West Coast Trail

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The West Coast Trail is a gem of Canada. Located on the Far West Coast of Vancouver Island and part of Pacific Rim National Park, the trail makes its way through 75 km of rugged wilderness, rainforest, and along breathtaking beaches. The trail can be tackled from North to South starting in Bamfield, or South to North starting in Port Renfrew.

Massive tree root systems and large mud puddles dominate the Southern end of the trail, making progression very slow. However, starting from the Northern end of the trail makes covering more ground in a day feasible, even when packs are at their heaviest.

Every backpacker must begin their journey with an orientation at either of the trailheads. The Bamfield trailhead office is located only a few feet away from a beautiful bay and the session seems to pass by quickly in anticipation of the awaiting adventure. Updated wildlife and tide information is all part of the briefing to survive the next few days and for us, to avoid becoming the 9th evacuation of 2012.

The Northern end of the trail begins with either a choice (if the tides are right!) between forest trail and beach walking. Those that op for the forest start their journey by climbing ladders, while the beach route involves loose sand and traversing a few boulders, but the view along the coast is stunning. The first 10km of the trail are all within beautiful old growth forests and ‘living walls’ that are growing on the roots of overturned trees.

The days get shorter in distance as the terrain becomes like an obstacle course closer to Port Renfrew…over and under logs, through bogs, crossing gullies via fallen down trees, and the ladders! These are definite highlights of the trail:

  • Camping 20 feet from the beach every night, eating dinner with an endless view of the horizon and sunset, and falling asleep to the sound of waves crashing
  • On a lucky night with clear skies, having an endless view of the Milky Way
  • Having the choice to wade across rivers or pull yourself across the river in a cable car
  • Stunning ocean views from atop cliffs, looking up and down kilometers of endless coastline
  • Being surrounded by dense rainforest and old growth trees
  • Crossing the Tsusiat River above the falls, which looks like an infinity pool reaching out to the ocean before it cascades over the cliffs
  • Watching the waves crash while sitting adjacent to a waterfall, cascading over cliffs at Tsusiat falls and setting up tents along the rock face and among the drift wood
  • Navigating through an obstacle course of massive root systems, boggy swamps, over and under logs, and across boulders for the majority of the trail, getting completely covered in mud!
  • Trekking through the forest and wishing you had taken the beach or trekking along the beach, wishing you had taken the forest. An indication that the WCT should be hiked more than once!
  • Exploring the many tide pools and sea shelves along the beach sections of the trail
  • Meandering across the many variations of boardwalk along the trail, from degraded to recently replaced. Although beware, all board walks are ultra-slick and are guaranteed to take you down at least once!
  • Taking breaks on 100ft sets of ladders to take pictures of the spectacular scenery

The WCT is wilderness at its finest and an adventure that should be included on everyone’s bucket list.

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