Hiking the West Coast Trail Vancouver Island Canada

Hiking the West Coast Trail

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Hiking The West Coast Trail

This hike is widely acknowledged as the best hikes in Canada. It reminded me a lot of the South Coast Track in Tasmania. Absolutely amazing.

Getting to the Start of the West Coast Trail

I arrived in Victoria with amazing weather which looked set to continue for the next week. Although my body needed a rest from the long cycle journey from the northern latitudes. I just had to go. I started at the Northern Trailhead of the 75km long West Coast Trail with no set plan on where I would camp each night or how many days I would take.

The hikers transport bus was full when I departed Victoria. I knew this would be different from the same hike I did here 17 years ago. Yes, I’ve hiked the trail before. On that trip I didn’t see one other person during the whole hike!

Permits for hiking the West Coast Trail

  • Permits must be arranged before hiking the trail. I got lucky and arrived at the Ranger Station at the start of the trail and got my permit because of a cancelation.
  • Parks Canada West Coast Trail Permits.

Do you need to update your gear for the West Coast Trail? Check out the following gear reviews.

Hiking the West Coast Trail Day 1

I didn’t have a pre-arranged permit to start the trail. I arrived at the Parks HQ and was put on a wait list for all of 3 minutes until a family walked in to advise there was a cancellation. It was better for them that I ‘buy’ the permit from them rather than have them cancel and lose their money. So I ended up on the trail at a significant discount to others.

A pre-trip briefing was organised to inform people about the trail and so it was 2pm before I started walking with no idea how far I would get. 7pm, nearly dark and I rolled into Tsocowis Creek Campground 17km from the start. I was greeted by all the other friendly hikers.

There was a communal campfire with one of the local first nations guys passing on stories from the area and singing songs from the past. A privilege to be a part of that. I was interested to hear him sing a song about the arrival of Captain Cook. More especially cause I’m currently reading his journal from his travels in this area. Before long it was dark and everybody was in bed very early.

Pachena Bay Trailhead to Tsocowis Creek Camp = 17km

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Both my pack and myself weighed 95kg including all food and water. Must be me that’s getting lighter!
West Coast Trail ladders
Lots of ladders on the West Coast Trail
west coast trail mushrooms
west coast trail mud
Lots of hiking through mud
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The mud sticks to the boots making them heavy
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Low cloud and rainforest for the first day
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Sea fog on the coast

Hiking the West Coast Trail Day 2

The was sky overcast and sea fog rolled drifted in. The tent was wet. So was anything exposed to the atmosphere. No use trying to dry things, might take all day. I set off for Tsusiat Falls and made it there for lunch. On route I saw some Couger and Bear tracks. I spoke with other hikers who confirmed seeing them too. When I was here 17 years ago I camped at Tsusiat Falls. Back then there were no other people there and the waterfall was pumping. This time people were swimming and washing in the same water I was drinking.

I kept going to Cribs Creek camp for the night a total of 25km, I wasn’t the only one with that idea. Paul and Sally who I camped with last night also made the long hike. On the hike it was necessary to take a ferry across a deep inlet. They offered me fish or crabs to eat (at a price) but I declined and kept moving to the campsite at Cribs Creek. About 1km before the camp I spotted a Sea Lion Colony on some rocks at Dare Point. I was able to ‘sneak up on them’ and get some photos. It was packed when I rolled in to camp around 7pm. Once again there was a communal fire next to my camp which I joined in the great campfire company and conversation. I went to bed that night thinking I could get used to this social campfire trekking.

Tsocowis Creek Camp to Cribs Creek = 25km

west coast trail river crossing
Crossing Klanawa River
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Tsusiat Falls 2014
west coast trail Tsusiat Falls
Tsusiat Falls when I was here 17 years ago!
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View from coastal headlands
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Walking around the headlands
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Sea Lions on a rock at Dare Point near Cribb Creek Campsite

Hiking the West Coast Trail Day 3

A relaxing third morning with only a short walk round Carmanah Point Lighthouse to Monique’s Cafe. I managed to scare the crap out of a snake as it slithered off the track in front of me. I didn’t even think there were snakes in Canada! Monique’s Place is a small remote shack on the beach that many a hiker has frequented over the years to eat burgers and drink alcoholic beverages among other things.

They cooked me up a hamburger and gave me several beers to drink while I updated my diary and enjoyed the somewhat tropical weather. It was not the cheapest burger I’ve ever had but it was better than dried crackers with salami and cream cheese.

No rush to leave the place as the tides were too high to make it around Bonilla Point. When I did make it there I had to wait about 45 minutes for the tide to recede before continuing to Walbran Creek for the night. It’s important to know the tides and time the crossing of certain areas with the low tides. The infestation of sea gulls in Walbran Creek meant feathers and goodness knows what ended up in my drinking water! I’m used to drinking water of questionable quality, so no big deal.

Again another social night round the campfire. I was entertain by an older gentleman who had drank 1 litre of Canadian Cinnamon Whiskey. I got to sample the dregs and it tasted quite nice. Shame his hiking companions were still out on the trail and didn’t arrive until 10.30pm. They took 12 hours to walk 9km! Something tells me the rest of the trip wouldn’t go well for that group! Still had fun chatting round the fire.

