Juan de Fuca Marine Trail, Vancouver Island

The most famous hiking adventure in Canada is the West Coast Trail out of Port Renfrew on Vancouver Island.

Port Renfrew is also the trailhead for the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail — yet no reservation is required. It’s the best back-up plan if you can’t get a reservation for the WCT.

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

IF you plan to hike Juan de Fuca, be sure to read our Juan de Fuca Information page. Especially details on the tides.

This is one of our best hikes in North America.

CLOSED Hesquiat Peninsula Trail, Vancouver Island

West Coast Wonders offers a guided fly-in hike over 6-8 days.

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

It’s also known as the Escalante Trail as most hikers start at Escalante Point.

Accessing this coastal route requires either a float plane out of Gold River or water taxi from Gold River or Tofino. Or you might be able to kayak.

Hesquiat Peninsula Provincial Park is situated on the west coast of Vancouver Island and occupies most of the eastern shore of Nootka Sound. (MAP) This park is a significant tourism corridor for rugged coastal hiking, boating and sea kayaking. …

This prominent low-elevation peninsula is a significant wilderness area protecting heritage sites, representative old-growth forest stands of Sitka spruce, lodgepole pine, white pine and yellow-cedar and a freshwater lake. The park also encompasses a variety of coastal ecosystems including extensive off-shore reefs, boulder, cobble and sand beaches, sea caves, sheltered bays, kelp beds and mudflats.

This wilderness park has numerous hazards and is in a remote area of the coast. Kayaking and hiking along the shores of the Hesquiat Peninsula is recommended for experienced paddlers and hikers only. This undeveloped wilderness park has no facilities, however backcountry camping is allowed.

If you want to know more, download the Wild Isle brochure.

Trip reports:

Michael Paskevicius (2017)

Wolverine (2004)

Ammonite Falls the HARD WAY 😀

Trip report by BestHike editor Rick McCharles.

Keith and I headed out to Ammonite Falls near Nanaimo on Vancouver Island.

Having failed badly my previous time there 😀 out of the Weigles Road trailhead, this time I tried the Jameson Road trailhead. We immediately got lost.

Doh.

Happily, returning hikers explained how we could do a bit of road walking to get to the actual trail to Ammonite Falls.

A nice walk.

Below is my original trip report from January 2021:


Without checking in advance, I cycled out for my first visit to Ammonite Falls near Nanaimo on Vancouver Island.

Most convenient for me was the Weigles Road trailhead.

January 15th was the best weather we’ve had in 2021. A perfect day.

And it’s an easy day hike.

What could go wrong?

Turned out the BENSON CREEK trail to the Falls was closed for MAJOR improvements. I had to find another way.

Later I found out that other trails to the top of the Falls were open. 😀

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

related – Outdoor Vancouver – Ammonite Falls Hike

Click PLAY or watch the hike from the Jameson road trailhead on YouTube.

Surviving Vancouver Island Wilderness – ALONE TV

Alone (TV series) … follows the self-documented daily struggles of 10 individuals (seven paired teams in season 4) as they survive alone in the wilderness for as long as possible using a limited amount of survival equipment. …

They may “tap out” at any time, or be removed due to failing a medical check-in. The contestant who remains the longest wins a grand prize of $500,000. …

Seasons 1, 2 and 4 were shot on Vancouver Island.

The first season premiered 2015.

They were dropped on Quatsino Sound in Northern Vancouver Island, Canada, only accessible by boat or float plane.

As I hike and cycle a lot on the Island, I was keen to see how mere mortals could live off the land in a remote rain forest.

Starting a fire was the first big challenge. EVERYTHING is wet all the time.

Food was the long term challenge.

Lucas was by far the most skilled in season 1. He built a boat, yurt and even a musical instrument.

But Lucas didn’t take home the $500K first prize. That went to the contestant that was psychologically strongest. I do believe he could have lasted weeks longer — though he lost over 60 pounds.


The 10 people selected for season 2 were better prepared. The challenge was the same — remote, wet Vancouver Island. Though the weather was better.

The final four all found ways to last a long time. But as winter approached, the food supply dwindled.

Nicole was one of my favourites. Marine biologist. Expert in intertidal zone ecosystem. Knows what plants to eat. What plants not to eat.

She had the luxury of letting a big salmon go free one day. Wow.

I was cheering Jose, as well, a Spaniard who had adopted the ways of the North American indigenous peoples. His kayak is amazing.

In the end, missing loved ones at home was the final reason to tap out.

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.


Season 4 had seven teams of family members competing against one another.

Same geographical location.

Personally, I found the pairs stories less interesting. Did not finish the season.

Juan de Fuca – the West Coast Trail alternative

Many try and fail each season to get a permit to hike the West Coast Trail, our #1 hike in the world.

Happily, from one of the WCT trailheads — Port Renfrew — you can start south on the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail. It’s very similar scenery (and climate) BUT doesn’t require a permit.

And it’s open year round, unlike the WCT which closes in winter.

Be prepared for serious rain.

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

Vancouver Island Trail – Work in Progress

Formerly called the Vancouver Island Spine Trail (VISpine), the Vancouver Island Trail is planned to end up close to 800km long.

About 95% of the Trail has been located and is defined on the ground well enough to be followed/hiked.

However, much of the route north of Port Alberni is not officially open since gaining the permission and support of several Indigenous Communities is on-going and a number of administrative arrangements (land use agreements, Section 57 approvals etc.) have not yet been completed.

Where the Trail is located across private forest lands, detailed planning and location of the trail has been progressing following completion of a Memorandum of Understanding that reflects the co-operative working relationship between Vancouver Island Trail Association (VITA) and Mosaic Forest Management, the timberland manager for both TimberWest and Island Timberlands. …

Current Status of the Vancouver Island Trail

The southern section from Victoria to Port Alberni you can do right now. Brendan Sainsbury cycled it. I’ve cycled all of the southern section, as well — and would say it’s better cycling than hiking.

Alex and Sarah hiked the entire island summer 2021. For them it was 40 days of backcountry camping and nights in motels when they hit small towns.

Magpie and her partner hiked it summer 2020 putting together a LONG video trip report. Watch that here.

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

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