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The West Coast of Canada is full of natural beauty. It's also a great place for experienced hikers to enjoy the outdoors, as the climate is temperate, and the terrain is unique to traverse. This is also the reason why the locals, and later on the modern settlers, chose to occupy the land. West Coast Trail is a challenging hiking trail on Vancouver Island that could be fun, and incredibly scenic.

While incredibly beautiful, this is not a novice hike and should only be attempted by hikers familiar with the terrain and the area.

What Makes The West Coast Trail Special?

As one of the most famous hiking trails in the world, West Coast Trail is rife with attractions and sights. The trail passes through a variety of terrains, from pine forests to marshlands to mountainous highlands to beaches. What makes the trail ideal for pros is that hikers, at every point of the hike, have the option to stay in the highlands and pine forests, hug the coast and beaches, or traverse rocky mountains. Like a choose-your-own-adventure book or video game, the choices that the hiker makes along the way will determine how gnarly or easy the adventure is and how long the entire experience will last.


However, no matter how experienced or inexperienced prospective hikers are, it is advisable to pass through the famous forest suspension bridge. Due to the fertile nature of the environment, there are a number of rivers to cross. At some points, hikers will have to take a cable car, which is always a thrill. At other points, rivers can only be crossed by balancing on fallen logs, crossing unstable bridges, or wading through on foot. To make things more interesting, there are two waterways that require adventurers to cross on boats.

The sheer variety of activities that hikers must partake in to complete the West Coast Trail is what makes it special. Some trails tend to be repetitive, which has its own charm and value but can also be underwhelming and forgettable, as the primary focus ends up being internal and psychological. The West Coast Trail is guaranteed to pull hikers out of their own heads and force them to interact with the surrounding environment in an intimate, challenging, and rewarding manner.

Related: A Hike Through Lynn Canyon National Park Is A Must If You’re Visiting Vancouver

Flora And Fauna Along The West Coast Trail

There is a mandatory orientation that hikers must go through before undertaking the journey. Part of the orientation involves teaching hikers how to deal with wild animals that they might encounter. In terms of potentially dangerous land animals, there are cougars, black bears, and wolves to look out for. If adventurers manage to avoid these three animals, there are no other significant risks in terms of wildlife. Bird watchers will be interested in the avian diversity of Vancouver, which includes majestic creatures like hummingbirds and eagles.

Along the coastal sections of the trail, depending on the season, hikers have reported seeing seals and sea lions. Looking out at the ocean horizon, in the fall, in particular, orcas and gray whales can be seen swimming in shallow waters to feed and mate, making for a spectacular marine show. Bring some binoculars to see the whale tails and blowhole sprays glistening in the sun. In the tidal pools along the beach, hikers can see a variety of mollusks, sea anemones, and fish -- just make sure not to disturb the marine life if at all possible as the land ultimately belongs to the animals.

Related: Capilano: Guide To Vancouver's Most Insta-Worthy Suspension Bridge

How Long Does The West Coast Trail Take?

The West Coast Trail can take anywhere between three and six days, depending on the speed and agility of the hikers as well as the exact paths they choose to take. It is unlikely that hikers will get lost, as long as they stay on the established trails. However, in the past, the trails have been severely damaged by abnormal weather conditions, so as a precaution, it's best to carry a compass and map.

Regardless of what path hikers plan to take, it is wise to carry food rations for a full seven days at a minimum, as things don't always go according to plan. Say if someone in the group gets injured or sick and the team has to move slower or spend an extra night or two recovering at a campsite, there should always be enough food and medications to last the whole trip. Potable drinking water is naturally available throughout the hike, as freshwater can be collected from streams and rivers. Just make sure to have a sturdy water bottle on hand to store and transport the water.

What To Pack For Hiking The West Coast Trail

There are at least two food establishments along the trail where hikers can buy delicious and calorie-dense meals like burgers, salmon, eggs, and corn. That said, it is still important to pack sufficient reserves of food. While it is quite rare for hikers to come across dangerous predators, bears do roam the land, so all aromatic food should be sealed in airtight containers such as bear boxes.

A thermos can be advantageous to have, especially for hikers with preexisting caffeine addictions. Sachets of instant coffee and tea bags are lightweight and shouldn't take up too much room.

Due to rainy weather, cold nights, the glut of rivers, and rocky terrain, hikers must pack waterproof boots with hard soles, plenty of changes of dry socks and underwear, a lightweight jacket, and a raincoat. Be sure to carry a hiking bag with a waterproof zipper as well, or alternatively, line the inside of the bag with plastic.

While the West Coast Trail does come with its own challenges and over 6,000 people hike it every year, it is always best to prepare for the worst. Take a satellite phone along as well as a comprehensive first aid kit. Make sure that the first aid kit contains water purification tablets as well, just in case someone on the team has a vulnerable immune system. For ablutions, it's a good idea to have toilet paper for wiping and a little shovel for burying waste.

A good quality tent with thermal lining is important to have, as well as a decent sleeping bag. On the whole, the West Coast Trail is definitely worth having good quality gear for, even if it costs a little extra.

Given that all of these factors are taken into consideration, hikers can fully appreciate the adventure, beauty, and spiritual significance of the West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island.