The West Coast Trail is 75km long, 231 meters high (yet you go up and down so many times) and it usually takes between 5-7 days to complete the trek.
Our group did the hike in 5 days, 5 nights (noon on Thursday to noon on Tuesday). Yet with travel time to and from, it took a full 6 days.
Here I’ll share some tips about our trip, what we liked, and what we recommend.
Want to know about how we prepared for the trip? Check out my post on the West Coast Trail Prep.
This is us in Victoria at 6:30am on the Thursday – waiting for the bus! You can certainly drive to one of the trail heads, yet then you’ll have to take the bus back (trail head to trail head it’s about a 4 hour bumpy bus ride). For us, since we flew into Victoria it made sense to use the bus service to and from.
We hiked south to north and would recommend this route to anyone hiking the trail. So long as you pack isn’t over stuffed, you’ll get through the toughest part of the trail in the first couple of days when you’re strong and have a lot of energy.
On the first day we hiked for 4.5 hours (including our breaks) and completed 6 km. We stayed at Thrasher Cove.
Above is the boulder field you’ll encounter if you take the beach route after leaving Thrasher Cove.
We left around 8:45am since we wanted to see the caves during low tied (for us that was 11:43am).
A note on the beach route – we took the beach access each time we could. Yet it’s a bit of a mind game. I’m slow on the beach – it’s heavy walking and you need to really pick up your feet. Don’t get me wrong, the beach is straighter than the forest, so you’re faster on the beach, it just doesn’t feel like it. I’m a big proponent of feel, so working through the frustration of feeling like I was walking slowly was hard at times.
On day two we hiked for 8 hours (including our breaks and cave visit) and covered 11 km. Night two we stayed at Cullite Cove.
The hardest day – more ladders and more ladders.
During the orientation they’ll tell you there are about 30 ladders. Well, each set of ladders (whether it be 2 or 8) counts as 1. In reality, it’s about 70-80 ladders.
Remember, what goes up must come down. On this creek pass we went down 8 ladders, crossed a bridge and then went up another 7 ladders. It’s a bit of a mental game, too, since you need to concentrate and make sure you’re taking the correct footing. I shifted my hand unexpectedly once and almost lost my hiking poles (which you need – don’t hike without them).
See all the ladders? How many can you spot?
On day three we hiked for 9 hours (including lunch and breaks) and covered 17 km. On our third night we stayed at Cribs Creek.
Conversations around food happen a lot on the trail – on day three Monique’s was closed (she died in 2018 and her daughter ran the restaurant in the summer of 2018, yet not sure if they’re opening this year). We talked about Dr. Pepper, sour cream, cheese, and Doritos quite a bit. And Nitinat Narrow’s didn’t disappoint.
Oh, I should also mention we saw a bear at mile marker 34. Took us about 45 minutes to get by him – we sang, yelled and he was just on the beach eating lunch. We passed safely.
Below is Nitinat Narrow’s, it’s one of two ferry crossing (each takes about 4-6 minutes – don’t get too excited, you won’t cover a lot of ground on the ferry) and they have a delicious crab shack. My favourite, Dungeness!
A boy and his dog – this dog was so friendly and it was so much fun to see him.
We spent about 2 hours here, relaxing, eating, and enjoying the conversation with other hikers.
That face! It’s like I’d been hiking for 3.5 days just to have crab and sour cream (the potato was one of the best I’ve had!).
On day four we hiked for 9 hours (including our 2 hour lunch stop and breaks) and covered 18 km. On the fourth night we stayed at Tsusiat Falls.
The West Coast Trail is beautiful. We saw seals, dolphins, and even orcas hunting. If you rush through the hike you’ll miss some of the beauty.
On our last night we camped under a tree that a bald eagle calls home. I can’t believe how close he few to us – such an incredible memory.
This day was one of our favourite days – we set up camp around 2pm and just relaxed and enjoyed each other’s company. Knowing this was our last night we even had one of our back-up dinners for lunch. So fun!
Around 4pm we saw another bear, yet he ran off as soon as we yelled. Make sure you bring bear spray, no joke.
On day five we hiked for 5.5 hours and covered 9 km (with a couple of breaks). And on this night, our last one, we stayed at Tsocowis Creek.
The last day! One of the main reasons we pushed to get off the trail on the last day, rather than stay at Tsocowis again or another site on the trail, was because of the rain.
It rained on Monday night and packing up a wet tent, hiking, then trying to set up camp again in the rain didn’t seem like much fun.
On the last day we stopped to see the lighthouse and the sea lions, both worth the stops.
For the last portion of the trip we hiked for 4.5 hours and completed the last 14 km (we had a few quick stops) and got off the trail around noon.
That’s us – 75 km and all! Yahoo!!
If you’re up for sleeping in a small tent and seeing the backcountry of Vancouver Island, then we fully recommend you take on the challenge of the West Coast Trail – you’ll build memories that will last a lifetime.
Tips & Recommendations
- pack light – our tent is 2.2 pounds and we only had 2 outfits each
- get hiking poles – for water crossings they’ll save you from getting soakers
- gators are a must – they seem unnecessary, yet they’ll keep the nicks off your legs and mud out of your boots
- plan out your food and bring one extra of everything (so one extra dinner, lunch, snack and breakfast)
- don’t skimp on the first aid – these items are the only ones we didn’t use, yet we’d still bring them every time (I even brought two doses of antibiotics – you just never know since help is 24 hours away)
- stretch – take care of your body and listen to it when it’s tired
- ear plugs – the waves are loud and nature is noisy when you’re trying to sleep
- be ready for rain, even if the forecast doesn’t call for it
- stay at sites with bear boxes – it’s hard to find spots to hang food
- bring fire starter – it’s a life saver