One of the best hikes in the world
Sunshine Coast Trail
Nearby West Coast Trail is the best hike in the world. Right?
The SCT is the latest of a number of WCT alternatives. And it’s an excellent alternative. Be aware that “Sunshine Coast” is the name of the region. Not much of the SCT is on the coast. It’s almost entirely inland.
- up to 180km (112mi)
- the best jumping off point for the SCT is Powell River, close to Vancouver B.C.
- this is the end of the highway. To get to Alaska from here, jump into Desolation Sound. And start swimming. 🙂
- the Sunshine Coast is less rainy than the rest of the lower mainland, but can still be very wet
- possible to hike hut to hut without carrying a tent
- 12 huts built since 2009 – “first-come, first-sleep”. Each can accommodate about 12 hikers. Golden Stanley hut was completed early 2016.
- Canada’s longest hut to hut hiking trail
- NO permits or reservation required
- free 🙂
- it’s considered B.C.’s hidden gem of hiking routes. Many have not yet heard of this adventure.
- we recommend you carry a tent as a back-up. There are many scenarios which might cause you not to reach the next hut on any given day.
- you can hike year round, though May – October are the best months
- Powell Forest Canoe Route intersects the SCT. Consider doing some kayaking in conjunction with your hiking trip.
- the Sunshine Coast is very popular with mountain bikers. Some will be sharing your trails.
Why We Like This Hike
- creeks & lakes, ocean vistas, mountaintops, …
- easy access, easy escape if you have problems
- gorgeous temperate rain forest environs
- an excuse to chow down at Nancy’s Bakery in Lund
- seeing impressive old growth trees
- share the trip with whales, sea lions, mink. Possibly bear or cougar.
- elk, deer, raccoon, coyote
- it’s still being improved, year-by-year
- over 12,000 trail markers, 700 wooden signs
- you may share a lovely lake with nobody else other than the odd loon. True wilderness.
- on the same trip, save some time to kayak nearby Desolation Sound
Launched December 2013, the Sunshine Coast Trail Passport $5 enables hikers to collect unique stamps for each of the huts on the Sunshine Coast Trail that they visit.
- conceived in 1992 by Eagle Walz and friends, the trail is so new that it’s not yet crowded
- volunteer built and managed. A labour of love.
- you see historic relics: donkey engine parts, cables, rusty bed frames, etc.
The biggest surprise for our group of 11 in July 2015 was the difficulty of some sections. It’s a new trail. You’ll frequently need to scramble over, under or around fallen logs.
Be sure you have the right footwear for rough and wet conditions. Steep downhills are very hard on the toes. It’s easy to get blistered if your feet get wet.
- some thorns
- many trails are badly overgrown. If you carry a machete, you’ll use it.
- water must be treated. There are long sections with no good sources.
- June and July 2015 were atypically hot. Mosquitoes were a nuisance. Four of 11 hikers were stung by wasps over 3 days.
- May 2016 we wore net clothing. All day long. Black flies and no-see-ems were a pest, as well.
- mobile phone service is sporadic
- fires are allowed unless a fire ban is in effect
- hypothermia is a real risk if you get wet
- most huts have pit toilets and picnic tables
- bears live here. You’ll see scat for sure.
- store your food carefully in the huts. Or hang it carefully.
- the SCT is not (much) protected by Regional nor Provincial parks
- you will see these guys, but they are harmless Garter snakes
- you should be happy to see snakes. They prey on these camp pests.
- the Eagle River crossing is normally very easy
- the SCT gets close to active logging areas.
- you may face detours. Be ready for anything.
- some prefer to do the last 42km backwards, south to north. It’s known as the Troubridge Trudge. You can walk off the ferry at Saltery Bay – and start hiking from the terminal.
Nearby, the West Coast Trail is the most expensive hike in Canada. You might spend $200 each. By comparison, there are no costs to hike the Sunshine Coast Trail. 🙂
Transportation from Powell River – Lund one way, if needed, is expensive however. A taxi could cost you C$70 or more. The bus runs only a couple of times a week.
If you choose to hire a water taxi to ferry you from Lund to Sarah Point, check costs on lundwatertaxi.com. It’s quite reasonable for a large group.
- full distance, so far, is about 180km (112mi)
- Sarah Point in Desolation Sound to Saltery Bay, north to south is the preferred direction
- it’s easy to section hike
- 27 sections are organized into 5 major blocks:
- Sarah Point to Malaspina Road 21.3km
- Malaspina Road to Powell Lake 28.9km
- Powell Lake to Fiddlehead Farm 30.9km
- Fiddlehead Farm to Eagle River 54.6km
- Eagle River to Saltery Bay 42.0km
- many thru hike sections 3 & 4
- a good resupply is Lang Bay General Store near the end of section 4. It’s easy to hitchhike from there. Catch the infrequent bus. Or stay at a nearby campground.
