West Coast Trail hikers can expect to encounter plenty of terrain changes, not to mention an abundant number of curious creatures. This 46-mile trail on the southwest coast of Victoria Island courses along pristine beaches, heads over rocky headlands, and follows across ledges of sandstone. Along the way, various stops can be made to explore caves, take a closer look at tidal pools, and admire beautiful waterfalls. As for the wildlife, eagles are often seen soaring above, and it's not uncommon to encounter whales, sea lions, and seals. Black bears, wolves, and cougars also inhabit the area, and in the tidal pools, sea anemones often share their watery environments with fish and mollusks. Vibrant, beautiful, and dynamic, the West Coast Trail has earned more than its fair share of praise over time. In fact, some name it among the best hiking trails in the world.
The West Coast Trail BC started out as the Dominion Lifesaving Trail. It essentially retraces an old telegraph route that was established in the early 1890s. The old Dominion Lifesaving Trail name had a lot to do with the fact that many ships met their demises off the area coast. In fact, the coastal area is part of the larger Graveyard of the Pacific region. The West Coast Trail helped to facilitate the rescue of mariners in need in earlier times, though it now serves solely as a hiking trail. The coastline is rugged in many parts, and overall, the area is in the coastal rainforest category. Old cedar, hemlock, and spruce trees are prevalent in the area, and some of them figure among the biggest and tallest trees in all of Canada.
The West Coast Trail in British Columbia is one of the main units of the Pacific Rim National Park. The other two main units include the Broken Group of Islands and Long Beach. The trail starts at Bamfield and heads south down to Port Renfrew. Anyone who is interested in hiking the West Coast Trail can start at either end, and a permit must be obtained if you want to camp at one of the relatively basic campground areas. Fees are also required for the privately owned and operated ferries that take hikers across the Gordon River and the waters at Nitinat Narrows. Other rivers and streams are crossed by walking along fallen logs, crossing foot bridges, or riding cable car suspensions. Hiking the West Coast Trail is definitely an adventure, and since the trek is known for being difficult, only experienced hikers who are in good shape should tackle it.
If you want to add a West Coast Trail hiking adventure to your British Columbia vacation itinerary, there are a few more things that you should know. While the 46-mile trail has been completed in a single day, it is much more common for hikers to take the better of a week to complete it. Only 60 hikers are allowed to start at the two trailheads on any given day, and the maximum group size that you can have is ten people. Guided hiking tours along the West Coast Trail BC can be arranged for those who are interested, and whether you book a guide or not, reservations can be made up to 90 days in advance. Once the fees have been paid, you will receive a guaranteed start date, as well as a preparation guide and a weatherproof map of the trail and area.
At a couple of locations along the West Coast Trail, food and beverages can be purchased. If you don't feel like completing the entire run, you can duck out via a water taxi at Nitinat Narrows or at Nitinat Lake. Also worth noting is the fact that the peak season for the trail is May 1 through September 30. During the rest of the year, the West Coast Trail can be accessed by hikers, though general services can be limited. This can include the search and rescue services that are more available during the peak season period.