West Coast Trail: Hike of a lifetime
Are you prepared? Is this hike for you?
The West Coast Trail (WCT) is an iconic backcountry, multi-day backpacking trail that is a bucket list challenge for many hikers. It is an experience that can bring even the most experienced hikers to their knees. Those who are well prepared physically, mentally, and equipment-wise, come away with tales of grit.
Hikers climb more than 100 ladders with a heavy pack, trudge through deep mud, wade through mountain-fed rivers in fast-flowing hip-deep waters, and push through whatever weather the wild West Coast delivers — often driving wind and rain.
The 75-kilometre (47-mile) West Coast Trail is part of the ancient paths and paddling routes used for trade and travel by first nations. Huuay-aht, Ditidaht, and Pacheedaht villages and camps were well established before the foreign sailing ships started to arrive off this coast over 200 years ago. As the years passed and the number of ships sailing the Juan de Fuca Strait increased, so too did the number of shipwrecks and drownings along the coast. In time, the coastline became known as “the Graveyard of the Pacific.”
In 1906, when the steamship Valencia went down with the horrific loss of more than 125 lives, the public outcry prompted the Canadian government into further action: Pachena Lighthouse was constructed in 1907; lifesaving stations were established at Cloo-ose and Bamfield; the telegraph route was upgraded to become the Dominion Life Saving Trail, complete with six shelters stocked with provisions for both shipwreck victims and their rescuers. As navigation technology improved, many of these measures became obsolete and were abandoned.
In 1970, Pacific Rim National Park Reserve was established and in 1973, the lifesaving trail was included in the national park reserve as a recreational hiking trail, beginning a new chapter in its history. Today, over 7,500 backpackers hike the West Coast Trail every year. They come to see the beauty, experience the challenges, and walk the path of those that came before them.
The West Coast Trail is OPEN May 1 to September 30.Beginning 8:00 am (PST) on January 7, 2019, reservations for the West Coast Trail can be made for any date between May 1 and September 30. Spaces fill quickly, so consider setting up an account prior to January 7, 2019.
The West Coast Trail can be intimidating, even to the most seasoned adventure-seeker. A mid-point entrance at Nitinaht Narrows (only accessible by water taxi from Nitinaht Village), allows hikers to tackle a shorter portion.