West Coast Trail, Pacific Rim National Park, B.C.

West Coast Trail, Pacific Rim National Park, B.C.

West Coast Trail Overview

The West Coast Trail is one part of the Pacific Rim National Park, in British Columbia, Canada. The trail consists of a 77km (47 mile) long backpacking trail that takes you from Port Renfrew at the southern end of the trail to Bamfield, at the northern terminus. The trail is oft-referred to as North America's most difficult backpackign trail, and takes most hikers 6-7 days to complete. One source has rated it as the Best Hike in the World (besthike.com). Many daytrippers hike out and back from the north end, as the south end involves a ferry/river crossing that has to be scheduled, and is not free.

The trail was originally constructed as a telegraph line was installed to connect the lighthouses that were constructed, all in attempts to reduce the number of shipwrecks along the Strait of Juan de Fuca. This area was referred to for quite some time as the Graveyard of the Pacific. The trail fell into disuse after another lighthouse was built and sonar was developed for ships during WWII. The trail was more or less abandonded after 1954 despite protest from some volunteer groups. It was eventually included in the National Park, and was more or less reopened for use in 1980.

As you hike, you pass through temperate rainforest, sandstone cliffs, waterfalls, caves, sea arches, sea stacks and beaches. You have to navigate ladders, cable cars, river crossings, ferries, beach hiking, tides, boardwalks, difficult terrain, and plan on it raining. You might also have the opportunity to see different wildlife, including black bear, mountain lion, wolves, mink, raccoons, mice (which posed our biggest camping problem), as well as sea life: many species of whale, sea lions, seals, and lots of birds. Other hazards include rogue waves, high tides, storms, surge channels, exposure to falls, hypothermia and heat stroke (depending on the weather), severe storms & weather, and challenging terrain.

You must make reservations to hike the trail, as the number of users is extremely limited. They also have a "stand-by" option for people who are willing to wait at the TH for the people who don't show up for their reservation. When you arrive, you pay your fee, sign some papers, and watch a video concering the trail, mostly how if you get hurt you're on your own, as there are very few ports, and almost zero places to be evacuated by helicopter, assuming you can get (very spotty) cell phone coverage. Bushwacking inland to find a road is also not an option.

Sources for more info:


Parcs Canada

Part 1 map

Part 2 map

Blisters and Bliss - a hiking guide to the WCT



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