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



1. The author sets out on the journey. I wish I could tap this guy on the shoulder and say, "75 km, buddy. Seriously."


2. Buoys hanging from the trees notify the hikers where to get on and off the beach trail.


3. Sean Aiken snaps a photo of one of the many waterfalls along the coast.


4. At Pachena Lighthouse, a cluster of signs point the distances to various countries around the world.


5. The wreckage of the Varsity, a 1940s fishing vessel, sits rusting in the ocean air.


6. Depending on how close you look, you can find a universe in unexpected places.


7. Sean awaits the ferry at Nitnat Narrows. The crossing is operated by a local First Nations tribe.


8. Sea lions dot the rocks off the coast, barking incessantly. / Photo: Bryan Jackson


9. Along the trail, the constant rain nourishes an innumerable amount of fungi and plantlife.


10. Water doesn't come easy. All rivers and creeks must be filtered before drinking.


11. If you're lucky, each night you'll be greeted with a stunning sunset rarely matched elsewhere. / Photo: Bryan Jackson


12. The author enjoys a campfire and a shot of Fireball whiskey (a crucial addition to any successful wilderness trek).


13. Ben and Sean walk along the rocky shelf at low tide.


14. The stunning beauty of Owen Point resembles a Dr. Seuss storybook.


15. The intrepid hikers pause for a moment of reflection, and a nicely framed photo.


16. Leave nothing but footsteps...take nothing but memories. / Photo: Ben Felch


17. At the end of the trail, our water taxi awaits to whisk us back to the beginning.