Cribs Creek to Walbran Creek = 11km

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west coast trail
Starfish underwater
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Seriously. Drinking beer at Monique’s half way through a hike!
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Paul and Sally under fire from the Gulls
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Paul and Sally crossing a creek
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Rather tropical walk along the beach
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Near Bonilla Point
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Sunset from Walbran camp

Hiking the West Coast Trail Day 4

I walked along the coastal route and crossed Adrenaline Surge Channel (very dangerous, especially alone). I went along this route many years ago and it was a highlight then as it was on this trip. Its a rather dangerous crossing which I was told has claimed 2 lives.

There’s no room for a mistake scrambling on the slippery surface near the surge channel. I continued along the bench until hitting the impassable headlands at Cullite Cove. People were on the other side but it was not possible to cross.

I retraced my steps back to the huge suspension bridge and ladder climb at Logan Creek before making it to  Campers Creek where yet again there were social gatherings around the campfire in the evening.

Walbran Creek to Campers Creek (via detours along the bench through Adrenaline Surge Channel and Logan Creek Bench) = 13km

Adrenaline Surge Channel
The bench at low tide near Adrenaline Surge Channel
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Underwater shot
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Life in the intertidal zone

Adrenaline Falls and several surge channels

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Squeezing under the logs between Logan Creek and Campers Creek
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Late evening near Campers Creek
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Communal campfire at Campers Creek. It was such a surprise to meet with and socialise with so many cool and interesting people. Definitely enhanced the West Coast Trail experience.

Hiking the West Coast Trail Day 5

The last morning was a very early start for most of us as we wanted to catch the low tide at Owens Point. Owens Point had several caverns sculpted by wind and waves. I was joined there by Paul and Sally again along with Brittany and McKay. We all spent time exploring the caverns.

The hike from Owens Point to Thrasher Cover was a lot of slow rockhopping which tested both the knees and ankles. Leaving Thrasher Cove we formulated a plan to race up the 1 km of ladders to the main trail. There were heaps of ladders and several hundred meters in elevation gain. I managed 14 minutes, a new record I believe.

From there we all  limped and staggered into Gorden Point and the end of the trail. We waved down the ferry and signed off at the registration centre. West Coast Trail complete. Are you considering hiking the West Coast Trail?

Campers Creek to Port Renfrew (via Owen Point) = 13km

oysters on the west coast trail
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Sea caves at Owens Point
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Round Owens Point
the end of the west coast trail
Not much further to go
hiking group on the west coast trail
Thrasher Cove with Brittany, McKay, myself, Sally and Paul.
the end of the west coast trail
The end of the trail

Great Hikes of North America:
Chilkoot Trail
La Malinche Volcano
Volcan Acatenango
Pacific Crest Trail
Continental Divide Trail
Appalachian Trail

Next Post on my Cycling and Hiking trip from Alaska to Argentine :
Canada by the numbers and in photos

Hiking the West Coast Trail Vancouver Island Canada

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About the Author:
Brad is an Australian who has completed the hiking Triple Crown after he hiked the Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide Trail and Appalachian Trail. He has hiked on every continent (except Antarctica) and has cycled from Alaska to Ecuador. He is an expert on outdoor gear currently living in Chile.

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10 thoughts on “Hiking the West Coast Trail Vancouver Island Canada”

  1. Enjoyed reading your blog on the WCT. Just curious, your solo through Adrenalin Surge. Were there ladders at Logan Creek to climb out or did you scramble out? As far as i know they were washed away and never replaced and not they have even decommissioned the suspension bridge and now have a new one that eliminates all the ladders.

    • I scrambled out but it wasn’t too bad. Compared with crossing Adrenalin Surge channel, everything else is easy.

      • I’ve enjoyed reading your about your many trips! I’m hiking the WCT in July 2023 and wanted to check about the comment above about scrambling up from Logan Creek. Was your latest WCT trek after they had replaced the ladders and old bridge in 2021 with a new suspension bridge and removed all of the ladders that had been there? I was hoping to camp at Logan Creek and try the Adrenaline route, but wondering if it’s possible to get down to Logan Creek with all of the ladders removed. I haven’t been able to find any updated info to help with planning this, so thought I’d reach out. Thanks so much!

      • I travel there before those dates on 2 separate trips. Be aware that the Adrenaline Surge Channel route is not easy and very dangerous, even in good weather with no ocean swell.

  2. I’m not sure if you monitor these comments any longer but we just got back from the WCT a week ago, what a trip!

    It has me itching for more. Would you consider the PCT trails “better” walking than the WCT? As you know the WCT has some very rough sections.

    • Hi Kevin, The WCT and PCT are very different trails. In general, the PCT is much easier as a trail. There is much more mud, steep slopes and rain on the WCT than on the PCT. But the PCT has a diverse landscape that it traverses which brings added challenges such as crossing hot deserts. These deserts are also known to cool down quickly and get covered in snow. The Sierra is often snow covered when thru hikers arrive. when the snow melts the rivers can be dangerous. Overall the PCT is a much easier trail than the WCT, just significantly longer.


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