HOW to survive the West Coast Trail

BestHike editor Rick McCharles

After hiking the West Coast Trail twice in 2021, I put together a video playlist with two goals:

1. WHY the West Coast Trail is our #1 hike in the world.

2. HOW to survive. It’s dangerous and challenging.

Below are all 7 videos. If they help, bookmark them and/or subscribe on YouTube.

Click PLAY or watch the Introduction on YouTube.

Click PLAY or watch Bamfield to Michigan Creek on YouTube.

Click PLAY or watch Michigan Creek to Tsusiat Falls on YouTube.

Click PLAY or watch Tsusiat Fall to Cribs Creek on YouTube.

Click PLAY or watch Cribs Creek to Cullite Creek on YouTube.

Click PLAY or watch Cullite to Port Renfrew on YouTube.

Click PLAY or watch Nitinat Option on YouTube.

Day 6 – West Coast Trail 2021

Trip report by BestHike editor Rick McCharles.

Day 0 | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | gear | video | WCT info

June 14, 2021
Km 65 to Port Renfrew

I awoke in the morning wondering whether my injured leg could get me out in time for the 3:30 ferry across the Gordon river.

I had ALL DAY to make 10km.

My leg felt no worse. And no better. Every step hurt but it seemed full strength.

Two choices, both challenging:

  1. Inland trail (mud scramble)
  2. Owen Point (most difficult section of the WCT)

I headed for the shelf.

First challenge — many surge channels.

Happily, the tide was very low. Waves almost non-existent.

Best weather of the week.

I was able to jump or walk around all surge channels without trouble.

Plan worked. I reached Owen Point at exactly lowest tide.

A highlight of the West Coast Trail.

Next challenge: HUGE boulders and log walking.

As a former gymnast, I enjoy scrambles. No problems.

I arrived Thrasher Cove before Noon.

From here my guidebook estimated 4 hours for 6km all inland. It could’t possibly take me that long, even injured. 🤫 Could it?

The Thrash is a steep, switchbacking scramble from the beach up to the high inland trail.

It seemed to take forever to reach the famed Donkey Engine.

I started to worry about time. There is some gorgeous easy trail walking on the final 5km, as well. Nobody understands WHY this section takes so long.

Donkey engines were used to pull huge logs, back in the day.

I didn’t reach the final ladder down to the Gordon river until 3:25pm, 5 minutes before the (supposed) deadline to cross.

Whew.

As required, I waltzed into the West Coast Trail office to check off the trail. Relieved.

I had a second permit to start the next day BACK to Bamfield. A WCT yoyo. But had to cancel due to injury.

Easiest was to simply change the reservation. Out of the blue, I decided on July 3rd out of Nitinat.

Once the excitement of finishing ebbed, my leg really started hurting on the slow plod 5km into Port Renfrew town.

Just before I got to the hiker’s hut I had booked, 3 friends from the trail stopped to ask me if I wanted a ride to Nanaimo.

Sweet.

That was exactly what I wanted to do.

I collected my resupply. Cancelled my reservation at the hiker’s hut.

Got home before 9pm.

And I’m already looking forward to another West Coast Trail week in July.

Day 0 | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | gear | video | WCT info

Day 5 – West Coast Trail 2021

Trip report by BestHike editor Rick McCharles.

Day 0 | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | gear | video | WCT info

June 13, 2021
Culite to Km 65

Wow. What a fantastic campsite.

Protected from the rain by the cliff, I had my own personal kitchen.

Here’s the impassable headland at Cullite.

Therefore everyone heads up the the ladders. Those at Cullite highest of all.

Top of the stairs is a quagmire of mud and trippy roots.

But the inland trail can be beautiful.

Wild and weird mushrooms.

One of the most interesting creatures is the Banana slug.

If you could eat them, you’d never starve. And they have been eaten by humans — but are not appetizing. Remove the slime first.

DAMN. I slipped in a mud pit — face first — badly bruising my thigh on a hidden root.

The leg seemed to work … but was painful. I limped on with the logic of walking it off.

Expect MUD on the WCT.

I can’t go on, I’ll go on.

Our plan had been to camp on the beach Km 65 . Cross Owen Point at low tide next morning. And out to Port Renfrew.

Km 65 is only 8km from Cullite — but the short day sounded good since I was now injured and moving slowly.

Unfortunately there was no place to set up a tent near Km 65. 😕

I decided to camp right on the trail. A good spot, actually.

I was able to secure my food because I’d carried it in an Ursack.

Ursack AllMitey bear bag

No campfire.

Went to bed early hoping the leg wouldn’t hematoma.

Day 0 | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | gear | video | WCT info

Day 4 – West Coast Trail 2021

Trip report by BestHike editor Rick McCharles.

Day 0 | 1 | 2 | 3 | | 5 | 6 | gear | video | WCT info

June 12, 2021
Cribs to Cullite

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.

Next day I saw a hiker had abandoned his.

Day 0 | 1 | 2 | 3 | | 5 | 6 | gear | video | WCT info

Day 3 – West Coast Trail 2021

Trip report by BestHike editor Rick McCharles.

Day 0 | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | gear | video | WCT info

June 11, 2021
Tsusiat to Cribs

Finally. Serious rain.

But I was dry in a little tent secured under a Tsusiat cliff overhang. Didn’t need my fly.

Put on the water shoestrail 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.

Day 0 | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | gear | video | WCT info

Day 2 – West Coast Trail 2021

Trip report by BestHike editor Rick McCharles.

Day 0 | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | gear | video | WCT info

June 10, 2021
Michigan to Tsusiat Falls

Good morning.

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.

Day 0 | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | gear | video | WCT info

West Coast Trail 2021

Trip report by BestHike editor Rick McCharles.

Day 0 | 12 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | gear | video | WCT info

Day 1 – June 9, 2021
Bamfield to Michigan

The West Coast Trail Express delivers clean hikers to the Visitor Centre at Pachena Bay close to Bamfield.

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
Beach start

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.

toasted bagel with PB and marmalade

When not muddy, the inland trails are magical.

MICHIGAN

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.

Day 0 | 12 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | gear | video | WCT info

Mt Quimper circuit, Sooke B.C.

Trip report by BestHike editor Rick McCharles

Mount Manuel Quimper is a great hike close to Sooke on Vancouver Island.

I looped back via Mount Brule, an easy 10km circuit using AllTrails for navigation.

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

There are many other hiking and mountain biking trails to choose from.

It’s just off the Galloping Goose Regional Trail, a 55-kilometre (34 mi) non-motorized path to Victoria. Ideal for me as I cycled to the trailhead.

Hiking Vancouver Island North

A pandemic is a good time to stay local.

And physically distance from strangers outdoors. 😀

The only hiking I’ve done atop Vancouver Island is famed North Coast Trail.

In early July, I’m hoping to bikepack trailhead-to-trailhead.

There’s much to see. And a touring bike looks to be good transport in this remote area.

I’d get a ride to Port Hardy. Then cycle to as many of Gregg Strong’s recommended areas as possible.

I’d navigate with apps and the Vancouver Island Backroads Mapbook.

Click PLAY or watch some highlights on YouTube.

Check a map of trails and attractions.

West Coast Trail OPEN 2021

After a year closed, our #1 hike in the world is reopening to hikers June 4, 2021.

Reservations open April 30th. However … only Canadians will be eligible and no standby spaces will be available for walk-on hikers.

Click PLAY or watch a 1-minute preview on YouTube.

To learn more, check our WCT information page.