The Whale Trail is an unforgettable experience, taking you through one of the Western Cape’s most unique and diverse nature reserves.
The route stretches over 55km, from Potberg to Koppie Alleen, with five overnight stops (hikers spend the first night at Potberg before starting the trail). The unspoilt natural beauty on this trail is unsurpassable, leading through lush fynbos and offering stunning views of the coast.
De Hoop is known as one of the best land-based whale-watching spots in the world. Between June and November, the coastline is transformed as southern right whales migrate here to breed and look after their young.
Reservations are limited to group bookings of either six or 12. (No children.) The tariff includes the shuttle service from Koppie Alleen, where the trail ends, back to the Potberg tourism office and the Whale Trail parking area.
My good camera died permanently 💀 the previous day. So I have fewer photos from the last 3 days.
Cribs is unique. I love the weird natural rock breakwater.
Here’s the campsite.
Pit toilets are excellent on the the WCT by the way. Some of the best I’ve seen around the world.
Again, I started on the beach in my water shoes. The weather steadily improving.
The iconic image of the West Coast Trail for me is a sea stack. Most of those are on the Port Renfrew end.
Wolves are common on beaches here now. We saw many prints.
In fact, a woman from Carmanah Light Station was interviewing hikers and recording what wildlife they’d seen.
I climbed the stairs up to the Light Station, even though visiting was still not allowed due to COVID.
It doesn’t take long to walk around. And drop back to the beach.
NOTE – I was told the very WORST inland trail of all right now is the section heading towards Bamfield from the Light Station. I was also told it would be CLOSED until improvements could be made.
Nearby is legendary Chez Monique’s, a popular snack bar on the trail for decades. Monique Knighton ran that — but died New Year’s Eve 2017 at age-78.
Rumour had been that it would not reopen for 2021.
SURPRISED I was to find a family at the old location. They hoped to reopen to some extent this season when supplies arrived.
It’s a pretty beach walk from here.
The weather kept improving.
Bonilla Point. Vancouver Point,
Cablecar over Walbran Creek.
From Walbran to Cullite I stayed up on the inland trail, bypassing Adrenaline Surge, the most infamous on the WCT.
I actually like the ladders, each time considering how the trail must have been before they were constructed.
This was my first time crossing the magnificent new suspension bridge over Logan Creek. While this climate could quickly overgrow most of the manmade structures, this bridge will survive for hundreds of years.
One more cable car. And I dropped down to camp.
Arriving late yet again, there were only two obvious campsites left at Cullite.
But mine was a good one. Mostly sheltered from the rain.
Guys from my shuttle van camped 4 of 5 nights at the same spots as me. They got a big fire roaring every night.
A big fire to try to dry their hiking boots. Not the best footwear for the WCT in my opinion.
But I was dry in a little tent secured under a Tsusiat cliff overhang. Didn’t need my fly.
Put on the water shoes — trail runners with neoprene booties — in the morning as I’d be starting on the beach. Tide was low enough.
My rain gear perfect.
I enjoyed walking through Tsusiat Point a second time, 12 hours after exploring it the previous evening.
The shelf in the rain is classic West Coast Trail. But you are forced inland at the impassable headlands of Tsuquadra Point.
I stayed with the water shoes due to muddy pools on the inland trails.
IF you have the agility of a gymnast, you can often save time by walking natural log bridges.
In the rain, it’s tempting to stop and see if there is availability at the Ditidaht First Nation Comfort Camp.
The inland trails were overgrown after having seen no hikers for almost 2 years. The WCT was closed due to COVID in 2020.
It’s always a thrill to reach Nitinat Narrows, cold, deep and fast moving tidal waters.
For days I’d been looking forward to fresh caught salmon lunch.
There are cabins to rent here though I’ve never stayed.
As you can see, my camera fogged up badly.
Departing the crab shack, there’s a lot of new (slippery) boardwalk. Careful.
