The West Coast Trail
Backpacking in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve
©Outdoor Adventure Canada
The The West Coast Trail (WCT) in
British Columbia offers challenge, rugged beauty and adventure. Part
of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve of Canada, the WCT it is a
spectacular 77 kilometers of deserted beaches and lush coastal rainforest.
A portion of the trail was originally a telegraph route from the 1890s
and around the turn of the century the WCT was instrumental in the rescue
of shipwrecked mariners. The waters off the trail have been dubbed the
"Graveyard of the Pacific", with more than 240 shipwrecks.
to be an extremely challenging trail, the 25,640 hectare strip stretches
southeast of Barkley Sound between Port Renfrew and Bramfield, along
the coast of Vancouver Island. The trail also passes through land that
has been maintained by First Nations for 4000 years. The Quu'as West
Trail Group includes wardens from native Indian tribes specifically
Pacheedaht, Huu-ay-aht and Ditidaht First Nations. Quu'as works with
the wardens of Pacific Rim National Park Reserve to patrol the region.
In 1970 lobbying, by groups such as the Sierra Club, brought about park
protection and trail improvements which were continued throughout that
The journey will take from 5 to 8 days to complete. Because
bad weather could cause delays it is recommended that you carry extra
supplies. A very damp area, the WCT has an average annual rainfall of
300 centimetres. The most precipitation is during May and June but frequent
rain is not unusual throughout the summer. Excessive rain can cause
flooding and delays at swollen river crossings. Cable cars and ladders
are in place at the numerous river crossings and crevasses. Camping
close to rivers and estuaries should be avoided due to the dangers of
flooding. Because of the dampness you may encounter heavy morning fog.
Fog is more frequent in July and August.
West Coast Trail contains some of the largest old growth trees in Canada,
such as the Hemlock, Spruce and Western Red Cedar, which are towering
and ancient trees. The rainforest floor is covered with thick undergrowth
and fallen trees can become treacherously slippery after heavy rains,
which sometimes may last a week. The coastal rainforest is another world
explored on this trek, but there is a potential for danger. Bears and
cougars inhabit this area so great care must be taken.
The beach sections of the trail have rugged coastline
and sea stacks. There is also a "Hole in the Wall" which is
a sandstone arch that has been formed by the eroding action of the waves.
Waterfalls and tidal pools add to the beauty of this area, but be aware
of the tide times as the high tides can pose a real danger if you are
at a tidal pool or river estuary. An unwary hiker can easily be washed
from the coastal rocks into the sea, with the beach sections from the
Gordon River access being particularly hazardous. Tidal schedules are
available from the park. You can expect to see wildlife such as sea
lions, birds and tidal pools teeming with aquatic life.
This arduous journey is rewarded by the variety of breathtaking
scenery, abundant wildlife and the satisfaction that comes from completion
of the trek.
Notes: The WCT is open from May 1st to September 30th.
Reservations for the trail are recommended between June 15th and September
15th. Without a reservation you may have to wait a few days on a waiting
list. During the shoulder season reservations are not necessary.
The cost for a single permit is $127.50 plus a $24.50
reservation fee and there are quotas. Your fee pays directly for protecting
and managing the trail. There are also two ferry fees. One is for the
Nitinat Narrows and the other for the Gordon River. You must state whether
you will begin your hike at the Gordon River or Pachena Bay and each
hiker must complete a 30 minute orientation outlining the trail's challenges.
A waterproof tent with a fly is a must and sleeping bags should have
synthetic fill due to the dampness of the area. Waterproof/breathable
rainwear is also a necessity.
For more information visit the Pacific
Rim National Park Reserve of Canada website.
Written by Bradley Wipperman
Photos courtesy of Photos.com