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Pets allowed
Not Allowed
Elevation Gain
0.00 ft (0.00 m)
Trail type
Shuttle
Distance
75.00 km (46.60 mi)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

Stretching for 75 kilometers (50 miles) through pristine temperate rain forest and beaches, the West Coast Trail is easily one of, if not the, premier long-distance beach hikes in the world. Every May through September, hikers from all over to globe migrate to the remote beaches of Western Vancouver Island, British Columbia, to hike this trail and see its wonders. The WCT is gaining popularity and has become Canada’s most expensive (and heavily permitted) trail, so proper planning and funds are necessary to take part in this hike. And then there is the traveling. If you are fortunate enough to live in the Pacific Northwest, a trek out to the WCT may not be too much of an ordeal; but if you are coming from anywhere east of the far western states, just getting to the WCT trailhead is an adventure. Simply put, hiking the WCT is not cheap, requires a lot of planning, and will take well over a week of your time altogether, so you have to be determined to hike this trail. One out of every 100 hikers has to be evacuated off of the WCT because they come unprepared for the incredibly diverse and difficult hiking conditions found in the coastal Vancouver Island rainforests and beaches. That being said, a trek down this trail will be a hike you will take to the grave, so do whatever you have to do to get to Vancouver Island!

The WCT stretches from Bamfield to Port Renfrew, British Columbia, and it is unique because it traverses wild and pristine coastline. In the Lower 48 there are only two places where you can even come close to a wild coastal experience like this: the Lost Coast of California and the Olympic South Coast of Washington. Because of this, it is likely that most people venturing onto this trail have never done any real beach hiking.

Lets start with the ladders. There are tons of cliffs and very steep slopes on this trail, and the only real way to get up these wet cliffs is to climb a ladder. Lots of ladders, actually. Over 30. Steep, wet ladders are definitely a unique challenge and greatly slow down the average hiking pace. Hiking on the beach, which takes up about half of the trail, is the preferred way to travel, but it is not always easy. Of course, there are stretches of beach that are just perfect for walking, but don’t expect that. Beach walking is sandy, with each step sinking in, making travel slow. During low tide, walking through tidal pools is beautiful but very slippery. There is a section on the last day, from Point Owen to Thrasher Cove, that features boulder hopping on wet rock, which is treacherous to say the least. And then there is the trail through the forest. There are many sections of trail that are perfect for foot travel, including boardwalks that continue for several kilometers at a time! Other portions of the trail consist of smooth dirt and beautiful old-growth forest. Pure bliss. But then there are hellish sections that no doubt cause some hikers to call for evacuation off of the trail. Hiking south, once you cross Walbran Creek, the trail really changes. Old, disintegrated boardwalk makes walking treacherous and feel like Russian roulette. Which board will break on you? You will encounter mud puddles that are thigh deep with only wet, greasy roots to cross on. There are constant roots that need to be walked on, kilometer after kilometer after kilometer. It is easy to wonder when your ankles will give out! Parks Canada suggests that in those sections of difficult trail, the typical hiker hikes at about 1 kilometer per hour, which is quite slow.

Typically, this trail is hiked in six days and five nights. It can be done faster, but why? This is a really unique and beautiful trail, so it is best to enjoy it and avoid hiking literally all day every day. There are many established campsites on the WCT, which are marked by buoys hanging on trees. You won’t miss them. Kilometers are marked on this trail (usually), so you will know when you are approaching a site. Each site is on the beach, has a beautiful view, and an outhouse. Do not expect to ever have a campsite to yourself; you can either take shared camping opportunities to talk with fellow hikers or just walk a few minutes down the beach from the campsite and camp in peace.

As for wildlife, this place is wild! The forests and beaches surrounding the WCT have wildlife in abundant numbers. Wolves, mountain lions, and bears are the top three predators of the area, and you will see signs of them everywhere. Almost every mud puddle has a large print nearby.

As you can imagine, the weather on the WCT is wet. The nickname for the trail is the "Wet Coast Trail." Before hiking this trail, you have to be mentally ready for six days of rain. It is just that part of the world. The abundant rain means that the forest is impossibly lush and water sources are plentiful. Bring full rain gear, a good tent, and maybe even a lightweight tarp, and you will be just fine.

The WCT has two trailheads: The northern end starts near Bamfield, and the southern end in Port Renfrew. While this trail can be hiked in either direction, it is typically easiest to hike from north to south, leaving your car in Port Renfrew and using a shuttle service (there are two) to get from Port Renfrew to Bamfield. By doing it this way, you will end at your car, which can be left in a secured lot (a burned down house) in Port Renfrew. Hiking south also gives you the benefit of completing the hardest part of the trail toward the end, when your backpack will be lightest.

Backpacking the WCT is not for everyone. The ideal hiker is in good physical shape, comfortable hiking on wet and slippery surfaces for days on end, and is on good terms with being in the wet and wild coastal wilderness for six days. The ideal hiker can carry a backpack loaded with six days worth of food and clothes, is comfortable getting muddy, can climb and descend ladders, and camp in serious predator country. There is so much more to this trail than can be mentioned in this description. If you are serious about hiking the WCT and want to know more, feel free to get in touch. Good luck!

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Summer

Congestion

Moderate

Parking Pass

None

Open Year-round

No

Open from

May 01 to September 15

Days

6

Pros

Amazing views. Big wilderness. Unique hiking.

Cons

Crowded campsites. Frequent rain.

Highest point

850.00 ft (259.08 m)

Features

Near lake or river
Backcountry camping
Waterfalls
Wildlife
Big vistas
Big Game Watching
Potable water
Cave
Bird watching
Old-growth forest
Lighthouse

Typically multi-day

Yes

Permit required

Yes

Permit self-issue on site

No

Location

Field Guide

Nearby Adventures

Vancouver Island Pacific Rim, British Columbia
Vancouver Island Pacific Rim, British Columbia

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