Nootka Island Trail

Nootka Island Trail near Tofino, BC

This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars
30 kms
1 hour
Sea Kayaking, Hiking
Tofino, BC
User trailpeak
NTS Map:92E10. This is the trail everyone is raving about. We have some GPS points for you (see GPS Download), which you can use, however the donor (Lorenzo) claims that in very few places will you need GPS. However, there are a few tricky sections where one can get somewhat disoriented and most people find their way back onto the trail without much difficulty. If you look at the cut-out (below) from topo map 92E/10, you will see in the small overlay (overview) 4 other "dots" that represent this hiker's daily stopping point, marked on his GPS. The trail takes roughly 5 to 6 days and is tide dependent.

Pal Horvah also recently contacted trailpeak and offered his book to us in a greater effort to have this trail protected. The more people that visit and write letters of support in expanding the protected shoreline area the better, and trailpeak is glad to be a part of it. What follows literally is Pal's book. Pal has hiked and organized trail maintenance trips to this trail dozens of times, we hope you enjoy. Pal wants nothing in return other than your voice in protecting this trail. Enjoy!

The Nootka Trail; A Backpackers' Paradise

By Pal Horvath; Editor: J.


17 July 2004

The Setting

Remote wilderness, spectacular beaches, wildlife like wolves and whales can be found on the 35 km Nootka Trail, located on Nootka Island off the West Coast of Vancouver Island. {Editors note: Nootka Island is located at 49 degrees, 45 minutes North latitude by 126 deg 45 min. West longitude}


Occupied by natives for at least 4300 years. Spaniards were the first to see this place. Captain James Cook visited here in 1778 with two ships, the Discovery and the Resolution. Soon after, Friendly Cove became a hub for the sea otter fur trade. Captain Vancouver and Captain Quadra averted a war here between England and Spain (Hence Quadra Island?). In 1803 Nootka natives attacked the sailing ship Boston and all on beard were killed except the sailmaker and the blacksmith, John Hewit. They lived with natives for 2 years and Hewit wrote down their experiences. The book "White Slaves of the Nootka" published by heritage House is still available and is a first hand description of native life at the time.


Take the Ferry from Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo, drive north from Nanaimo to Campbell River and then take the island highway west to Gold River. This is your jumping off point. You then need to fly, boat, sail or kayak from Gold River to Nootka Island.

Your late May to early September trip can be done in three days but can also be enjoyed for as long as eight days. Access is by float plane, or boat. The best access is by float plane (Air Nootka, 250-283-2255) from Gold River and for interest, you may want to return via the Motor Vessel UCHUCK III (250-283-2325) back to Gold River. If you fly, have the pilot cruise the route so that you know where you are going.

You can also take a Water Taxi from Gold River to Friendly Cove. Pal says that the ideal is to fly there and sail back. From the 4th of July to the 12th of Sept the MV UCHUCK sails round trips on Wednesdays and Saturdays.


Nootka 92E10 topographical map covers the area. The trail is not shown on this map and is marked by hikers.

Degree of Difficulty

Moderate but due to remoteness and weather, it should be regarded as difficult. There is a community there called Friendly Cove.

Remote areas are fine until something goes wrong and then especially problematical if you need medivac or medicines or emergency treatment so keeping that in mind, there are things that you can do to be prepared. Marine Channel VHF radios would be best tuned to channel 16 or ship to ship channel 6. Cell phones do not work there. Its best to have some training in wilderness first AID and bring basic and any specialty medicines you need.

The Natives charge a fee to cross their land and also to see their historic materials in the local church (1-800-238-2933).


You can be wept away by a wave, or drowned in a rushing tide or eaten by a black bear or wolves, or poisoned by shellfish but these are very remote possibilities and you can be prepared for all of them by prevention and planning and care and hygiene and by good information. Take Tide Tables and keep a clean camp and eat foods with little aroma and store foods high in a tree and have respect for wildlife and find out when it is safe to eat shellfish (DFO-1-604-666-2828; Nootka Island is Area 25). If you are allergic to bee and wasp stings or anything else, take appropriate meds along. Do not feed the bears. Wet rocks and slippery logs can lead to falls, which can cause injuries. Be especially careful because evacuation is a difficult, time consuming activity and is very costly.

