If you haven’t added the West Coast Trail in British Columbia, Canada to your bucket list – you might want to. Surprisingly, the 75 kilometre trail through the old-growth forest and along the sandy and rocky beaches of the west coast of Vancouver Island used to be a life saving trail. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, dozens of ships crashed into the rocky shores of the coastline. In 1907, the trail was built to help the survivors of those shipwrecked find their way to safety.
But today, as part of Pacific Rim National Park, the West Coast trail is solely used by adventurous backpack-toting hikers like myself and my two girl friends. Planning the trip months in advance, we flew in from different parts of Canada and the United States to meet and take on the trail together.
Backpacks brimming with dehydrated meals, quick-dry athletic clothing, lightweight camping gear and (in my case as a digital storyteller) eight extra pounds of tech equipment to capture our journey, we were ready.
The west coast is notorious for its rain and our hike began with damp weather. The rain turned the forest pathway into a mess of slippery tree roots and mud, sometimes up to our knees. All of us inevitably took turns sliding around and falling into the mud. But throughout our seven days on the trail, the rainy haze and fog eventually lifted for a few days of sunshine. Along the trail we encountered no less than 130 bridges, 5 cable cars, and enough moss-covered ladders to make you happy you never became a firefighter. This doesn’t include the countless number of fallen tree bridges we had to cross or climb over.
The beaches were my favourite. Each headland offered a different view from around every corner. Waterfalls plummeted down from cliff edges and waves lapped at our feet as we plodded our way through the sand. Sometimes the beaches were hard packed, almost like concrete, other times they were covered in ocean-rounded boulders. And even more intriguing were the piles of monster-like kelp that splayed across the sand, almost like tentacled aliens straight out of a Hollywood horror movie.
We based our daily hiking goals conveniently around kilometre markers, viewpoints and the always important snack break. We chose to hike the trail in seven days so we could enjoy the adventure rather than feeling rushed. Every night, we set up camp at a new site along the beach, making friends along the way. Twice, on the clear nights, we were able to see billions of stars converging into the Milky Way over our tents. We lit bonfires out of giant pieces of driftwood and dried our wet gear on sticks turned into the soft sand while sharing stories over the campfire.
The West Coast Trail is one of the most unique and (arguably) one of the best multi-day hikes around the world. It’s challenging, muddy, wet and not for those with a fear of heights. But the accomplishment and enjoyment of spending seven days in the wilderness with your two good friends, makes it one hell of an adventure worth every blister.
Ashlyn - The Lost Girls Guide
Ashlyn George, supposed-to-be high school teacher turned world travel aficionado, has spent the last 6 yearsfollowing her curiosity exploring more than 50 countries across 6 continents. Completing two degrees in 2010 (B.A in English, B.Ed in Secondary Education), she booked a ticket across the world and took off on a solo adventure. As an adrenaline junkie passionate about the outdoors, her blog offers advice on solo travel while detailing the adventurous side of traveling as a single woman.
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