Travelogue: Hiking the West Coast Trail (WCT)

Bridge 27 of 147 over Tsocawis Creek, WCT | Nicole Moreau
Bridge 27 of 147 over Tsocawis Creek, WCT | Nicole Moreau

Vancouver Island’s rugged West Coast Trail is renowned as one of the world’s very best coastal hikes. While it's still a challenging expedition, our mid-hike drop means that you can walk through old growth rainforest and coastal beauty with a lighter load.

Hiking enthusiast Keri May had the chance to experience the West Coast Trail with Great Canadian Trails, and she’s sharing with us her impressions of this exhilarating adventure. 

A beautiful day for a walk on the WCT |  <i>Patrick Troughton</i>

How would you describe the West Coast Trail?

It's truly one of the world’s great treks. I would describe it as a cross between a trail and an obstacle course. Timed properly with the tides, the group can take advantage of amazing shoreline walks on the shelf - over narrow surge channels, fine sand beaches and at one point scrambling over a few kilometres of giant boulders and trees. When we’re not hiking along the coast, we take the actual forest trail, which consists of about 70 ladders, 130 bridges, lots of semi-functional boardwalks, plenty of mud, and a few cable crossings over rivers/brooks – all while being surrounded by a magical rainforest and some of the largest trees on earth!

Climbing ladders on the West Coast Trail |  <i>The Great Canadian Bucket List</i>

What was the most surprising element of your trip?

We were at our foggy early morning beach camp, getting ready to move along, when a wolf came walking out from the mist toward us. It casually sauntered along the shoreline looking our way, then out at sea, eventually continued past us and back into the mist. This was the morning of the solar eclipse. Amazing. Our guide, who had hiked the trail over 100 times, had never seen a wolf along the WCT… until this trip. 

What else did you see along the way?

 A lot of wildlife

- We saw orca whales from the ferry on the way to Vancouver Island

- We stopped to watch a black bear make his way back into the forest from the beach

- We listened to the chorus of sea lions in the distance as we walked the trail and then saw them basking on the rocks along the shore

- Bald Eagles flew overhead and were perched on treetops

- We spotted the bobbing heads of seals and otters 

Waiting game with a black bear on the West Coast Trail |  <i>Patrick Troughton</i>

Any advice for anyone who wants to experience the West Coast Trail next summer?

Do it! I was a little intimidated by the ‘full pack’ aspect of the trip but, with a good backpack and a little training (carrying the full pack up and down stairs), it was absolutely nothing to worry about. The guides make sure you don’t overpack, they carry the majority of the group camping gear, safety gear, and food, and we include a food drop and a ‘restaurant meal’ midway through the hike, so most people end up with only 35lbs or so to carry. The trail itself isn’t very much of a cardio workout – It’s the focus of where to place your feet and poles (and sometimes your hands) that makes it more of a mental challenge than a physical one. Having our guides there to navigate the tides, set the pace, and prepare incredible meals was absolutely invaluable. It allowed us to enjoy the experience, stress-free. 

CLICK HERE to view the West Coast Trail Trip Details 

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