NTS Map:92C14, NTS Map:92C11, NTS Map:92C10, NTS Map:92C9. The West Coast Trail (WCT) is one of the holy grails for hikes in the Pacific Northwest. The trail stretches 77 km between Port Renfrew and Bamfield. The trail has a unique combination of qualities: the marine life of Pacific Ocean, Carmanah rainforest, beach camping, and last but not least the chance to interact with hikers from all over the world.
The West Coast Trail is a unique experience for everyone. Below I'll provide a narrative of my own experience, and then I'll have a list of some of the references we have used.
Day 1 (Port Renfrew - Thrasher Cove) Our seven day trip began on the south end of the trail. The day before we stayed in the hostel in Victoria, and then took the WCT Express private shuttle to the trailhead. Once we got off the bus, a short 10m dash proved to be very worthwhile - we got the last four standby spots of the day. I have to say sorry to the other two on the bus, but only the early birds get the worm!
So with our 40 lb packs we started the long-anticipated hike. The first day was relatively uneventful. One highlight was the relic donkey engine. We passed by the rusted beast and fiddled with some of the levers, then decided we didn't know what we were doing. The rest of the day was mostly complaining about the heavy chocolate puddings we brought, and worrying about fellow hikers catching up to take all good campsites. It turned out there were about 20 tents at Thrasher that night anyway.
Day 2 (Thrasher Cove - Owen Point - Camper Bay) We had an early start in the morning to head for Owen Point, which turned out to be my personal high-point of the trip. Around Owen Point was a land filled with strange sandstone formations, which someone named aptly as "moonscape". Often, inside the holes were tidal pools that were the habitat to a zillion tiny life forms, including; sea urchin, crabs, fishes, sea weeds, etc. And of course there were also the bigger sea stacks, caves, and surge channels. Sights that drew 'woo' and 'waa' from me who spends most of my life on firm ground.
Day 3 (Camper Bay - Logan Creek) Day three was our official ladder day. Those scary pictures in the WCT reference books were coming to life in vivid detail - ladder after ladder of many steps. Definitely not for the faint of heart, or else bring your son to carry your pack; that was one lady's solution. At the end of the day, we camped at Logan Creek. A quiet place with a splendid view of the ocean.
Day 4 (Logan Creek - Carmanah - Cribs) The day after ladders was the day of boardwalks. Lately the park office had done a marvellous job in upgrading these planks. There were also plenty of beach walks to be had. The sound of crashing waves and numerous treasures scattered on the sand could stray anyone off the main trail for hours. Of course the day is not complete without a visit to the best-known secret on the trail - a hearty burger meal at Chez Monique's, a restaurant opened by a friendly woman (with good business sense too) in the Indian reserve area.
Day 5 (Cribs - Cheewhat - Nitinat Narrows - Tsusiat Falls) Today we walked from Cribs through Cheewhat, which in native means "urine" and yes, I can assert that the river did taste odd, through to Nitinat Narrows. The area is mostly reserve lands. At the narrows, there is another local guy named Carl that took us to the other side with his motorboat. Carl also sold dungeness crabs at $12 ($30 in Victoria), which was probably one of the most fresh and delicious seafood meals I've ever eaten - straight out of the sea!
Day 6 (Tsusiat Falls - Tsucowis) We spent the morning lying around Tsusiat Falls, the most popular campsite along the trail. Here we saw the wide curtain-style waterfall meeting the ocean, and best of all, we are camping right next to it. Some of us took the opportunity to wash ourselves clean and others went to see the "Hole-in-one", a big stone arch carved out by the ocean. Far away, there were also plenty of whales swimming and they often squirt water out of their breathing hole or flap their tails. And don't forget to check out the classic outhouse at Tsusiat!
Day 7 (Tsucowis Creek - Bamfield trailhead) The seventh and last day of the trip and it was still sunny like all the other days. The last day was a race-against-time trail speed walking race to try to catch the shuttle back to civilization. The difficult task is made worse by the fact that we tried to solve our hunger problem by eating all the freeze-dried food left--not good for the stomach. But we did make the bus and then made the ferry, and caught the second bus to downtown Vancouver. Nothing now seemed impossible to us who had just completed this awesome trail.
