- Name West Coast Trail (WCT)
- Distance de sentier 75 km, 47 milles
- Durée en jours 7 jours
- Début de sentier Bamfield
- Fin de sentier Port Renfrew
- Classement Traildino SW, Marche fatigante, sentier de montagne
- Classement Traversée de montagne T2, randonnée en montagne
- Lieux d'accès Port renfrew, Bamfield
Port Renfrew / Gordon River – Bamfield / Pachena Bay, 75 km (47 mile), 7 days
The West Coast Trail is one of the most popular trails in Canada. Expect a variety of beautiful coastal landscapes and mesmerising rain forests. Also count on some strenuous walks. Often you will gain no more than 1 km per hour. Completing the seven day’s trail is a real accomplishment.
Watch this video (https://youtu.be/pMQYMqDGsoE) to get an impression.
The trail partly goes through dense forest with century old sitka spruce and giant cedar trees. Alternatively, large parts are along the coast, on the beach, over rocky headlands or sandstone shelves. It’s quite probable you will see killer whales, humpback whales, black bears, sea lions, seals, snakes, otters and bald eagles. Wolves and cougars do roam the forests but are rarely seen.
Finishing the trail is easy under good circumstances but difficult in bad weather. Heavy rains are common along this part of the Pacific coast. Every year people have to be rescued because of hypothermia. Your main preoccupation therefore should be with your gear and clothing regarding wet weather. The point is: how will you get things dry after two days of walking and camping in continuous rain? Maybe – knowing rain is to be expected – a tarp will come in handy for making a roof and a fire. The campsites have plenty of driftwood for building all kind of constructions, benches, wind shields, poles for your tarp.
Second problem is the strenuous terrain: mud, roots, rocks, surge channels. Lots of people get stranded because of injured legs, feet, knees etc. Also there are ladders, lots of ladders, to pass creeks or to access the beach from the forest. The board walks that once helped overcoming wet sections are in multiple states of decay and present a risk of their own. The largest creeks are passed using suspension bridges or cable cars.
Still, many inexperienced hikers start off each day and make it to the end. They will assure you they liked it even if their limping bodies tell otherwise. To fully enjoy your hike, however, keep the weight of your backpack below 18 kg including food. This is possible, if you are willing to invest into light weight gear, draw a line on the “may be’s” and keep your nonsense stuff like jeux de boules at home.
Most children (note: they must be at least 6 years old) will love the trail and find it easy to walk. No wonder: every stretch of it offers new vistas, big and small animals, scrambling opportunities, beach campsites, rattling cable cars, natural swimming pools, pebbled streams…
The trail is maintained by Parks Canada. On the trail are rangers, for your safety. Some campsites have ranger cabins but you are not supposed to contact them but in case of emergency. The cap on the number of people allowed on the trail is 35 from each trailhead per day. Subscription starts somewhere in January, so be seated behind the buttons the day and hour registration starts otherwise you won’t get on the list. Of course you already created your Parks Canada web account long before. To finish registration you must pay online.
Logistics are a bit cumbersome: first you have to travel to Vancouver, then take a flight (expensive) or bus/ferry to Victoria on Vancouver Island. To get to the trailhead you must have your own car or take the West Coast Trail Express. Be sure to make a reservation for this bus because it may be fully booked. In case of having your own car, at the end of your walk you probably will need the West Coast Trail Express to get back to the trailhead you started from. All this will cost you a lot of money and time.
At the trailhead – either Port Renfrew / Gordon River (South) or Bamfield / Pachena Beach (North) – you will be welcomed by Parks Canada, pay for a National Parks Entry Pass, undergo a orientation session and receive your West Coast Trail User Permit. Without this permit you will not be able to hike because the two ferries needed to pass Gordon River and Nitinaht Narrows will not take you on board.
The orientation session is particularly useful because staff will tell you how the campsites work, what to do if you bump into a unfriendly bear (highly unlikely), but above all how to interpret the tides: you will get both a map and a tide table and using them correctly will help you in safely choosing the coastal track or sticking to the forest alternative. You are also supposed to understand that high tides may wash away your tent if you do not correctly interpret the last high tide garbage line on the beach and know when to add or substract a feet extra.
A word on the campsites: the official campsites have toilets and food storage lockers. Do not leave food or other smelly stuff in your tent but store it in the food lockers. From South to North, these are the official campsites and approximate hiking times (add up to 100% depending on your personal fitness and weather conditions.)
- 0 – Port Renfrew / Gordon River Trailhead (km 75)
Ferry over Gordon River between 8:45 am and 3:30 pm
- 4:15 hrs – Thrasher Cove (km 70)
- 5:30 hrs - Camper Bay (km 62)
- 3:00 hrs - Cullite Creek (km 58)
- 3:15 hrs - Walbran Creek (km 53)
- 2:15 hrs - Bonilla Point (km 48)
- 0:45 hrs - Carmanah Creek (km 46)
Chez Monique (km 45)
Carmanah Lighthouse (km 44)
- 1:45 hrs - Cribs Creek (km 42)
Nitinat Narrows (km 32) ferry crossing between 9:30 am – 4:30 pm (crab restaurant, cabins, covered camping ground). From here you can start or finish your walk by taking a ferry crossing to Nitinat Village Trailhead
Comfort Camp (km 30)
- 6:30 hrs - Tsusiat Falls (km 25)
- 1:15 hrs - Klanawa River (km 23)
- 2:30 hrs - Tsocowis Creek (km 17)
- 0:30 hrs - Orange Juice Creek (km 15)
- 0:15 hrs - Darling River (km 14)
- 0:30 hrs - Michigan Creek (km 12)
- 4:30 hrs - Pachena Bay Trailhead / Bamfield (km 0) (including sidetrips to lighthouse and sea lion colony)
If you rather prefer to avoid the crowds and pitch your tent on a pristine beach, which is perfectly fine, put your food in a bag and pull it three meters above the ground in a tree branch using a rope. This way the black bears will not associate tents with food and you will help your fellow hikers. As said above: the plenitude of drift wood gives camping a touch of pleasure: apart from its use in makeshift housing and creating works of art, it’s great for making campfires and guarantees hours of blissful meditation against a background of ocean sounds.
The 75 km stretch is not completely void of civilisation. There are two not to miss opportunities for a beer: “Chez Monique”, famous for its cheeseburgers (it may be closed in the near future because Monique passed away recently), and the Nitinaht Narrows restaurant at the ferry landing, famous for its fresh crab and potatoes. In at least one spot you can lodge in a “comfort camp”, potentially a relief in bad weather.
Walking part of the trail is possible. Go to Nitinat Village (the West Coast Trail Express does this), visit the Trailhead office, take the ferry to Nitinat Narrows, walk either south to Gordon River or North to Pachena Bay. Advance reservations via Parks Canada is necessary.