Situated west of Victoria on Vancouver Island's southern coast, Sombrio Beach is a beautiful stone beach along the Juan de Fuca Trail, the West Coast Trail's southern sister, with easy access for backpackers and day users alike. Its broad expanse and well-developed amenities encourage visitors of all ages, and it is particularly notable on this stretch of the Circle Route for its good surf in fall and winter and a hidden waterfall.
Driving to Sombrio is just shy of two hours from Victoria. Driving northwest toward Port Renfrew, watch for a wide gravel area on your left-hand side shortly after you see the sign for Sombrio; there won't be a second sign or marker. If you see the sign for the Parkinson Creek Trail, you have driven too far and will want to turn around. The road down to Sombrio is not too long, approx 1.8 kilometers, but harsh coastal weather tends to create an abundance of potholes and often somewhat deep washes in the road where water was flowing.
Usually a wide variety of vehicles are seen in the parking area despite this. You should be able to navigate the road, but it will be up to you to decide what you may be willing to put your car through. Know your driving capabilities. The road is on a decline and has limited-visibility turns. It is not recommend to take trailers or RVs down. If you decide to turn away from the road, you could park up top or head to one of the easier to access beaches in the area such as China, French, or Sandcut beaches, which you will have seen signs for on your way to Sombrio.
The parking area is large yet usually busy, has two outhouses and recepticles for garbage and recycling, a bike rack, and trail information. There is a fee box available here if you wish to overnight camp on the beach. The cost is $10 per person per night, and you can stay anywhere! Be forewarned that the area is regularly checked and maintained by park rangers who walk down the beach, all the way, and enforce permits. Also, those who plan to park here overnight should know that prowlers often break into cars on the beach trailheads along the Juan de Fuca Trail. It may be wise to check in with locals in Port Renfrew.
There are four to five wooden tent platforms and a couple of bear boxes above the beach, which you will find at West Sombrio, to your right on the way down, across the suspension bridge. Taking your tent down to the beach in either direction is an incredibly spectacular alternative should these be full.
Sombrio Beach is also a popular area for surfers, so bring a board. Sombrio can further suit your needs whether it's for an easy, chill day at the beach lounging and exploring tide pools, or if you're into a more intense workout you can find access points to the Juan de Fuca Trail from the beach and spend a few hours hiking the rugged coast trail. You may even get to see otters playing on the shore or seals passing by. It's certainly not uncommon here, especially in the earlier hours of the day. Finally, stay awhile and plan to have dinner over a fire and enjoy a Sombrio sunset. Depending on the season, there may be a fire ban, and signs are posted at the trailhead to let you know. Fires should always be built below the tide line.
On East Sombrio, explore down the beach to find a hidden gem, a small slot canyon that leads to a hidden waterfall. Walk past the point until you discover water flowing from the forest across the beach to the ocean and head up!
If you visit while the tide is out and are able to navigate the wet rock, you will find another even more surreal waterfall pouring from up high over the cliff out into the ocean. Take great caution when crossing an area that will be cut off by the tide, know the tide times, and pay extremely close attention. This portion may not be family friendly.
There are more restroom facilities (pit toilets) located at the entrance to the beach and scattered around the area. From the beach, plan to pack out anything you bring in. The only receptacles available are in the parking area.
Always be prepared for mud, wildlife, changing weather and the tides anywhere in this area.