- the official website suggests popular multi-day routes from 2-6 days
- the default plan for this hike would be to start as close to Sarah Point as you wish, then hike as far as you can in the number of days you have available. Decide day-by-day which hut you want to reach, depending on weather, fitness and enthusiasm of your group
- a GPS is useful. The Walz guidebook includes coordinates. Many hikers get lost though you can usually quickly backtrack to regain the trail
- you must decide on alternative trails at various points
There’s a paddling route roughly in parallel with a large section of the Sunshine Coast Trail. From Shinglemill to Canoe Main. Hikers could switch to canoes or kayaks for a break from the trail, or meet up with paddlers at designated campgrounds. Portage is required.
We’re not aware of any companies nor guides who lead this hike.
- consider taking a bus from Vancouver airport all the way to Powell River. There are a number of public transportation options once you get to the Sunshine Coast.
- this is a seemingly simple hike — you could wait until you get to the Sunshine Coast to pick up the guidebook
- easiest access is by ferry from Vancouver, Canada (40min from Horseshoe Bay) with vehicle or on foot. You cannot drive directly from the mainland.
- from Vancouver Island you can take the ferry from Comox and start the hike same day
- air access by float plane is available, too
- B.C. ferries – Horseshoe Bay – Langdale
- B.C. ferries – Sechelt – Powell River (Earls Cove-Saltery Bay)
- B.C. ferries – Comox – Powell River (Little River-Westview)
- if you do bring a vehicle, decide where to store it while on the trail. Many opt to pay something like $7 / day to keep it secure at Dave’s Parking in Lund near the northern trailhead. Or arrange to park in a hotel to which you’ll be returning. (Many vehicles are towed in Lund.)
- transportation is required at both ends of the official trail. Many hikers use Lund Water Taxi to get to the start. An alternative is to check in Lund for a vehicle that could drop you on the BC Hydro right-of-way road. From there you can walk (the wrong direction) to the official start.
- recommended – Upper Deck hostel, Sechelt and Harbour Guesthouse, Powell River. We stayed at Willingdon Beach Campsite in Powell River, as well.
Powell River Parks & Wilderness Society
Telephone: toll free @ 1-877-817-8669, or locally @ 604-485-4701
- Sunshine Coast Trail (4th edition) by Eagle Walz
- A Dream of Giants by Emma Levez Larocque
- Facebook – A Dream of Giants: the story of the Sunshine Coast Trail
- Coastal Hikes by Philip Stone 2007 includes the SCT
We used the Walz guidebook in 2016. It’s good. But not up front in detailing some of the challenges. For example, there’s no mention that the drop-off by boat at Sarah Point is a steep, slippery and dangerous scramble. 😦
A bigger problem with Walz is the format of the guidebook. It’s described as a series of day hikes — very confusing for the thru hiker. What we really need is a dedicated thru hiking PDF guide online. Something that can be downloaded to your phone or tablet.
Be sure to read some current trip reports before you go. This trail is evolving rapidly.
Best Travel Guidebooks
- Lonely Planet – British Columbia & the Canadian Rockies 2011
Best Web Pages
- official website – sunshinecoast-trail.com
- 10 amazing sights awaiting hikers on the Sunshine Coast Trail in B.C.
- trip advisor
- Victoria Club Tread
- Powell Forest Canoe Route – map
- Mitchell’s in Powell River rents canoes and kayaks
- donate to the Sunshine Coast Trail
- become a PR PAWS member (Powell River Parks and Wilderness Society)
Best Trip Reports
- Cora Skaien – June 20 to July 1, 2013
- besthike editor Rick McCharles – Mowat Bay to Lois Main May 2016
- Maniak – Sarah Point to Lund, April 2013
- rustysheep – Sarah Point to Powell Lake, Oct 2010
- Simon Salty Peterson – on prezi (a graphic way to post a trip report)
- besthike editor Rick McCharles – Sarah to Manzanita July 2015
Chris Bratseth & Jarrod Smith ran a Half Marathon distance August 2014. They give us a good look at the terrain.
Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.
Click PLAY or watch the XS-NRG Documentary trailer on YouTube. Four runners attempted the 180km SCT non-stop.
Here’s the full movie. (45min)