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Top Hikes on Vancouver Island
The Island of Vancouver has a coastline of over 100 kilometers and mountains. These hiking options include multi-day coastal trekking to full-day hikes and quiet walks in the fields or valleys. Choosing the top hikes on Vancouver Island was not easy. You will be rewarded with exciting walking along the rugged West Coast. Blessed with a landscape filled with lush ancient forests, mountains, waterfalls, lakes, rivers, streams and glaciers hosting a wide variety of wildlife; all encompassed by a rugged coastline – Vancouver Island offers hundreds of miles of incredible hiking trails, to suit and thrill hikers of all ages and skill levels.
The terrain and the weather can however be harsh and must be respected at all times. Hikers must ensure they are properly clothed and equipped for each trail, and be fully aware of their own skills and limitations. Researching and planning in detail can be crucial, particularly on long multi-day hikes.
Below we list a handful of favourites to wet your appetite for a Vancouver Island adventure!
West Coast Trail (Port Renfrew – Bamfield)
If you’re looking for an unforgettable adventure, look no further than hiking the West Coast Trail! 75 kilometres of remote forest wilderness, rugged coastline, and breathtaking scenery from the first step to the last. But all this comes at a price. Trekking through this varied terrain is extremely challenging and recommended only for skilled and well-equipped hikers.
You’ll negotiate many obstacles including cliffs with no railings, long vertical ladders, bridges, walkways, cable crossings and estuaries. There will be mud and it will be cold. The weather will make the journey even more challenging, so come prepared. When the going gets tough, just think of the rugged men who trudged along this terrain in the 1900s to rescue shipwreck survivors, then keep moving!.
Expect to take 5 – 7 days to complete this hike and there are campsites along the route. Wildlife spotted along the trail includes seals, sea lions, orcas and grey whales. The best time for grey whales being March-April.
Despite the physical and mental challenges, this is one of the most beautiful, famous and rewarding hiking trails in the whole of Canada. A national treasure!
Reservations are essential. For bookings and more info, check with the Pacific Rim National Park.
Wild Pacific Trail, Ucluelet Lighthouse Loop
Going from one extreme to another, but staying on the west coast; the Ucluelet Lighthouse Loop is a 2.9 kilometre coastal trail, easily walked by almost anyone without any hiking skills. Being completely flat and with no steps, it is even accessible to wheelchairs. Totally undemanding trail but the views however, are truly spectacular, particularly at sunset.
There are many lookout points with benches along the trail. You can sit and enjoy fantastic sea views of waves crashing onto the rocky shoreline and the historic Amphitrite Lighthouse that has been standing proud since 1915.
For the more adventurous, an 8 kilometre hike is also available close by between Brown’s Beach to Rocky Bluff. This scenic return-trip trail takes you through rainforest terrain and along the coast.
East Sooke Regional Park
Less than an hour from Victoria on the southern end of Vancouver Island is East Sooke Regional Park, which offers a range of hiking trails suitable for hikers in decent physical condition. They all, however, have one thing in common – spectacular scenery! A most popular trail is the Babbington Hill Trail, which is about 8 kilometres long with a few steep hills to negotiate.
Aylard Farm – Babbington Hill Trail
Starting off at Aylard Farm, you head through an open field where you may catch a glimpse of some black-tailed deer, before you reach a small beach where otters are frequently sighted. Continuing southwest along the coast, you reach the ancient petroglyphs at Alldridge Point. Further on are the rugged bluffs of Beechy Head, from where it is possible to view whales, seals, eagles and hawks. The Strait of Jan de Fuca and the snow-capped peaks of the Olympic Mountains make up the backdrop.
Continuing along the coast to Cabin Point, from where you head inland and begin a steep climb to Babbington Hill where the scenery becomes even more spectacular. From there you head back to the trailhead at Aylard Farm.
San Josef Bay Trail, Cape Scott Provincial Park
If you’re searching for remoteness and solitude, head straight to the far north-western corner of Vancouver Island to the Cape Scott Provincial Park. Beautiful and Wild! There are several trails to suit all skill levels. From easy 5 kilometre trails for novice hikers, to 60 kilometer multi-day epics for fitness fanatics.
The San Josef Bay Trail is a 5 kilometre round hike taking you through forest along the river, onto the rocky shoreline and one of the most beautiful beaches of the island. A short walk along the beach will bring you to the sea stacks. These iconic rock formations are best viewed at low tide. An incredible scene for the photographers out there who won’t know which way to point! Just past the sea stacks is another small but stunning beach.
A short hike but one you will not ever forget.
This is a fairly challenging hike, and although it can be done in one day, two days will give you more time to soak in the breathtaking scenery that greets you around each corner you turn. The best time for a visit will be during summer.
The early stages will be through dense forest (take mosquito spray) before reaching some steep and winding sections, requiring serious scrambling and making use of some conveniently placed ropes. Once you reach the ridge, the grandeur of this landscape begins to reveal herself. You’ll find yourself surrounded by mountains, high ridges, deep valleys and crevasses and aquamarine lakes dotting the landscape, all the way to the summit and the ice-blue Comox Glacier, Vancouver’s largest glacier.
Take your time up there enjoying the views before attempting the descent, which also has its set of challenges. Depending on the route, the estimated distance is around 18 kilometres with an elevation gain of 1800 metres. Overall a most rewarding hike.
Being on private land hiking is permitted on weekends only when logging is not occurring and it’s absolutely vital to check with the gate times as you don’t want to be trapped inside when they’re locked.
Other Notable Trails on the Island
- Juan de Fuca Marine Trail, Port Renfrew
- Paradise Meadows Loop Trail, Strathcona Provincial Park
- Rainforest hike loops A & B
- Elk River Trail, Strathcona Provincial Park