Vancouver Island


Backpack - Vancouver Island

Intermediate Backpack: This is a 7 day, strenuous, backpack of the West Coast Trail, located on the west coast of Vancouver Island. Preference will be given to participants in the Seattle Intermediate Backpacking Program

  • Challenging
  • Mileage: 50.0 mi
  • Elevation Gain: 10,000 ft
  • High Point Elevation: 400 ft
  • Pace: 1.5-2.0 mph

TBD, dependent on permits.

The preliminary plan: The trip officially begins at the 10am mandatory pre-hike briefing, at Pachena Bay.

Overview: This is a trip that I have been wanting to do for many years. It is 50 miles along the west coast of Vancouver Island. I’m anticipating some spectacular scenery of sea stacks, beaches, and headlands, as well as a waterfall that dumps right onto the beach. I will be carrying a tripod. I’m also hoping for tide pooling, and some of the typical ocean wildlife such as seals, otters, sea lions and possibly eagles. You might want to bring binoculars.  Like other coastal trips, the trail will sometimes be on the beach (sand, gravel, boulder fields, or rounding headlands) and also inland with mud and ladders. I’ve read that there are over 100 ladders.

 People who have been there can say it better than me:

 From Parks Canada, “an iconic backcountry, multi-day backpacking trail that is a bucket list challenge for many hikers”.

 From Switchbacktravel, “I can’t think of a better way to experience a unique coastal landscape of crashing waves, tide pools, rock formations, old growth forest, birds, and wildlife than to meander along a beach for a week and soak it all in. And I can’t think of a better beach to meander than the 75-kilometer West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island. Famous for its ruggedness, hundreds of man-made ladders and bridges, lush rainforests, and beautiful beach campsites, the West Coast Trail offers an experience as rich as the island’s flora and fauna itself. It’s an epic walk into the history of the Pacific Coast and Vancouver Island”.

 From , “The West Coast Trail (WCT), on the southwestern coast of Vancouver Island, is a hiking experience like no other. Nearly 50 miles long, it covers a tremendous diversity of habitats, from lush temperate rain forest to boggy wetlands to long stretches of rocky coastline. The hiker passes through this terrain on a system of foot paths, boardwalks, ladders, suspension bridges and cable cars“.

 The WCT is managed by the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve of Canada and the First Nations tribes that inhabit the area

Permits: This trip is dependent on getting permits. Tentative dates assume permit availability. Starting trailhead also depends on permit availability.

 Permits are expensive (see costs). Before getting permits, we are asking that participants send their share of the permit cost. The plan is to get permits for a group size of 6. If we are unsuccessful we will try for a smaller group size.

 The plan is to get permits for July 14th (first day of hiking). If unsuccessful, we are considering trying for a different date.


This trip is not for everyone.

The following information is from Parks Canada:

80 to 100 seriously injured hikers are evacuated from the West Coast Trail (WCT) every season. Approximately 200 hikers per year sustain minor injuries, and manage to limp off the trail.

  • Participants must be proficient in multi-day overnight backpacking. (I'm clarifying this to be at least 3 six/seven day backpacks in recent years)
  • Participants must expect missing or rotten boardwalks, missing planks, missing ladder rungs, downed trees, and unpassable creeks and rivers.
  • Participants must be flexible with their hiking plans to adjust if conditions warrant delays. (I'm asking for similar experience. Please describe at least one trip in recent years where you had to change plans, after leaving your home the morning of the trip.)
  • Participants must not have had recent surgery or a concussion and at risk of reinjury.
  • Participants must not have experienced re-occurring knee, back, or ankle injuries and/or pain. Or have had previous knee, hip or leg injuries.
  • participants must not have a fear of heights


Requirements (also from Parks Canada):

  • Must follow Public Health Authority Guidelines
  • Must watch Preparation Guide Video
  • West Coast Trail Orientation must be viewed by each participant, Mandatory.
    • we will be tested for competency at trail head
  • Each participant must have a National Park entry pass on their person
  • Orientations are offered online; links are sent out 1 - 2 weeks before arrival
  • WCT Pre-Hike Briefings: mandatory.
    • WCT briefings are offered at 10:00 am and 2:00 pm daily
    • Please bring your reservation confirmation information to the briefing
  • Cable Cars: Only two people (and their gear) per cable car and platform


Our Tentative Itinerary (subject to change):

  • Day 0: Travel day. Drive taking the closest ferry (Tsawwassen or Anacor) to Port Renfrew, our ending TH. Get accommodations for the night (camp, hotel, etc).
  • Day 1: Take the West Coast Trail Shuttle to Pachena Bay.
    • Attend the mandatory 2pm orientation session
    • Hike 7.2 mi from Pachena Bay to Michigan Creek. 1,144’ gain.
  • Day 2: Hike 7.7 mi to Tsusiat Falls. 1,845’ gain
  • Day 3: Hike 10.6 mi to Cribs Creek. 1,805’ gain.
  • Day 4: Hike 7.12 mi to Walbran Creek. 1,259’ gain.
  • Day 5: Hike 5.79 mi to Camper Bay. 1214’ gain.
  • Day 6: Hike 4.66 mi to Thrashers Cove. 1239’ gain.
  • Day 7: Hike 3.32 mi to Gordon River. 1472’ gain.
  • Accumulative ascent have been determined using gaia. Note that the gaia algorithms always seem to be higher than the actual gain.
  • Note that there should be (or may be) food for purchase mid-way in the trip, around the Nitinaht TH area. Expect cash only.




If you’re given leader permission to register for the trip, then you are committing to paying the potentially non-refundable fees due at registration time. This is somewhere around $200 US. The exact cost will not be known until I see the credit card receipt. If you are a participant and you choose to cancel you will only get a refund of your registration fee, if there is a waitlisted person who joins the trip.

Parks Canada’s Cancellation policy, if the entire trip ends up being canceled

  • Reservation fee: non-refundable.
  • When cancelling a reservation 21 days or more prior to the departure date, the West Coast Trail Overnight Use Fee and the ferry fees are fully refundable. The reservation fee is non-refundable and a cancellation fee will apply per booking.
  • Only ferry fees are eligible for a refund if cancellations are made within 20 days of the departure date (the non-refundable cancellation fee applies).

Leader Permission Required. When asking for permission:

  • Please confirm that you have read the above leader’s notes, and that you meet the Parks Canada’s safety and requirements.
  • Please provide 3 six/seven day backpacks in recent years
  • Please describe one trip where you had to change plans (after leaving home)
  • Please confirm that you have flexibility if the trip ends up longer than 7 days
  • Please acknowledge that the fees due at registration time may not be refunded even if you decide to cancel from the trip

 If you’re giving permission to register please register immediately. Then I will need to receive $200 for your portion of the registration fees, within a week. The amount is an estimate, the exact cost will not be known until after the currency conversion. Excess funds will be refunded.

 Please note: this is an extremely complexed trip. I’m anticipating that I will be updating this posting.

Required Equipment

Required Equipment

The Ten Essentials plus overnight gear which may include:

  • Tent with footprint/ground tarp
  • Stove and fuel
  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping pad
  • Water filter
  • Bear canister or extra stuff sack and cord designated for hanging food
  • Cooking pot/pan with plate and utensils
  • Toilet paper and shovel or blue bag to deal with waste
Trip Reports