• Activities:

    Camping, Backpacking, Hiking

  • Skill Level:


  • Season:


  • Trail Type:


  • RT Distance:

    46.6 Miles

  • Elevation Gain:

    360.9 Feet


This hike is a 5-8 day, 75-77 km hike along the beautiful west coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Although there are approximately 70 ladders, lots of mud, and a variety of terrain to cover - the rewards of accomplishing this hike are worth it all!

In the summer of 2016, myself and three others decided to hike the West Coast Trail (WCT) on a bit of a whim! We naively, and courageously, choose the WCT as our first major backpacking hiking trip - we thought it would be best to throw ourselves into a hike that has earned a reputation for being a very grueling trek! Since my experience with planning, preparing and conquering this hike, took lots of effort and research I wanted to share information about the WCT with others!

It is important to note up-front, that you need to book and reserve your spot on the trail through Parks Canada. Because our group had a very specific weekend in the summer to hike the WCT, I reserved our spot on the first day that reservations were open. We registered for the hike approximately 7 months in advance. I would suggest reviewing the Parks Canada information in depth to gain more information regarding the trail and to determine when the next year's registration opens (https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/pn-np/...). The trail is open from May 1st to September 30th each year. 

Before registering and reserving a spot on the WCT, I would suggest (1) determining how many nights you want to accomplish the trail in and (2) at what side of the trail you wish to start (North or South side of the trail). 

Our itinerary was as follows: 

- Day prior to hike - attended the 60-minute mandatory orientation at 2:00 p.m. at the Gordon River Information Centre in Port Renfrew, the day prior to our hike to allow us to start the hike first thing the next morning when the first boat left at 8:00. This is optional, as most people take the orientation session the day the start hiking. We then camped at Pacheedaht Campground (literally next to the trail head). Additionally, there is paid parking at the trail head and this is where we left our vehicle. 

  • Day 1 - our access point was Gordon River (South) and we hiked to Thrashers Cove. This covers 5 km of the trail, but there is an additional 1 km hike down to the campsite of Thrashers cove. 
  • Day 2 - Thrashers Cove to Campers Bay (8 km)
  • Day 3 - Campers Bay to Walbran Creek (9km)
  • Day 4 - Walbran Creek to Cribs Creek (11 km)
  • Day 5 - Cribs Creek to Tsuisiat Falls (17 km)
  • Day 6 - Tsusiat Falls to Michigan Creek (13 km)
  • Day 7 - Michigan Creek to Pachina Bay (12 km) where we exited the hike.

There doesn't seem to be consensus on whether to start on the North or South side of the hike - and there are pros and cons with both approaches. We decided to start on the South side of the trail, as we had heard that the South side was a bit more technical and difficult. Our thought process was to get those days out of the way at the beginning of the hike, whereas the North end includes some long days of hiking but are not as technical. Other elements to consider when choosing where to begin include: that your knapsack, in theory, is heavier at the start of the hike; we found we had a better 'pace' and 'rhythm' after a couple days of hiking; and where on Vancouver Island you will be coming from (we were travelling from Victoria so starting at Port Renfrew made more sense). 

Although there were some days we finished hiking in the early afternoon (and in theory could have continued hiking), we always appreciated getting to camp early to set up and relax.  Some people complete the hike in 5 days and some in 8 - pick an amount of time that you believe is doable for your group. 

Additionally, there is limited transportation options when you complete the hike in order to get back to your vehicle. We booked transportation with West Coast Trail Express, which is a grey hound type of bus which, took us from Pachina Bay to Gordon River. Because we booked our transportation back for a certain day (highly recommend booking this before starting the trip), we had a 'set' itinerary to completing the hike and stuck to our itinerary identified above. 

You could leave a vehicle at each trail head - but this would include about 6 additional hours of driving (to drop a vehicle off and to come back). 

Fees and Costs

This is not the cheapest hike to accomplish, and the fees and costs will depend on where you are travelling from the get to one of the WCT trail heads. For example the costs to hike the WCT are:

  • West Coast Trail overnight use permit (per person) - $127.50
  • Reservation fee (per person) - $24.50
  • National park entry fee (per adult) - $7.80
  • Gordon River Ferry Fee (per person) - $20.00
  • Nitinat Narrows Ferry Fee (per person) - $20.00

However, when you pay and reserve your spot on the trail, you pay for all the fees above. This is nice as you have already paid for everything once you start the trail.

Other expenses that we incurred:

  • There are two spots along the trail where you can purchase a hot meal, snacks and drinks (including alcoholic drinks!). The spots are Chez Monique a fantastic burger shack (about the half way mark on the trail) and a fresh fish and chips spot (near Nitinant narrows). The cost is high, but if you were like us we were happy to pay the money! Plan on having CASH to dine at these two spots along the trail. 
  • Transportation from the end of trail to the beginning where our car was parked was approximately (per adult) - $90
  • Camping the night before starting the trail (optional, but we very much appreciated this)
  • We were coming from Edmonton, Alberta so this involved getting to Vancouver Island (travel costs, paying for a ferry, accommodations on Vancouver Island etc). 

General Thoughts 

This hike is no joke! My intention is to not scare hikers away from this adventure but to give a realistic account of our time on the WCT. The terrain includes mud, roots, sand, rocks, boulders, ladders, and bridges. You will hike through what feels like different 'eco-systems' - from dense rainforest, to beaches, and vast mud pits. This hike is physically and mentally demanding. Additionally, the weather will change often and you should prepare for rain.  

All of this being said, we absolutely loved this experience! It was tough, frustrating, ache-inducing and challenging - but what 75 km hike isnt! On the flip side, this hike was so beautiful, rewarding, provided a great sense of accomplishment and community, and sense of pride upon completion.  

We found that we ended up camping with the same individuals each night, as their itinerary was the same as our. This was a great element to the trip, as you really got to spend quality time with fellow hikers around the campfire each night. The beautiful and unique campsites along the way was the highlight for me on the trip.

I would highly recommend this experience - as it is far more than simply a 'hike'! Please feel free to reach out to me regarding any specific questions or thoughts. 

  • Things to Remember
  • It is important to read up on the 'Safety' elements (https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/pn-np/...) on the WCT, to understand the cautions Parks Canada provide. 
  • The WCT involves you 'hike in and out' with all your garbage
  • Bring as little clothes and items as you require - hiking and camping isn't very fashionable but that is the beauty of it! 
  • Training for this hike is probably a good idea!
  • Make sure you are wearing worn-in hiking shoes - as this is not the place or time to wear in your new boots 

Pack List

Aside from regular items you would take/require for backpacking hiking and camping, I would recommend:

  • TOILET PAPER (as none will be provided)
  • Gaiters 
  • Great rain gear and knapsack covers
  • Cash (for food along the way)
  • Hiking poles 
  • Headlamps 
  • Trip Plan - involving having a contact person with your itinerary and trip details
  • Extra shoes/sandals to wear at camp (I loved having a pair of velcro Tevas) 
  • I so appreciated having an 'at camp' outfit to change into each evening
  • Bring extra food in case you are stranded or require additional food for 1-2 days
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