The Trip


In addition to the usual hiking paraphrenalia, take along lightweight plastic tarps, garbage bags, sandals or water socks for crossing creeks, rope for hanging food, a good wilderness first aid kit, repair kit, flares or VHF marine radio, water filter or purifier tablets, compass, topographical map ( 604-666-0271), tide book (Canadian Tide and Current Tables, Vol 6, Tofino Tide Tables) and zip lock plastic baggies. [It appears from Pal's book that parts of the trail require beach access dependent upon tide levels.]

Day 1 (45 Minutes walk)

The flight from Gold River to Louie Bay by float plane gives a preview of the trail and an opportunity to see whales and wildlife. You will be offloading in Louie Bay in knee-deep water so wear sandals and shorts. The hike starts on a well-used rough trail through old growth forest with tree diameters from 8 to 12 feet. A 45 minute walk gets you to Third Beach and it's a good place to camp for several nights if one wants to enjoy sandy shores.

Day 2 (2 choices)

One can laze around on the beach or make a 4 -6 hour hike to Tongue Point and a shipwreck. An option once there is to bushwack up North West Cone to visit the remains of an World War II radar station. A large antenna and some buildings are still standing and are accessible via an overgrown road and a 2 hour round trip hike.

On the West End of Third Beach is a marked trail, which in one hour takes you north-west to a narrow channel, which is passable at 6 foot or lower tides. Be there on a dropping tide! Walking on the West Side of the mud flats gets you in 1 hour to Tongue Point and the scattered remains of a 16000 ton Greek Freighter TREIS IERARCHI. All on board survived!

Get back to the narrows before the tide reaches 6 feet!

Day 3 (4-5 hours walk to Calvin creek)

Always plan to walk on a dropping tide! There are a few places where the tide could trap you against steep rock walls. At the East End of third Beach in the trees close to the creek is a rope marking the beginning of a trail around the rocky headland. With a very low tide it is possible to walk on the beach. From here on where the beach is not passable, look for floats and other markers hanging from trees and bushes marking the beginning of trails around the headlands.

In 4-5 hours one reaches Calvin creek. There is a well marked shelter on the North side of the creek that is handy if it rains. If a lot of water is coming down the creek, cross it close to the breakers where the flow spreads out. On the south side of the creek there is an entrance to campsites in the bush, but camping on the beach is preferable. This is the highlight of the trip, a 1.5 km long sandy beach and beautiful waterfalls.

Day 4 (Relax)

Hang around the beach, swim under the waterfalls or take a grueling hike via bushwacking to Crawfish Lake.

Day 5 (3-4 hours walk to Beano creek)

A beach walk on sorted sizes of gravels and rocks and deep carpets of seaweed.

Bajo Point is an Indian Reservation. Under the trees, middens and depressions are visible where the long houses once stood. This is private property and it is against the law to disturb or remove anything from middens and archaeological sites. This is not a good campsite and there is no drinking water. There is good camping at Beano creek. Plan to cross Beano creek at low tide.

Day 6 (3-4 hours walk)

About 1 km east from Beano creek, the beach ends in a dark canyon, where floats and rope mark the beginning of the trail. From here on, hiking is mostly on forested trails interrupted by interesting little beaches. One hour takes you to Callicum creek. In dry weather, this is the last source of fresh water until you are close to Friendly Cove. To be safe, take a 3-4 liter supply here.

About 200 m S.E. of Callicum Creek is a rock wall where a 6.5 foot tide blocks the beach. There is a trail around it but the beach route is easier. Fifteen minutes walk east of the rock wall will bring you to some large Cedar trees, one of which had planks removed by natives for their Longhouses.

Two possible campsites here, both of them on the beach. The first is more likely to have water. 1.9 km S.E. of Callicum creek is a creek coming out of a small lake with an island in it. Chances are that the creek will be dry at the beach. But a depression in the pebble beach washed out by the rains is visible. About 50 m past the depression, floats mark a short trail hopefully to some tea-colored water.

The other possible campsite is on the beach 30 minutes walk past the headland to the South. At the East end of the beach, just before the beginning of the next trail, look for the telltale depression of a seasonal creek, which is not on the map. Scramble over the driftwood where the bush has been cleared to expose water.

