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Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

West Coast Trail: Planning

Planning your Hike on the West Coast Trail
Planning your hike on the West Coast Trail
© Parks Canada

NEW as of 2014: Day hikers require a Park Entry Pass. Third entrance to West Coast Trail via Nitinat Village now open.

Operating Season

  Dates in effect annuallyNotes 

Shoulder Season: Overnight Use

May 1 - June 14
Sept 16 - 30
 
Peak Season: Overnight Use June 15 - Sept 15 To reduce environmental impact and avoid overcrowding, the number of overnight hikers is limited to 68 per day (30 from Pachena Bay, 30 from the Gordon River, and 8 from Nitinat Village).
Closure Oct 1 - April 30 The West Coast Trail (WCT) is closed due to prolonged periods of heavy rain, strong winds, high tides, large waves and short days.

Planning Your Trip

  • Maximum group size is 10.
  • The only exceptions are school groups starting the trail between May 1 and 20 and September 20 and 26.
  • Up to 18 hikers may be in these school groups.

Access and Exit Points

  • Pachena Bay (north), Gordon River (south) and Nitinat (mid-point).
  • Access or exit at any other point is not permitted unless an evacuation is required.
  • There are some basic tourism services at, or near, all access points. These include accommodations, campgrounds, phones, fuel, some groceries, and food services. Nitinat does not offer fuel services, and there are no banking services in the villages of Bamfield, Port Renfrew,or Nitinat.
  • We strongly recommend hikers start the trail a minimum of five hours before sunset to ensure a camping area is reached before nightfall.
  • If your party will arrive after 1:00pm on the reserved start date at Gordon River or Pachena Bay, you must contact the WCT Information Centre at your entry point to prevent your reserved spaces from being given to hikers on stand-by.
  • Hiking from Gordon River to Camper Bay in one day is not advisable. Plan to camp at Thrasher Cove. Statistics show that most accidents occur later in the day in this area. At the end of your hike, register your party off the WCT. Return one copy of the park permit to a WCT Information Centre or the Ditidaht First Nation Visitor Centre. Permits can be placed in designated drop box if the centres are closed.
  • Anyone interested in travelling the Nitinat Triangle or Cape Beale Headlands is required to contact the WCT Information Centre for information and permits.

Ditidaht First Nation’s Tenting

The Ditidaht First Nation are offering a luxury tenting opportunity at Tsuquadra, on their traditional lands. These four person tents are complete with a wood burning stove, wood floors, cots, and an outdoor deck. For more information, visit westcoasttrail.com.


Orientation Session

NOTE: All overnight users of the West Coast Trail participate in an orientation session and obtain a park permit.

The purpose of the orientation process is to: 

  • reduce the number of hiker injuries by providing information about safety issues; 
  • reduce environmental impacts by providing back country etiquette information; 
  • provide information about current issues and trail conditions; 
  • provide a brief history of the West Coast Trail and its place in Canada’s history; and 
  • issue park permits and collect fees.

If you have a Pachena Bay or Gordon River WCT reservation, bring your reservation confirmation information to the orientation.

Hikers with reservations will be issued a waterproof Pacific Rim National Park Reserve West Coast Trail Map when they register on the trail. Hikers who have not made a reservation can purchase the map during their orientation process for $8.50.

Orientations at Gordon River/Pachena Bay

  • Reservations are not necessary for the orientation process at the Gordon River or Pachena Bay trailheads. 
  • The orientation process takes about 1½ hours. 
  • Hikers may register and participate in an orientation session as early as 3:30pm the day before their hike starts. 

Orientations at Nitinat Village

  • Hikers accessing the trail at Nitinat will go through the orientation process at the Ditidaht First Nation Visitor Centre in Nitinat Village.
  • Hikers must call to schedule their orientation process in advance as this office is only open by request. Requests can be made as much as one week in advance but no less than 24 hours in advance of the planned arrival time.


Make a Trip Plan

NOTE: A park permit does not fulfil this role.

Before you leave for the trail, write a trip plan: leave it with a responsible person (e.g., friend or family member). Detail where you are going, with whom, when you plan to return, and what to do if you do not return as planned.