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Trekkers on the beach just south of the Carmanah Lighthouse.

The West Coast Trail is a 75 kilometers (47 miles) long backpacking trail following the southwestern edge of Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada. It is open from May 1 until September 30. The trail is part of the Pacific Rim National Park. The trail has been rated the best hike in the world by since 1999.[1]



One of many ladder series on the trail.

The region now covered by the West Coast Trail passes through the traditional territory of the Pacheenaht, Ditidaht and Huu-ay-aht people, Nuu-chah-nulth peoples, who have inhabited the area for over 4000 years.[2] Native trails, used for trade and travel, existed in the area prior to European contact, and the current trail passes through numerous Indian Reserves.

European use of the trail area was originally for the construction and maintenance of a telegraph line between Victoria and Cape Beale. Because of the high number of shipwrecks along this stretch of coast in the late 1800s (see Graveyard of the Pacific), the Pachena Point Lighthouse and the Dominion Lifesaving Trail were constructed. 2007 marks the 100th anniversary of the trail.

The trail allowed shipwreck survivors and rescuers to travel the forest making use of the telegraph line and cabins. In 1973, the trail became part of Pacific Rim National Park and has been continuously upgraded


Hikers can choose to begin the trail in Port Renfrew and travel north, or in Bamfield and travel south. The southern parts of the trail are far more challenging than the flatter kilometers in the north. An overnight permit must be purchased by the hiker who wishes to complete the trail from beginning to end; however, individuals are permitted to visit during the day at no expense.

The trail itself winds through forests, bogs and beaches. It passes old growth trees, waterfalls, streams and thick patches of deep mud. Along the coast, the trail includes sand and pebble beaches, headlands, and exposed shelf and boulders at low tide. The trail often diverts inland to avoid dangerous surge channels and impassable headlands, where cliffs descend straight into the sea even at low tide. Designated campgrounds along the way feature "Bear Boxes" for safe storage of food, an outhouse and usually a stunning view of the Pacific Ocean and Olympic Peninsula. Often, there are two choices, the inland route or the beach route. The beach sections can be made impassable by high tides; tide tables are issued with maps by Parks Canada staff to all hikers prior to starting the trek.

The trail is still extremely rugged and requires a high level of fitness, knowledge and skill to complete. To cross some rivers and streams, hikers must ride cable car suspensions, others are bridged only by fallen logs. There are two waterways that require a boat to cross: the Gordon River, at the southern trailhead, and the Nitinat Narrows, near the midpoint of the trail. A ferry service is operated by the local First Nation and the cost is NOT included in the trail permit. The trail includes some three dozen ladder structures, some of them 30 feet (9 m) high, the tallest ladder structure being 52 stories high, that hikers must ascend or descend. Hikers usually take an average of 7 days to complete the trip, though it has been run in a single day[2].

There are two locations on the trail where food can be bought; the ferry operator at Nitinat Narrows at km32 has fresh seafood (2009: $20 crab, $25 salmon plus potato), and Chez Monique's (2009: $15 plain burger, $20 loaded burger), on the beach just south of the Carmanah Lighthouse, sells burgers. Both locations also sell beer and snacks; prices are somewhat above prices in the outside world.

You can start or finish your hike at certain points and arrange to be picked up by the trail bus, Water Taxi or by float plane. Juan De Fuca Express Water Taxi[3] makes daily voyages along the Trail with stops at each end. A minimum of 4 hikers are required. Salt Spring Air fly in and out of the trail most of the season.


A view of the rough Pacific coast from the West Coast Trail.

Wildlife that can be encountered include cougars, bears, wolves, orcas and gray whales, seals, sea lions, and eagles. There are also abundant tidal pools on the beach portions, where hikers can see a variety of molluscs, sea anemones, and fish. Hikers are told how to react to possible encounters with dangerous animals (cougars, bears, wolves) at the mandatory orientation session prior to starting the trail.

During certain times of year, there is the possibility of encountering seal pups on the beach; the pups should not be approached, as the mother may then abandon the pup. All wildlife on the trail should only be viewed from a safe distance.

Winter 2006/2007 damage

In January 2007, it was revealed that intense storms during the previous weeks had severely damaged the trail. The full extent of the damage was not initially known, but an estimated 3,000 trees had been downed, a bridge and cable car were destroyed, and a serious landslide at kilometre 12 was discovered.[3] In March, $500,000 in extra funding from the federal government was announced to assist with the cleanup.[4] Park staff were initially optimistic that the trail would open on May 1 as normal, but delays in rebuilding work pushed the opening to May 15. [5] The trail now features many rebuilt walkways, ladders, and bridges that were destroyed by the storm.

See also


  1. ^ #1 best hike in the world is … | - the blog
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ "West Coast Trail littered with trees". CBC News. 2007-01-16. Retrieved 2007-01-17.  
  4. ^ "Extra money for Pacific Rim National Park cleanup". CBC News. 2007-03-05. Retrieved 2007-03-15.  
  5. ^ "Damage cleared; West Coast Trail opens to hikers". Victoria Times Colonist. 2007-05-14. Retrieved 2007-05-23.  

External links



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