The Top Hikes On Vancouver Island, British Columbia

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Top hikes on vancouver island,
West Coast Trail

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.

Wild Pacific Trail © James Wheeler via Pexels
Wild Pacific Trail © James Wheeler via Pexels

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

The Top Hiking Trails in Vancouver Island, British Columbia
Cape Scott © James Wheeler via Pexels

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.

Comox Glacier

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

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CEO of Global Shenanigans | Expedition leader | Kayaking instructor | Snowboard instructor | Professional fun haver & good time enthusiast.

10 Responses

  1. Carol Colborn

    I am not a hiker and I thought doing the Butcharts is already the hike gor me. But you thought of people like me by including the West Ciast Pacific Trail. That even I can do!

  2. Melanie

    Vancouver Island has some amazing hikes! I must do the iconic West Coast Trail one day 🙂

  3. Kavita Favelle

    Vancouver Island really looks like ideal hiking country, and I like that it offers forests, mountains, lakes and rivers, and even glaciers! I enjoyed reading about your different recommended trails, and the info on how hard they are and how long to give each one. For me, the Ucluelet Lighthouse Loop particularly appeals as it’s short and suited for those without hiking skills or stamina! 

  4. Linda D Holland

    We have visited Vancouver Island many times.  We always find so many great outdoor spots. But it was great to read about some new spots for our return visits.  We have done less exploration on the west coast so would definitely check out the West Coast Trail at Port Renfrew.  And the Cape Scott Provincial Park looks like another spot we need to check out.

  5. Michelle

    I did not know there was such great hiking trails on Vancouver Island. I would love to hike the Ucluelet Lighthouse Loop and take in the sea views. The West Coast Trail’s vertical ladders and cable crossings definitely sound exciting.    

  6. Will

    I love going on day hikes and the longest I’ve been on is a 1-night hike. Those very long hikes like 75km in 5 days is all so impressive! The Wild Pacific trail sounds easy and by the looks of it, I think it is even stroller friendly. San Josef Bay Trail is indeed a cool mix of easy & difficult hikes. Good that even that short 5km hike goes partly through a beach. That would be my first choice when I get to Vancouver.

  7. Clarice

    It is nice to know that there are many hiking trails in Vancouver Island. The San Josef Bay Trail looks really interesting. Looking forward enjoying the beach as a reward after. 

  8. Jackie

    These are some great hiking options, but I love the look of the Ucluelet Lighthouse Loop. To me, there is nothing better than forest bathing to connect with nature. This route on the West Pacific Trail looks easy, breezy, and enjoyable – and so rewarding with a sea view!

  9. Subhashish Roy

    The Ucluelet Lighthouse loop looks really exciting and one that we would love to do. East Sooke Regional Park too looks a great place to be with the many hikes to choose from. Vancouver Island after your post is now on our bucket list for sure.

  10. Shreya Saha

    The trails look very adventurous. The Ucluelet Lighthouse Loop looks amazing, also the San Josef Bay Trail. I like the idea of the hike through forest along the river. Summer is a great time, and I guess if I ever visit the area, I would visit around that season.

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