West Coast Trail Itinerary

Wilderness Adventures in British Columbia & Yukon since 1988

wct2005-1Backgrounder
In the days of the sailing ship the west coast of Vancouver Island developed a history of shipwrecks. Since 1803 over 240 ships have foundered creating its reputation as the “Graveyard of the Pacific”. The government of the day made several efforts to reduce this carnage. A manned lighthouse was built at Cape Beale in 1874 to warn ships away from the dangers of this coast. Then the West Coast Telegraph was constructed between Victoria and Cape Beale and was completed in 1890, along with a second lighthouse at Carmanah Point in 1891.

Following the tragic wreck of the passenger steamer, Valencia, in 1906 with 126 lives lost, the original telegraph line connecting the west coast with the outside world was further developed to become the “Lifesaving Trail”. Construction of the third light house at Pachena Point, near the wreck site, began the following year. Ultimately, the Lifesaving Trail was only pushed through from Bamfield to Carmanah Point, with down-grading along the way, as costs proved prohibitive. Beyond Carmanah the trail remained the original primitive telegraph line. These developments helped to save many lives as shipwrecks continued to occur with regularity.

Terrain
This is coastal hike with the terrain switching between temperate rain forest (trail with some muddy sections, boardwalks, roots, rocky sections, ladders, log and bridge crossings) and beach (gravel, rock, hard, and loose sand, slippery sections of boulders and shelf.).

Hiking Distance
Hiking distances per day on the WCT is problematic as time will differ for beach and rain forest. We usually begin hiking at 9 am, take breaks, lazy lunches (weather permitting), and look to get into camp around 4-5 in the afternoon. We usually cover from 6- 12 km in a day depending on the nature of the hiked terrain. To protect the environment, we practice  NoTraceCamping.

Level of Difficulty
The trip is open to people of all abilities; however, it requires physical endurance and psychological stamina. Participants should prepare by executing an exercise program coupled with some walking or running or cycling. We provide a conditioning program to assist hikers to prepare for the physical demands of the West Coast Trail.

Weather
The weather is characteristic of a marine temperate climate. It is very changeable with heavy rainfall possible even in July, August, September and likely in April, May,&June. Rainfall averages 120cm per year; summer temperature average is 14 degrees Celsius (57 F). Heavy morning fog is very common, especially in July and August. A solid week of rain can make a WCT hike a very unpleasant experience and will almost certainly delay hikers at river crossings. Be flexible… have alternative plans and allow extra days for delays due to adverse weather.

West Coast Trail

Approaching Carmanah Beach

Group Size and Composition
The maximum group size is 10, two of whom are guides.  Each group consists of people of various ages, backgrounds, and abilities. People come by themselves or with family/friends. The youngest can be 13 and the oldest in their 70s. We would need to be comfortable that, at either end, the hiker is capable of taking on the heavy demands of hiking the WCT.

Guides
Our guides are highly trained and accredited leaders. They are committed to providing our guests with the best in wilderness adventure, while always focusing on safety. Our guides meet strict national and provincial park standards before they are licensed to guide on our behalf. 

Accommodations
This is a camping trip. At night you will sleep in a top of the line tent. Typically, tenting is double occupancy and partners are arranged by gender. You are welcome to bring your own tent but you should contact our office to ascertain the suitability of your tent to the environment.  Bathroom facilities will range from outhouses to wilderness sanitation practices.

Meals
The food we bring is plentiful, nutritious, and primarily vegetarian (because this keeps better than meat). Food is divided and carried by participants. A food drop helps to reduce the overall weight that will be carried.   You can expect meals to be varied, and delicious: burritos, rice, pasta, and vegetable stir-fry for dinner; bagels and sandwiches for lunch;  oatmeal, and granola for breakfast. Beverages include herbal and regular tea, coffee, hot chocolate, cider. If you have special dietary restrictions or preferences, we usually can accommodate them.

Clothing/Equipment
We will supply you with a list of outdoor clothing and articles you will need. We supply all the group equipment including kitchen, water filters, tents, and bad weather cover. All you need to provide is your personal gear, such as clothing and a sleeping bag. A detailed equipment list will be sent to you upon confirmation of your participation. We do rent packs and sleeping bags/pads for a nominal charge (cleaning).