There is GPS data attached to this trail (see "download GPS"), which if loaded into your GPS can help you find route points.
To get to and from the trail, it seemed most sensible to use private shuttle. They are expensive, but shuttling by yourself is difficult because of the long distance involved. Hitchhiking is also an option, but there wasn't much traffic on these roads.
Reservations are recommended for the trail. However, my personal experience of standby is fine too, especially if you are unsure of the dates. You have to be flexible and be able to wait a few days, but at the end, you will get a spot. This being said, there were still stories on the trail where people have waited for a week with no luck.
Finally, I'll provide a breakdown of the costs and a few of the reference books we have used.
$ 2.50 Bus fare to Twassawan $ 10.00 BC-Ferry From Twassawan to Swartz Bay $ 2.50 Bus fare From Swartz Bay to Downtown Victoria $ 20.00 Youth Hostel in Victoria $ 5.00 Breakfast in Downtown Victoria $ 35.00 Shuttle from Victoria to Port Renfrew $ 70.00 Admission Fee for WCT $ 10.00 Nitinat Narrows Indian Reserve ferry crossing? $ 15.00 Restaurant food at end of trail $ 55.00 Shuttle from Bamfield to Civilization $ 10.00 BC-Ferry from Vancouver Island to Mainland $ 2.50 Bus fare from Twassawan back home.
Hiking On the Edge Ian Gill and David Nunuk, 3rd edition
The West Coast Trail Tim Leadem, 8th edition
Blisters and Bliss A Trekker's Guide To the West Coast Trail David Foster and Wayne Aitken
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Posted By: TomGoulet
- Sun Mar 17 00:20:14 UTC 2019
QuestionAre there permits required for the West Coast Trail. We are looking to go in the later part of September so looking for input regarding weather and temps during this time of the year (Day and Night Temps). ThanksANSWERS are in this forum: West Coast Trail - Vancouver
Posted By: heliclaude
- Sat Aug 08 16:36:56 UTC 2015
QuestionI tried to download the west coast trail onto me iMac to transfer to my Garmin etrex 20 but it appears that the GPX file does not download on my apple product. Any ideas?ANSWERS are in this forum: west coast trail
Posted By: granolapher
- Mon Jul 05 01:49:27 UTC 2010
UpsideAn eventual "must do hike", beautiful scenery and whale watching. DownsideCrowded, listening to people fear monger about how "hard" this trail is. CommentBe prepared for mud, and slippery roots... and enjoy your salmon, crab, burgers, and beer available on the trail (for a premium)
Posted By: cmarshqqq
- Mon Aug 04 21:41:26 UTC 2008
UpsideIncredibly beautiful and so so much to explore. There is an abundance of everything you could ever want on a hike. DownsideThis hike is often rated "moderate" but it is so popular that a lot of people do it who are only barely up to it. The rangers rescue and evacuate a lot of people each season. You really have to be comfortable in all kinds of terrain including lots of mud and literally miles/kilometers of slippery rocks. CommentThere's also a lot of logistics involved. Read up (a lot) before you go. I did this trail last year (September 2007) for my honeymoon. It is one of my favorite hikes ever and I'd do it again. See the link for my story and lots of pics. http://www.metatropo.com/reports/westcoasttrail0907.htm <a href="http://www.metatropo.com/reports/westcoasttrail0907.htm">West Coast Trail</a>
Posted By: WesternWilson
- Fri Sep 28 20:55:10 UTC 2007
CommentThis is a fantastic hike! I messed up submitting areview, but you can read all about how we did at http://westernwilson.googlepages.com/home
Posted By: WesternWilson
- Sat Sep 01 16:57:18 UTC 2007
CommentJust a question: anybody done the trail in 2007? We are wondering what kind of shape the route is from the beach up to the Carmanah Giant.
