The West Coast Trail hike is special and there is no other way to describe it, let me explain: when you go on a trip you would typically have a great time with some great memories stored in photos.  The West Coast Trail hike is much more than that.

You get fulfilled on every kind of level; spiritually and physically. I have been on some amazing trips with many amazing experiences but the West Coast Trail hike, well like I said: special, it is just so satisfying!

There is barely any cell phone reception, it is just you, your friends, and nature.  Being disconnected from the civilized world actually felt weird at first but this is what you will miss the most after you leave.

Since we did the trip it has become bit more commercialized with different options for accommodations and accessibility. I have mixed emotions on this, the pristine wilderness and remoteness is what makes it attractive to most.

I could probably write a book about this so in this post I want to provide some good information I wish I knew before we did it (to prepare better), some fundamentals,  and some tips that will help you enjoy it more.

What is it?  

West Coast Trail hike is a 75km backpacking trip in the Pacific Rim National Park and follows the southwester part of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada.

Originally it was built in 1907 to facilitate the rescue of shipwreck survivors along the coast. Now it is ranked as one of the top hikes in the world.

It is a pack in – pack out hike, means everything you carry in you have to carry out. Including garbage.

You will be hiking through some breath taking geography: amazing beaches, forests, and waterfalls. The West Coast Trail passes through the traditional territory of the Pacheedaht, Ditidaht, Huu-ay-aht, and Nuu-chah-nulth peoples, who have inhabited the area for more than 4000 years. On our trip we actually came across the tribe leaders in their traditional canoes and ceremonial attire on a way to a gathering. I got a few games of cribbage in with them and burned my shirt – note: don’t wrap your shirt around Doug’s chimney to dry.

You have 2 options for a starting point: Port Renfrew and travel north to Bamfield or start at Bamfield and travel south to Port Renfrew. There is a big difference.

Port Renfrew entrance is the hardest and as you hike north it gets easier, and this is what I recommend.  When you are fresh I would suggest getting the hard part done with. In fact, the first 5km took us like 5 hours. There are tons of roots on this part and you have to watch every step. Plus your body is just warming up.

The total fees would range between $200-$300 per person for the hike.

(sorry for the quality, the sunsets and nature are just so beautiful. We actually printed this image on metal and it is hanging on our wall.)

A picture from a recent backing trip #West Coast Trail #canada #british Columbia

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When?

The season is May 1st – September 30th.

Reservations open 8 am on January 8th every year. Have a few friends calling in at the same time with a few dates in mind. It fills up fast! There is a limit of hikers per day.

The trail should take you 5-7 days and I recommend taking your time. It is beautiful, enjoy the moment. We hiked from 8 am to about 2-3 pm every day and then enjoyed the campsite and the scenery.

Our time slot was the last week of July. We had no rain and very little moisture. It was the equivalent of winning the West Coast Trail hike lottery – perfect weather the whole time.

 

Rappelling #rappelling #mountains #back packing

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Who is it for?

About 6,000 hikers finish the trail every year and 1%-2% need rescuing. You need to be adventuress in heart and in good physical shape.

Admittingly this was my first overnight back packing trip. It is typically not recommended but I was in phenomenal shape for the trip, packed good, and the weather was perfect. So was very lucky.

You should be in good enough shape to hike 12km per day (some days require that). You walk in all kinds of terrain and it can be very slippery – the ladders are the worst (there are 120 of them?). If you have knee, hips, or back problems I would definitely not recommend it. You also need to carry a 40 -50 pound backpack.

Children under 12 are not recommended and under 6 year old will not be allowed.  But we have seen a few teens on the trail and they seem to really enjoy the experience.

(I may look happy here but ladders suck!)

Ladders West Coast Trail #backpacking #hiking #vancouver

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Is there wildlife?

O yes. There are: bears, cougars, wolves, different bird species, orcas, gray whales, seals, sea lions and eagles. We didn’t come across any predatory wildlife while hiking and didn’t bring bear spray.

Keep your site wildlife proof. Don’t keep food out over night or in your tents – there are bear bins for that.

On our last day and the last camp site we had the most gorgeous day with whales playing right in front of our beach and mama bear and cubs were couple hundred meters down from us foraging in the shores. It was magical.

(o yes forgot to mention, there are snakes.)

Found a snake! #hiking #back packing #nature #crazy

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What to pack:

  • Make sure to pack your food in relation to calorie count. Remember you will be burning tons of calories every day so if the average person needs ~2,000 calories a day add another ~1,500- 2,000 on top. This is probably one of the biggest mistakes people do (us including). Many run out of food earlier and try to stretch it out. I have given some of my food to other hikers who were running out. Count your calories.
  • Unless you win the weather lottery as well, the trail is extremely wet and there is a lot of moisture including mist and rain. Pack quick drying clothes, and socks. Merino wool is fabric you should consider for you clothing, and a must for socks. Bring some rain covers as well for you and your pack.
  • You need to start a fire in all weather conditions; bring a lighter and matches. Here is my hack: Vaseline. Cover a bunch of cotton or toilet papers balls in Vaseline and bring it with you in a baggy or a pill box. Vaseline will hold a good flame for long enough for you to start a fire any time, you will thank me later.
  • There are plenty of streams to fill up your water daily, 3 -500 ml bottles should do (you should drink plenty and refill them a few times per day). Bring your favorite methods to purify water.
  • I ended up taking my hiking boots off and hiking the trail in a spare pair of runners I brought for emergency. Unless you 110% confident in your hiking boots it is worth packing an extra pair.

When you pack think of weight, as you will be carrying everything in and out make sure everything is compact, lightweight and collapsible. It is a good idea to coordinate with your hiking mates to save on weight.

Toilet paper and duct tape should be a staple in any backpack! Pack a small emergency kit to take care of cuts and blisters. It can take up to 24 hours to be rescued depends on weather so be prepared.

Spoils:

Bring cash.

  • Chez Monique’s – about 3 days into your hike (from the south) you will run into this little ‘restaurant’ where you can have delicious burgers and some junk food. You will be so happy to see it, trust me.
  • Doug’s at Nitinat Narrows – A few days past Chez Monique’s you will run into this seafood heaven. You have a choice between salmon or crab, both are from the river right there and the crab was still the best I’ve had to this day – nothing was added, it tasted like sweet corn – amazing!!
  • All of the camp sites are on a beach and have very basic outhouses toilets, when they are not full it is a spoil.

Swimming with wild seals in Vancouver Island #nature #seals #Vancouver Island #animals

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Sorry for the quality of the photos, they were some of my first photos on Instagram years ago.

In this post I wanted to give you a really good overview of what to expect. Follow my ‘what to pack’ as a solid starting point, but I do recommend in doing extra research.

If you go, you won’t regret it. We are going to do it again, see you there?

 

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