WEST COAST TRAIL ITINERARY

  • Food: Meals on Day 1 are your responsibility. There will be options at our lunch stop and dinner will be at a cafe in Port Renfrew. Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner will be supplied by us for Days 2 through 8. On Day 9 we will supply Breakfast & Lunch only.
  • Arrival in Departure City: Can be from Victoria, Nanaimo, or Comox on Vancouver Island. View our booking page for options. You should be here at least one day before Day 1.
  • Hiking Direction: We travel the trail from South to North. This decision reflects the overwhelming choice of past hikers who hiked the trail with us. The prevailing reason was they felt getting the more difficult portion of the trail behind them at the start.
  • Campsites: Our pace, weather, and circumstances will determine where we will camp each night. The campsites in our itinerary should be viewed only as hoped-for destinations. The good news is that all campsites are on the beach.
Shelf Hiking

Shelf Hiking

DAY 1– Arrangements for pickup or meeting points will be made by our lead guide via email or phone. Travel to the trailhead at Port Renfrew for Park orientation, company orientation, and first night camping.

DAY 2We will be ferried across the Gordon River and begin our hike to Thrasher Cove. Although just 6 km away, the terrain is such, that it will take us most of the day. Thrasher Cove presents your first opportunity to enjoy beach camping. Although a small cove, it provides water and an excellent view of Port San Juan and Port Renfrew across the water.

DAY 3The morning tide will determine whether we will follow the beach to Owen Point or return to the trail. The beach hike, although characterized by huge boulders, is easier and shorter than the trail. Owen Point can only be rounded by hikers at low tide. The shelf near Owen Point has sandstone bluffs, caves and caverns, unusual rock formations and surge channels. Many hikers believe it resembles a moonscape. We will eventually leave the shelf because of impassable headlands and sample the beauty and denseness of a west coast rain forest.  The campsite is located by Camper creek and flanked by magnificent sandstone bluffs.

DAY 4Our day will once again be spent in the rain forest. Although this is a challenging and usually muddy section of the trail, it offers an opportunity to really appreciate the lush, vibrant beauty of a rain forest. We will most likely opt for Walbran Creek as our campsite.

DAY 5– A short forest hike will bring us to Walbran Creek. Walbran Creek marks the beginning of mostly beach hiking, interrupted by 

west coast trail

SS Valencia circa 1906

sections of rain forest. Beach hiking does present its own challenges including slippery rocks, stream crossings, and soft sand.   From Walbran we will hike to our food drop at Carmanah beach and our campsite for the evening.  Carmanah has beaut1ful sandy beaches and great views of the light station.

DAY 6– We will move on to Carmanah Point Lighthouse for a visit. From the lighthouse we will hike a sandy beach to the Cribs. The Cribs features a natural breakwater. This breakwater is well worth exploring for its many tide pools. Depending on the tide, we will either hike the beach or leave it behind to follow the trail as it edges its way along steep cliffs. The views will not disappoint you. We will descend to beautiful sandy beach near the Cheewhat River. Our camp is Stanley Beach. Stanley Beach has some interesting features, including petroglyphs, surge channel, abandoned house, blowhole, and honeycombed rocks.

DAY 7The trail from Stanley Beach to the Nitinat Narrows is boardwalked. The section of trail to Tsuquadra Beach is considered by many to have the most spectacular views. Soon we will arrive at Hole‑in‑the‑Wall, a wave-worn hole cut into the rock at Tsusiat Point. Tsusiat Falls is just up the beach. Tsusiat Falls is considered by many to be one of the major highlights of the trail and our campsite.

DAY 8From Tsusiat Falls we will hike both forest and coast. The trail rises about the beach at Trestle Creek to bypass headlands. The trail overlooks the shelf and ocean below. It is at one of the lookout points that, in 1906, the S.S.Valencia went aground here in a violent storm.  It is all beach and shelf to our campsite at Michigan Creek. This will be our last night on the trail.

DAY 9– With the exception of a visit to Pachena Lighthouse, our last day on the trail will be uneventful. From Michigan Creek, the trail will be entirely through rain forest to the Pachena Bay trailhead where we will be met by our van for our return to Comox/Victoria /Nanaimo.

What is included in the Cost

  • Travel to and from trailheads from Vancouver Island
  • WCT registration and park use fees.
  • First Nations WCT ferry service across Gordon River & Nitinat
  • Camping equipment such as water filters, stoves, fuel, weather tarps, pots/pans.  & tents
  • All food while hiking, including snacks/beverages
  • Food drop (Covid 19 may affect this service)
  • Major first aid supplies
  • Satellite phone

What is excluded in the Cost

  • Transportation to Comox, Nanaimo, or Victoria.
  • Airport or other transfers
  • Accommodation [special hotel rate available near airport ]
  • Food other than is included in the itinerary
  • Personal camping equipment noted on our packing list (i.e. backpack, sleeping bag, sleeping pad – can be rented from us)
  • National Park Pass card – collected by Parks Canada for all national parks in Canada. Info will be supplied in our registration package.
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