Day 7 & 8 (4-5 hours walk to Friendly Cove)

Two hours hike along a rough well marked trail takes you to Maquinna Point. Without packs it is only 10 minutes but the view is worth it. From Maquinna Point 700 m East is another side trail marked with floats going to a beach with 3 sea caves. Some are big enough to camp in. There is no drinking water but in a storm, these could keep you dry. One has two entrances so it is safe at any tide.

From Maquinna Point 2 km N.W. a saltwater river flows from a lagoon at a 4.5 foot tide. It is usually ankle deep. Storms may change the bottom, so plan to cross at low tide. At high tide, this is a great place to swim. If time allows, it is definitely worth the effort to walk up to the lagoon.

The next water source is a very small creek about 1.5 km east of the saltwater river. It never dries but is not on the map. It is marked by a solitary rock below high tide mark, standing 15 m high. There is also good camping on a clean pebble beach. Friendly Cove is only 1.2 km where a visit to the church is a must, to see the displays explaining the history of the area. After boarding the M.V. UCHUCK go straight to the food counter for a bowl of chili. The trip back to Gold River is a beautiful ending to a great adventure.


Park on the road close to the waterfront where Air Nootka and UCHUCK III are located.


There is no registration or fee for using the trail (please check to see if this is still the case). First Nation people do charge for crossing their land and for visiting the historic displays in the church. The amount is under revision. For information, call 1-800-238-2933.

Trail Advice


Black bears do occur there and they like to dig through decomposing seaweed piles, catch salmon and pick salal berries. Let them know of your presence in a non-aggressive way. Make noise as you walk the trails and keep your group together. They usually disappear into the bushes. When in doubt, chicken out. Always hang food in a high place away from camp. If a black bear stalks you for food, fight em with everything you have. Pepper spray works great but may be hard to get on the plane. Dogs are a bad idea on these trips since they may anger or elicit attacks from predators.

Toilets and Garbage

There are no toilets so bury your waste at least 10 inches under ground away from trails, campsites and water supplies. Pack your garbage out and burn cans to eliminate food odors. No trace camping please.


Light fires only on beaches away from driftwood and forests. If the forest is dry, do not use open fires at all.

Safety and Trailmarkers

Never travel alone. Take a buddy and share the fun and cut the risks. About 75% of walking will be on beaches and the rest is on well-worn and marked forest trails. Look for floats and other markers to mark the trails where the beach ends. Careful not to get diverted on game trails. Hikers maintain this trail system so please replace missing markers and do some small improvements if time permits.

What's nice about this trail, other than the spectacular scenery, is that the entire hikes consumes almost all of one 1:50,000 topo map, and you only have to buy one.

A general overview of the hike is also provided by the Federation of Mountain Clubs of Canada, on paper (604-878-7007), and we hope more people submit pictures and trip planning information here. We'll grow the Trailpeak resource into a trip guide, but we'll start with this humble beginning and a request to all of you out there to write in your comments, for any particular day on the hike. We'll piece it together and post the latest, so that you don't duplicate what someone else sends in.

There is GPS data attached to this trail (see "download GPS"), which if loaded into your GPS can help you find route points.


Nootka Island is located due West of Campbell River, and goes from Louie bay to Friendly Cove on the West Coast of Vancouver Island. Getting there involves either seaplane (from Tofino or Gold River), or passage on the MV Uchuck III, sailing from Gold River. See above directions from Pal Horvath and phone numbers.

Please check the bottom of the Description (above left; click) for the author's written directions.

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By thewightsPosted By: thewights  - Sun Jul 07 18:26:10 UTC 2019 This trail was given a rating of 4 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 4 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 4 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 4 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 4 out of 5 stars Upside Calvin Falls is worth the stop. The trail is very easy for the first 20 km. Camp at Friendly Cove on the last day. Your trail fees include one night. They have bathrooms and water available on request. The local band will provide a water taxi for $50. Contact them for information. Their water taxi is much more affordable than the resupply ship and sea plane. Downside Crowded at Calvin Falls. For privacy go further down the beach to the stream. The last 10km is the most challenging. Be prepared for a long technical hike. If hiking out don’t hike from Beano as it will take longer than you would expect. Hike past Beano to one of the more remote beaches. Be careful of the high tide mark as the highest tides are very high. Water is not available on most beaches past Beano. So make sure you get water prior to stopping.

