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Prepare to journey the lush, temperate rainforests of Vancouver Island’s mythical trek: the West Coast Trail.

IT USUALLY STARTS OUT as a boast. Your friend, a drink in hand, will speak of another friend who just returned from the West Coast Trail — a daunting 75km hike along the southern edge of Vancouver Island.

“75km?” you’ll say. “That doesn’t sound too difficult.” To which your friend will reply, “I could totally do it. Easy.”

If you’re like most people, the next time you see your friend you’ll both politely refrain from mentioning the promise again. You’ll think you’re too busy to take 5-7 days to conquer the trail. “Maybe next year,” you’ll think.

But sometimes that promise is kept — as in the case of myself and two other buddies who found ourselves standing on the threshold of the trail in early July.

We’d just completed our orientation session, which promised the following: torrential rain, slippery boulders, cougar babies, rickety ladders, cable cars, beaver fever, broken ankles, raging bears, and surging tides.

“You ready?” I ask my friends as we hitch up our bulging packs and steel ourselves to hit the trail.

“Doesn’t matter,” they answer. And we step out onto the beach.

How To Get There

From Vancouver, take a bus or drive to Horseshoe Bay ferry terminal. Catch a ferry to Nanaimo and make your way to either Bamfield (northern start) or Port Renfrew (southern start).

Key resources

Trekking + Exploring Photo Essay


About The Author

Ian MacKenzie

Ian MacKenzie is the founder and former editor of Brave New Traveler. He now crafts award-winning short films and documentaries that amplify the emerging paradigm. His most recent projects include Sacred Economics, Occupy Love, and Reactor. Visit his website

  • Eva

    Great photos, Ian! I’ve been wanting to check out the West Coast Trail for years.

  • Tim Patterson

    Gorgeous photos, Ian, looks like an epic trip.

  • Megan Hill

    Beautiful photos, Ian. Thanks for sharing your trip with us.

  • Hal Amen

    I’d never heard of this hike before, so thanks for the introduction Ian! And in such photo-rific style.

  • Paul Sullivan

    Good looking out. Looks like a fantastic hike.

  • Liv

    Stunning! Thank you for taking these and for sharing.

  • Christine

    Oooh, ooh! I wanna go!

    Is that a pack of cigarettes or a guide book hanging out of your pocket in the water-filter pic, Ian? Hmm, hmm?? ;)
    At first I thought they were Pall Mall’s.

    • Ian MacKenzie

      Ha, no that’s the trail map. I assure you, no cigarettes were consumed by myself on the trip. Whiskey on the other hand…

  • Carlo Alcos

    30 years in Vancouver and I never made that hike! Shame on me…and now I just seem to be getting further away from it. Ahhh…one day!

  • Michelle

    “Leave nothing but footsteps…take nothing but memories.” LOVE that!

    These are beautiful! Thanks for sharing!

  • ryan

    i did this hike in 2003. it was one of the best i’ve ever done. absolutely beautiful place. great photos too.

  • Rita Weatherbee

    Enjoyed this photo essay of your hiking adventure. The photos are outstanding. I admire your bravery.

    • Ian MacKenzie


  • Julien

    Aaah… these pics bring back good memories :D I did this hike in 2006 and I’ll do it again some time in the future! My friend and I did it during the last possible week in September. Luckily there was sunny weather before we went on the trail and most of all we had only but sunshine during our 5 days on the trail. Plus… we crossed just 15 people during this time. Just perfect :o))

  • Andrea Blythe

    “Depending on how close you look, you can find a universe in unexpected places.” I love that thought, and the picture that goes with it.

  • bethany

    very inspiring!

  • Kellee

    You… are awesome.

  • Angela (Travel with a Purpose)

    Great photos! I have done this hike twice and LOVE it. I also shared my experience:

  • Lenka Silhanova

    Great photos! Real motivation to work on that dream to visit Canada.

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