places he knows and loves led him to opening West Coast Wonders. As an ACMG Assistant Hiking Guide and a wilderness first responder, Sean is ready to welcome you to British Columbia and introduce you to the wonders of the West Coast Trail.
The first day takes about 4-5 hours (14km) and will coax you into the rest of your journey as it is the easiest. Be ready to set up camp and have a deep, refreshing sleep at Darling River. Day two will bring you to Tsusiat Falls- a waterfall that pours directly onto the beach. Before arriving at your picturesque camp, you will make your first cable car crossing! Once at camp, be prepared to look out for whales migrating north to Alaska.
These first two days are a gentle warm-up preparing you for day three. At 17 kilometres, day three will bring you the longest day in terms of distance. According to Sean, this section of the hike also brings some of his personal highlights. “Don’t skip the fish lunch at Nitinat Narrows” he says, referring to a fresh lunch of salmon, cod or crab cooked by the members of the Ditidaht Nation. Finishing up the day at Dare Beach is also one of Sean’s favourite camping spots throughout the WCT. “Beautiful sand and an interesting sandstone breakwater make this an enjoyable place to spend the evening”, and after 17km on the trail, you’ll certainly be ready for this relaxing spot!
At this point in the trail you’ll have been peppered with natural beauty: forest, beaches, formations. But day four will bring you to the ‘hole in the wall’ natural arch. Your camping spot for the night will be on Walbran Creek, which also happens to be aperfect spot to take a quick, refreshing dip!
Day five is one of the tougher days on the trail. Although you might feel some physical strain, your sights will be fulfilled as you climb in and out of ravines on the infamous ladder section (10km, 4-5 hours of hiking). Clean-up and reset in Camper Bay at the end of the day! Another gorgeous site with a sweet spot to go for a swim.
The final two days are something to look forward to. Day six is one of the most interesting days of hiking, and another of Sean’s favourite sections of the trail, as it brings you onto the sandstone shelving around Owen Point. “It’s different to any other part of the trail, presents a few challenges and, again, is very scenic”. Hike past surge channels, sea caves and other geological delights, while preparing to clamber over boulders to your final sleeping spot on the trail: Thrasher Cove! Then it’s time for the final climb out of Thrasher Cove, through the rainforest and to the highest point on the trail. You’ll be at your hotel and having a well-deserved showered within an hour of taking your last steps on the WCT.
How Do You Prepare for the WCT?
How you prepare for a multi-day hike like the West Coast Trail will very much depend on your current experience. We asked our Local, Sean, to find out the answer and his advice did not disappoint.
On his first solo trip of the WCT he carried about 28lbs, including water.The lighter the pack, the easier your experience will be. Sean also brought his excitement for new trails which made every day an awesome day.
Hitting the trail now, his advice for first timers on the WCT depends largely on the experience of the Adventurer. If you’re already a backpacker, but not familiar with coastal hiking, then learning how to read tide tables would be beneficial. However, if you aren’t an experienced backpacker, try walking your packs around, with realistic weight in them, as often as possible (over uneven ground). He hits the nail home by repeating, “keep the final weight of the pack down as much as possible. Hiking with a lighter pack is so much easier than a heavy one.”
For more details on what to include in your pack, take a look at Sean’s recommended packing list. Parks Canada have also put together this comprehensive checklist to give you more guidance. They advise that “your pack should weigh a maximum of ¼ (women) to 1/3 (men) of your body weight.” If you’re short on any clothing or gear, stock up in advance using MEC’s handy checklist.
Take on the Challenge!
What are you waiting for? The West Coast Trail is ready to be traversed by you! Rain or sun, the WCT will not disappoint. You’ll make new memories that will last a lifetime. So call your friends, call your family, and get ready to hit the WCT.
Remember! You can book this Adventure through Sean who will provide everything you need, including transport to the trailhead from downtown Vancouver along with all the camping gear you’ll need throughout the trip. But book soon, because his September trip will fill up fast. You can find out all the details, the dates and message Sean directly through Yervana.
See you on the trail!
Planning a longer trip to Vancouver Island? Check out our guide to Victoria and Sooke, with local tips and highlights to enjoy before hitting the WCT.
WEST COAST TRAIL
Frequently named as being in the top ten hikes in the world it is one that shouldn’t be missed by any serious hiker or backpacker. Everyone should have this one on their list. The scenery and trail are varied, ranging from beautiful sandy beaches to sandstone shelving to slippery wooden boardwalks to dense coastal rainforest.
THE WEST CHILCOTIN TRAVERSE
This exciting multi-adventure trip is a 9 day exploration of the remote West Chilcotin mountains. Featuring two spectacular scenic floatplane flights, 6 days of backcountry backpacking and a grizzly bear viewing trip. Every day brings a new and exciting experience.