Posted By: Krystalf
- Thu Dec 29 05:45:46 UTC 2005
Upsidethe scenery is just soo beautiful. the beaches and the oceans are just sooo beautiful. the trail also has many wonderful plants and wild life to enjoy and explore. Downsidethe trail heads and ferrys are very sticky as they run on their own time. so look into the times to arrive way before hand, and dont get to the ferrys tooo early as you may be waiting a while. Commentthis past may i hiked the trail and found it to be an awesome trail, and because of that i hiked it again in july. It is soo amazing! everyone must give it a goo!
Posted By: pkevans
- Wed Jun 09 18:22:26 UTC 2004
UpsideThis is the most fantastic hike I have ever been on. Every day is a postcard. DownsideLots of people (well 52 per day). Camping on the beach can be anything but lonely - bit of a tent city every night. It can be a little difficult to get your date. CommentThe one night we were able to camp with only two other people was the best. 5 people on the entire beach. I spent literally hours just listening to the surf crash upon the shore. This hike is not quite as tough at the literature would have you believe, if it wasn't for the ladders it would just be a seven day hike with a little/lot of mud (depending on the weather).
Posted By: RickMcCharles
- Thu Apr 29 06:27:28 UTC 2004
UpsideI have hiked all over the world - and the West Coast Trail is the best in my opnion. DownsideIt can be tough to get a reservation to hike on the date you want to depart. CommentThe best West Coast Trail Website is http://www.i-needtoknow.com/wct/
Posted By: klshep
- Mon Mar 15 00:22:51 UTC 2004
UpsideIt is the best experience.From the scenic views everywhere to the personal physical challenge this is the trip of a lifetime. DownsideThe boardwalks are slippery when wet - be careful. CommentTake your time and enjoy - everyone we passed on the trail seemed to be challenging to do it in less than 6 days. We had planned an 8 day schedule and stuck to it. Extra time at tsusiat falls(pure paradise)and other sites was wonderful. Take the time to enjoy it all. We went at the end of May, started at the north end and had most canpsites to ourselves, except for our last nite at Thrasher cove which was packed(some got wet that night with the high tides). We did have great weather, with only a couple of morning rains - I am sure that it has been a different experience for those who have endured several days of bad weather.
Posted By: rgruys
- Fri Oct 17 04:45:58 UTC 2003
UpsideAmazing experience, provided you go in late September when there are few other hikers and the weather tends to be great! World's greatest playground for Big Kids. DownsideCan result in major withdrawal symptoms upon return home! CommentSee the full-screen flash slideshow of our adventures at http://www.bluepeak.net/canada/wct
Posted By: kmakze
- Tue Jul 08 19:33:20 UTC 2003
UpsideYou and whoever you go with will remember this trip always. DownsidePossibility of minor injuries. BE CAREFULL CommentI recommend that all age groups try this hike. This is the best hike I have ever done.
Posted By: Night Hawk
- Mon May 26 14:57:47 UTC 2003
UpsideLots of quiet little coves and out of the way places if you know where to look and are willing to take the time to enjoy them. Be sure to watch the whales feedig off Tsucowis point. DownsideI agree the ferry has its own agenda, but then we rather enjoyed watching the river otters while we waited. Watch out for the mice, very bold creatures that will share your food right off your plate...while you are still eating! CommentI have done this trail twice, the first time was our very first hiking experience and I do admit we learned a lot! Very enjoyable but I noticed a lot of changes in the 3 years between outings. More boardwalks in place, not as much "slogging" the second time through. Honestly do not know if it still deserves the title of "one of the most grueling treks in North America"
Posted By: Halley Malone
- Wed Apr 23 22:14:17 UTC 2003
UpsideThere are many wonderful beach walks and various types of terrain over the course of the trail. You won't get bored, or find this trail monotonous! You really are alone and take a moment to stop and admire it! DownsideThe ferry at Nitinat really has it's own agenda. Don't get there too early because they really don't start their day until noon! Also, pray for sunny weather, this trail is awesome when it's sunny! CommentMy husband & I did this trail on our honeymoon in September 2002. It took us about 5 days and it was a great bonding experience for us. I still can't believe some of the ladders we climbed up!