Vancouver Island/North Coast Trail

Backpack 37-49 miles on the north end of Canada's Vancouver Island. A typical trip is 5-8 days and is recommended for experienced hikers because of its remoteness and difficulty. Expect boardwalks, cable cars, privacy, rain, mud, scenery, and wildlife including sea wolves!


The trail runs along the northern end of Vancouver Island spanning Cape Scott Provincial Park. It can be traversed east to west from Shushartie Bay to the eastern end of Nissen Bight or in reverse from west to east. The trail becomes progressively easier in the east to west direction. Access to the Shushartie Bay trailhead is by boat or floatplane only. There are currently no docking facilities. One water taxi service runs from Port Hardy during the summer season. Access to the western portion of the trail is from the San Josef parking lot at the Cape Scott trailhead. Shuttle service to the parking lot can also be arranged in Port Hardy.

on the trail

The North Coast Trail was completed in 2008, and is a less crowded, shorter, and more strenuous alternative to Vancouver Island's West Coast Trail. The total hiking distance is approximately 37 miles, without adding side trips. The minimum recommended one-way hiking time is 5 days, but it is more commonly completed in 6-8 days. Hiking times are estimated for the average hiker in good physical condition and the trail hiked in good weather.

Suggested Itinerary

  • Shushartie Bay to Skinner Creek: 5 miles, 5-7 hours
  • Skinner Creek to Cape Sutil: 4.9 miles, 3.5 - 5.5 hours
  • Cape Sutil to Irony Creek (Shuttleworth Bight): 4.8 miles, 4-6 hours
  • Irony Creek to Laura Creek: 7.3 miles, 4-7 hours
  • Laura Creek to Nissen Bight: 4.7 miles, 2.5-4 hours
  • Nissen Bight to Cape Scott: 9.6 miles, 5-7 hours


  • This is a very challenging route and is recommended only for experienced hikers. Many sections require hikers to climb over or along fallen trees, to cross through deep mud, and to use fixed ropes to climb up and over steep sections. It is not recommended for those with a fear of heights. Consider hiking sections of the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail or the Cape Scott Trail to Nels Bight prior to attempting a trip to the North Coast Trail.
  • The trail is located in a wilderness area with minimal supplies or equipment of any kind. It is not regularly patrolled, so hikers must be self-sufficient. Bring a personal locator beacon, satellite phone, or VHF radio in case of emergency. Cell phones do not work in the park, and assistance may be days away.
  • The trail offers a glimpse into wild, west coast ecosystems. The rugged trail passes through old and second growth Sitka spruce, hemlock and cedar forests, upland bogs, riparian areas, across sand, gravel and cobble beaches, and past sea stacks, rocky headlands, and tidal pools. The park is home to bald eagles, black bears, cougars, wolves, river and sea otters, mink, and an array of marine mammals. Sighting and encounters are common in the park, so use caution.
  • This route lies within the traditional territory of the Kwakwaka'wakw. Cape Scott Provincial Park is rich with First Nations history. Many signs of their historic presence are evident in the park. Please respect all cultural sites and leave them undisturbed. Do not touch or remove any cultural items.

Information for Leaders

  • Difficulty: Strenuous/Very Strenuous
  • Length: 37.0 mi
  • Elevation Gain: 27 ft
  • 400 ft
  • Land Manager: Cape Scott Provincial Park
  • Parking Permit Required: see "Getting There" section (above)
  • Recommended Party Size: 10
  • Maximum Party Size: 12
  • Maximum Route/Place Capacity: 12
  • Wild Coast Publishing North Coast Trail Topographic Map No. 407
Trip Reports

This is a list of titles that represent the variations of trips you can take at this route/place. This includes side trips, extensions and peak combinations. Not seeing a title that fits your trip? Log in and send us updates, images, or resources.

  • North Coast Trail
  • Canada's North Coast Trail
  • Cape Scott Provincial Park

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