Comment After Calvin Falls we didn’t see other hikers until the end. Many of the smaller beaches provide excellent camping. Some even have undocumented water sources but don’t count on them during the dry season. The inland hike was technical with many trees blocking the path. Watch for flagging tape as it is easy to start walking down the wrong path. Be prepared for climbing. The beginning of the trail is easy at low tide. Be prepared for pea gravel beaches. Friendly Cove has a great deal of historical significance. Visit the old church, check out the monuments in either side of the lighthouse. The old Spanish forte monument is very difficult to reach. The locals BBQ fresh salmon on the beach whenever tourists arrive on Saturday and maybe Sunday. There is also a master carver. You can expect to see wildlife and the locals mentioned a pack of wolves that didn’t seem too intimidated. Be prepared.
By 19dents80_rolfPosted By: 19dents80_rolf  - Tue Jan 31 21:45:40 UTC 2017 Not Rated Question Comments, thoughts, recommendations about hiking this trail in mid September?

ANSWERS are in this forum:   Nootka trail
By ruby23Posted By: ruby23  - Mon May 23 21:00:28 UTC 2016 Not Rated Question does anyone know if t is suitable to take a dog on the nootka island trail?

ANSWERS are in this forum:   nootka island trail
By Astro HikerPosted By: Astro Hiker  - Wed Sep 09 15:27:03 UTC 2015 This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars Upside Beautiful scenery and varied terrain make this hike interesting. Ends up in a historical native village too. Float plane ride in and boat ride out add to the excitement. Downside Like any west coast trail, you need to plan for rain. We were quite lucky in late August, though. But even without rain you need to expect damp. Comment This is a challenging hike. Everything a read about the trail in advance understated the challenges. The inland trails are classic west coast fare. Lots of ups and downs, roots, mud and logs. The majority of the hike is on the beach and the terrain varies between sand, pebbles, boulders, logs and plenty of kelp. As others have mentioned, there is little infrastructure on this trail so you are really roughing it. No outhouses, no shelters. Instead of ladders (like on the West Coast Trail) there are ropes to climb up and down. The most challenging is approximately 60 feet on a steep incline. Gloves, poles, rain gear and a sturdy set of boots are essential. I'd also recommend trying to make the hike when low tide falls mid-day to take advantage of the beaches for hiking wherever possible.
By pjgriffinPosted By: pjgriffin  - Sat Aug 08 18:14:24 UTC 2015 This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars Upside Great hike on varied terrain if the weather is good. Great chance to see a variety of wildlife without many human interactions. Downside Some days can be challenging based upon weather and tides. Comment I have a detailed description with photos plus updated GPS.
By phluchyPosted By: phluchy  - Wed Jul 15 09:04:24 UTC 2015 Not Rated Question Anyone hiked the trail recently? What's the drinking water situation?

ANSWERS are in this forum:   Nooka Island hike
By SLUGGER1964Posted By: SLUGGER1964  - Mon Jul 20 15:57:43 UTC 2009 Not Rated Comment $45 now to cross reserve. The land is in dispute and may be part of a land claims treaty. $45 is not a lot considering one may rely on Friendly cove for assistance in case of emergency
By BluefootPosted By: Bluefoot  - Sun Nov 25 18:13:18 UTC 2007 This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars Upside Not crowded at all. We saw only two other groups of two the whole time. Some very good camping areas along beaches. Nice places to play in the ocean surf. Magical old growth forest. Downside There are really no downsides (if you ignor the increasing access fee to the First Nations land at Friednly Cove) - its a great place. We got side tracked a few times on animal trails but not for long. Had I known, I would have brought a couple of roles of orange surveyor tape to mark some of the areas where we went astray. (I'll do that for sure next time.) Comment Did the trail mid July 07 over a casual six days. Fly in on Air Nootka to Louie Lagoon; 2 nights at Third Beach, 1 night each at Calvin Falls, Beano Creek, Bear Hang and Friendly Cove; and then ferry back to Gold River. Day two was spent day hiking and "treasure hunting" around pocket beaches north of Third Beach. Group found two glass fishing floats.