And the way got even more overgrown. At one point, I thought I’d missed the main trail. Tempted to head back to the crab shack to borrow a machete. 😀
There’s a good suspension bridge over the Cheewhat river.
This day I really enjoyed switching back and forth between trail and coastline.
At one point — for fun — we tried and failed to cross an impassable headland. Waves were too high to wade. I turned back to the last beach access, but some younger hikers managed to scramble up the cliff to rejoin the inland trail.
Didn’t arrive Cribs until 8:30pm. Very tired.
Set up my tent in the trees in the first available spot. Next to the pit toilets.
Another surprisingly clear day for June on the WET Coast Trail.
You head south from Michigan on the beach. But I wore my DRY shoes with wool socks. Optimistic.
The usual rule on the WCT is to take the beach unless forced inland by tide, weather or impassable headlands. I stayed on the beach this morning as long as I could.
Between Billy Goat and Trestle Creek you MUST head up. Happily, it’s a relatively easy section of trail walking, even after being overgrown during the pandemic closure year.
One of the highlights of inland scrambles is admiring old growth trees.
At Trestle, I headed back down to the coast. Switched to my grippy trail runners with neoprene booties. I would end up wearing my “wet footwear” at least 75% of the time. I’ll wear the same on future WCT hikes.
At the Klanawa river I headed back up to do the cable car crossing. FUN and a bit challenging if you’re alone.
It’s about 3km further to famed Tsusiat Falls.
Plenty of ladders.
Challenging, trippy, muddy trails, as well.
I was taking many panorama shots on my iPhone. Some I’ll use in videos. They can make interesting speed ramps.
Arriving about 5pm I was surprised to see the only “cave” not occupied. I grabbed it instantly.
It’s illegal to camp in caves on the WCT, but you could argue this one is more of a slot in the cliff face. Still, it’s deep enough to shield from rain.
I tried my best to keep sand out of the tent.
NO I didn’t swim. I’m still chilled from a plunge here in 2004 !!
In the past these famed falls have been crowded and littered. But post-pandemic we only had about 15 people sharing a BIG space.
Evening I went exploring Tsusiat Point at low tide. The highlight of the day.
Private logging roads from Lake Cowichan to Bamfield were surprisingly good in 2021.
In normal years, we would have checked-in, watched a video, and filled out our paperwork — walking away with a WCT Overnight Use Permit.
DON’T LOSE THAT PERMIT. You are required to show it to get on the ferries at Nitinat Narrows and Gordon River.
Due to COVID, 2021 was different. Watching the videos was done online. Rangers QUIZZED us outdoors to see if we actually knew the content.
My reservations was for June 10th. I’d planned to start early the next morning. BUT the trailhead campground was still closed. Rangers agreed that it would be better to set me off on to the trail rather than have me hanging around Bamfield overnight.
To start there are two choices:
Steep ladders, OR …
1 km on the beach
We met 4 ladies coming in who were first to finish on the Bamfield end of the WCT 2021. They’d taken the beach but told us to head inland as the tide was now too high.
I would end up hiking in parallel with the 3 guys here, all Canadian border guards.
LADDERS challenge right from the start.
This is the “easier” end of the trail. Still, it’s 12km to the first campground. Mostly inland.
Around every corner there’s something weird and interesting.
Pachena Point Light Station at 10km is a highlight. But it was still closed to hikers due to COVID.
When not muddy, the inland trails are magical.
Almost every hiker stays at Michigan coming and going because it’s closest to Bamfield. That said, it’s not nearly one of my favourites.
Less crowded than ever before, I still decided to wade the river and find a small site in the trees away from the ‘mob’.
Folks had seen a bear on the beach earlier in the day. It’s essential to secure all food in the bear lockers.
In the evening at low tide I went exploring the shelf.
This is the boiler of the Michigan which went aground 1893. This is the shipwreck coast, after all.
Perhaps I should have carried on to one of the next two small campsites: Darling or Orange Creek.