Hiking the West Coast Trail in Canada
Your Guide to Exploring the WCT of British Columbia
As part of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, the West Coast Trial of Canada is known for its sheer natural beauty, but also its rough, unspoiled terrains. What might be a potentially hazardous hiking destination, the trail might test you to your limits, but the sweet reward that lies in its one-of-a-kind setting offers a scenic experience that’s unsurpassed.
What You’ll Need to Hike Here
Aside from an excellent hiking GPS; you’ll also need some serious stamina and you’ll need to know the ins and outs around backcountry camping. Steep slopes, deep gullies that need to be crossed on fallen trees and an all-round slippery trail are all part of a normal day of hiking out in this part of the world.
Duration of an Average Hike
If you’re planning a hiking expedition on the West Coast Trail and want to ensure that you see as much as possible, set aside a good 6 days or so (if you’re fast paced) to complete your adventure. If you plan on walking at a steadier pace, you’ll need roughly 8 days on the WCT.
What to Expect From the Weather
The West Coast Trail has a temperate climate, with heavy rains falling between the months of July through to September. Rain is also a normal occurrence between April and June. Summertime sees an average temperature of 57°F, but keep in mind that heavy fog early in the mornings can delay your hiking plans with a few hours.
When to Hike the West Coast Trail
The trail’s open season runs from the 1st of May to the 30th of September annually. Don’t expect any man-made shelters here, so make sure that you’re fully prepped and take along everything you’ll need to set up camp when the weather goes south.
You Should Hike the WCT If…
The West Coast Trail isn’t a hiking destination that’ll fit the taste and expertise of just any hiker. Intermediate and advanced backpackers should take on this trail since it’s not the place for rookies to get into the swing of things. You also want to make sure that you travel in small hiking groups, keeping the maximum group size to roughly 10 people.
Where to Kick Things off at WCT
Pacheena Bay Trailhead offers relatively easy access to the trail, although there isn’t a hiker’s ferry to get you to where you need to be. You may also want to consider kicking off your hike at Gordon River Trailhead, in which case you’ll need to ferry to the Official Gordon River Trailhead to get started. Keep in mind that the pace here isn’t fast, which mean that it’ll take you about 2 days to reach Walbran Creek.
Ditjdaht First Natin Nitinat Lake Visitor Center is a mid-point exit-and-entry point to the West Coast Trail, and you’ll be able to set up a nice base camp here along the Nitinat Narrows before you head further south or north on the trail.
There are regular shuttle busses that run between three of the main trailheads in WCT, and if you’re concerned about parking, rest assured that the three trailheads offer more than sufficient and secure parking opportunities.
If you plan to hike the West Coast Trail, you’ll need to possess a Trail Use Permit since you may be liable to fines if you are hiking without it. To get your permit, you’ll need to get in touch with Hello B.C. Reservation Services at 1-800-495-5688. Reserving your spot and booking your permit gives you a guaranteed hiking date, which is important since there is a quota on how many hikers may use the trail at any given time.
Considerations for Hiking the West Coast Trail
The West Coast Trail’s managing agents enforce a strict no-trace camping and hiking rule, which means that hikers need to stick to a certain set of rules. Here are a few basic etiquette guidelines that’ll help you make the most of your journey through the WCT…
- Whatever you pack in must go back out with you. No glass or cans are allowed inside the park.
- Take a lightweight camping stove. Fires are only allowed on the beach, not in forested areas, which means that you shouldn’t rely on a campfire for getting food cooked.
- Collect water upstream if you must, but be water-wise and boil or filter all drinking water that you collect along the way.
- Take enough food. High-energy foods that don’t take up a lot of space and have low GI contents are king on these rugged terrains, but always ensure that you pack enough food to last you 2 extra days, just in case of an emergency.
- Don’t take the park back home with you. No marine life, plants, artifacts, or natural resources found on the West Coast Trail may be removed from the park. This forms part of the National Parks Act, and persons found violating these rules may be subject to heavy fines.
Packing List for the West Coast Trail
While we all have different tastes and think about essential gear in different ways, here’s a list of some of the essential pieces of gear that you’ll need to help you survive your hike through the West Coast Trail:
- Good Quality Hiking Boots
- Collapsible Ski Pole or a Hiking Staff
- Lightweight Backpacking Stove and Extra Fuel
- Lightweight, High-Energy Foods
- Compact Backpack
- Good Quality Tent with a Waterproof Fly
- Synthetic-Fill Sleeping Bag & a Closed Cell Foam Sleeping Pad
- Garbage Bags
- Good Hiking Watch
- First Aid Kit
We hope that this guide has shown you more or less what to expect, and how to plan for your hiking expedition through the West Coast Trail of Canada. Remember: the terrain might be a bit tough to handle at times, but the majestic scenery that you’ll be rewarded with will be worth it, every step of the way!
About The Author
I’m Eric, and I’m the Editor in Chief of True North Athletics. I’m also an avid adventurer, digital nomad and traveler. I enjoy all types of outdoor sports, a good golf tan, and spontaneous weekend trips. I currently live in Brazil where I can be found frequently hiking the rain forest around my city!