Lot's of wolf tracks, some bear and cougar tracks. The one (very large) bear we did see about two kms from Calvin Falls came on the beach behind us to forage at low tide and had absolutely no interest in us.

Rained for half the trip but that added to the fun and the ambience. Nootka's woods portion is more slugging at times than West Coast Trail because of the absence of ladders, boardwalks and log crossings. But the trail is half the distance and there is lot's of time on pebble beaches. The woods portion of WCT is easier, because of its man-made structures - but some of the shore walking is much trickier and very challenging. It's not a case of one trail being better than the other is though - they are both to be savored.

With the walk in from the seaplane drop at Louie Lagoon to the 3rd beach campsite being less than an hour - you can take some extra fixings for a nice dinner (or two - if you spend two nights there). Be sure to bring a couple of sections of good rope - no only for the food hangs but in case any of the ropes are missing or damaged on any of the short rock scrambles.
By MickeyDPosted By: MickeyD  - Tue Jul 17 17:31:43 UTC 2007 This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars Upside Just completed this trail July 2007. We saw very few people, a couple of black bears, and lots of wolf tracks. We also saw a grey whale 20 feet from shore giving himself a backrub on the pebbles...amazing! Downside We didn't find alot of info on the trail beforehand, though it turned out that it wasn't really necessary, as the route was fairly straighforward. Our trip was last minute, so we didn't have a chance to check out the book. Comment Plan to spend an extra day at Third Beach at the beginning of your trip, and an extra day at Calvin Falls. We were hiking during a record heat wave (temps hit 35 celsius) and it would've been nice to have more time to relax on the sandy beaches.
By altahikerPosted By: altahiker  - Wed Aug 03 01:54:40 UTC 2005 This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars Upside We had very good weather, saw lots of wildlife, and the arrangements to get on and off the trail were very easy. Comment To me this trail seemed much easier than the West Coast Trail.
By rjdale@shaw.caPosted By:  - Thu Dec 09 19:54:11 UTC 2004 Not Rated Comment see for some more info
By mgsuperk@yahoo.comPosted By:  - Wed Sep 01 03:01:32 UTC 2004 This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars Upside We did it around mid-August. Awesome weather. Relatively easy for experienced backpackers, very straight-forward walking on the beaches. Organize your version "Olympics" Games on the sandy beaches, Long Jump, Short Put, 100 feet dashes, relay, much fun !!!! Downside $40.00 trail fee is really discouraging at the end. A good tarp for the entire group is as much important as your personal rain gear. Comment My advice for other hikers. Start your day early, you can enjoy the coolness and avoid unforgiving sun, you can also see more wildlives before it gets too hot.
By trailpeakPosted By: trailpeak  - Sun Aug 01 21:46:35 UTC 2004 Not Rated Comment From Pal Horvath (trail mtc organizer for Nootka) ...

Some news from the Nootka Trail: Did a fair amount of work on the north end of the trail. Hikers should be advised that

the natives at Friendly Cove are now charging hikers $ 40.00 trail fee for hiking the trail. This is totally illegal as we hike on BC Crown land all the way to Friendly Cove where visitors are charged only $ 12.00 for walking on the Friendly Cove reservation. The extra $ 38.00 they say is for walking on their traditional territory, so they say.

Best regards, Pal Horvath
By gumPosted By: gum  - Tue Jul 20 02:32:32 UTC 2004 Not Rated Comment for additional (exhaustive) information visit:
By ckatoPosted By: ckato  - Fri Feb 13 16:58:01 UTC 2004 This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars This trail was given a rating of 5 out of 5 stars Upside We did this trail in july of 2003.Most enjoyable hike I have done.relatively easy hike.Great scenery.Not many people,and mostly beach hiking. Downside Cant think of a downside Comment If you go,Fly in from gold river,and return by the uchuck11 from friendly cove home to gold river.
By ckatoPosted By: ckato  - Fri Feb 13 16:53:54 UTC 2004 Not Rated

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