A beautiful trail that is often rated as one of the worlds top hiking trails. Stretching 75km along the western edge of Vancouver Islands rugged and remote coastline, with alternating beach walks and jungle treks it can be a difficult and demanding trail. But it doesn’t need to be. It is possible to enjoy your time on the West Coast Trail.With the humidity and dampness of the never ending fog, that is undoubtedly a part of every West Coast Trail hike, my boots easily chaffed the skin off my heels on Day 1 of the trail. By Day 5, I had blisters on top of blisters. Now 10 days after the hike, my heels still continue to be a eye sore of scabbed and peeling skin, my big toes are still asleep and numb. Even though my boots failed me for the first time in my 10 year hiking history, the West Coast Trail was still an enjoyable hike, one that I would recommend to anyone with a willingness to get dirty. Hindsight is always 20/20, and I now have tips on how you can make your trip even more enjoyable than mine was, and you can possibly do it blister free!
Take your time, enjoy all that the trail has to offer. The trail speed record is 10 hours and 8 minutes. You don’t need to go that fast! We did the trail in 5 days. We could have done it in 4 days, but should have done it in 6 days. There were things we missed on the trail and things that we didn’t have time to enjoy. Since we skipped the first campground out of Port Renfrew, we missed out on seeing the caves and since we started to rush near the end of the trail, we didn’t take time to enjoy the Tsusiat Falls Campground. Both would have been fantastic. One more benefit of taking an extra day and walking slower would have most likely resulted in a blister free hike.
Even with the lightest pack in our group of 4, I still could have shed a few pounds of unnecessary food. With a fully loaded pack I was at 37lbs, by the end of the trail I was at 28lbs. I lost 9lbs in food, but still had about 3lbs of food left! The main reason for the extra food was that I didn’t realize how little of my own food I would eat on the two days that I ate at the food stops along the trail. Chez Moniques near the Carmanah lighthouse and the Crab Shack at the Nitnat Narrows ferry are both great stops. The burgers at Moniques are massive, and the fish and crabs at the ferry are fantastic. Also, Chez Moniques does have a hiker box, so if you’re running low on food or supplies you can always check there to refill your supplies.
Tip: If you eat at the crab shack and need to rush the trail immediately afterwards because you’re fighting a losing battle with the rising tide…don’t eat a full meal. Exercising on a full stomach can result in unhappiness.
Do a sun dance!
We had beautiful rain free weather during our hike and I would suggest you cross your fingers that you get the same weather. We initially thought that all the fog we traveled through sucked, but soon realized how much more it would suck if it actually rained. The ladders, bridges and boardwalks can be slippery when dry, I can’t imagine what they might be like in the rain. Keep in mind that the West Coast Trail is known for being wet, the odds are that you will get rained on. There is always mud on the West Coast Trail, rain makes it worse.
Waterproof boots and gaiters!
Yes! You absolutely want these. There is a lot of mud on the trail, water crossings and beach walking. Waterproof boots and gaiters will save you from the mud, water and sand. Wet feet cause blisters.
You want these too! I never hike with poles and think that they’re essentially for people above the age of 50, but this trail would have been so much more difficult without poles. They do get in the way a little on the ladders and cable cars, but they help out in every other aspect of the trail. There were a lot of sections where I simply used the poles for balancing on rocks and logs.
You chose to be on this trail, enjoy it. Enjoy all the ups and downs of the trail, enjoy every branch you’ll trip over, every face plant you’ll almost do. Enjoy all the beach critters you’ll see in the tide pools, the birds in the trees and the whales in the ocean. If the sun decides to shine for one glorious day on your trip, take a look around and enjoy the beauty that surrounds you.
Have you hiked the West Coast Trail? What tips do you have to make it enjoyable?