West Coast Trail

Outpost Travel Planner: The West Coast Trail, British Columbia  

By Irene Butler / Photo by Paxson Woelbe

The Outpost travel planner with the what, where, when, why and how of all things travel to B.C.s iconic West Coast Trail 

When To Go 

The West Coast Trail is open to visitors only from May 1 to September 30. During the winter season—when strong winds, heavy rainfall and high tides are common—the trail is closed and resources (shelters, firewood, hiker ferry services) are not available. In most cases, it takes six to eight days to hike the entire West coast trail.

Getting There 

Direct and connecting flights from most canadian cities leave daily for Victoria, while a stopover in Vancouver is usually required when flying into Nanaimo. West Coast Trail Express buses are an excellent alternative to driving. These shuttle buses provide service from Victoria and nanaimo and fares range from $55 to $80. Reservations should be made in advance.

Getting Around 

Explore the West Coast Trail by backpacking or hiking, but also consider that it’s a complex and challenging trek. Injuries and accidents can occur, as with all outdoor activities, and hikers are strongly encouraged to travel in a group.

The West coast trail is not recommended for beginners, trekkers under age 12 or those with recurring injuries. Considering it takes about six to eight days to complete the trail, packing the right supplies is a crucial step. Hikers should bring along a first-aid kit, waterproof tent, disinfecting and cleaning wipes, lightweight stove (it’s best not to rely on campfires) and food. All collected water should be filtered, and consuming bad seafood could result in paralytic shellfish poisoning (psp). Bears and cougars are prevalent, so remember to maintain a clean campsite where all of your garbage has been packed up, not buried or discarded around the area.

What to See and Do 

As one of three parts of the Pacific Rim National Parks system (the other two being long Beach and the Broken group islands), the West Coast Trail offers a wide range of remarkable features. These include both earth and marine wildlife, rainforests, beaches, astonishing scenery and rocky headlands.

A trail use permit is required by each hiker and there’s a 90-day registration window in effect. A definite challenge for hikers is the 29-kilometre section between Carmanah and Port Renfrew, which involves encounters with multiple forests, trees, bridges and streams along the way. There are two major river crossings that cannot be forded, the Gordon River in this section and the Nitinat Narrows near midpoint. Members of local Native communities often offer boat service. A majority of hikers start trekking at Port Renfrew, which eventually leads to Tsusiat Falls. This notable attraction (located about 25 kilometres from Bamfield) is the ultimate rest stop as hikers can swim in the pool below or take advantage of the waterfall.


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