Preparation for the West Coast Trail

The West Coast Trail (WCT) is a wonderful trek but can be arduous at times. As always, preparation is key.


Instead of filling the field diary with remarks on preparation and general information about the trail, I decided to put it in a separate post.


Here’s the map provided by Park’s Canada.

West Coast Trail map by Parks Canada: Nitinaht - Gordon River
West Coast Trail map by Parks Canada: Nitinaht – Gordon River

It’s been a while, but the memories are still vivid about the West Coast Trail. In August 2018, Philippe and ExpediTom undertook another epic adventure together. This time trekking the WCT. This trail leads 75km through the Pacific Rim National Park and offers many highlights along the way. Even though many people venture on this trail, there is still plenty of space to feel solitude. The occasional meetings with other like-minded hikers rather adds to the experience.

Yet, I advise you to not take it too light-heartedly because according to Parks Canada, in average 1% of all hikers must be rescued. This is mainly due to the surge channels, misunderstood tides, and slippery roots.

Preparation for the West Coast Trail
Underestimated danger: slippery roots

Preparation for the West Coast Trail (WCT)

Last Spring, Philippe and I made plans for August and September to go travelling and trekking together again. Even though we knew at an early stage that we wanted to do the West Coast Trail, we did not organize that much. It was not until late July that we fixed our schedule. At this time, there were no spots left to do the entire WCT in either direction according to the booking website.

Bugger.

By the way, beginning 8:00 am (PST) on January 7, 2019, reservations for the West Coast Trail can be made for any date between May 1 and September 30. Read more here!

Subsequently, we reluctantly decided to do half the trail from Nitinaht Village (middle point) to Gordon River (Southern terminus). This is the more strenuous part.

Perry the Cook of the Ditidaht and Pacheedaht First Nations in Nitinaht village
Perry the Cook of the Community Center of the Ditidaht and Pacheedaht First Nations in Nitinaht village

Supplies and gear

Concerning our supplies, we were able to buy all necessary items and food in Vancouver, where international hikers are likely to arrive. There is an abundance in outdoor stores, and they offer everything you need and more. Furthermore, there are all kinds of grocery stores offering any food items a hiker could ask for. Canadians love to be outdoors too. If you want to know more about trekking food, check out this post.

One piece of gear I do not want to miss for upcoming trips is the tarp, which did a great job in keeping us dry when packing.

Sleeping setup during West Coast Trail hike on Vancouver Island

Costs

The West Coast Trail is expensive. First, there is a fee for sleeping in a National Park in Canada, which is due with the reservation ($127.50 overnight use permit (per trip, per person) and additional $24.50 reservation fee). Secondly, every person entering a National Park must obtain a valid National Park Entry Pass. As an international visitor it pays off to get the year pass after 6 days/visits in National Parks (Annual Pass Adult: $67.70; family/group 136.40 for up to 7 people in a vehicle). Thirdly, there are transportation costs which depend on where you start your trail and whether you go by bus or your own car. Starting our trek at Nitinaht Village, we had to pay a further $20 to enter the land of the Ditidaht and Pacheedaht First Nations and another $62.50 for the ferry to the trail. All in all, we paid $302.50 per person just to be allowed to do the trek without transportation to and from Victoria, BC. Moreover, this does not include food and gear.

When comparing to the Huemul trek in Patagonia, the West Coast Trail is terribly expensive.


  • $127.50 overnight use permit
  • $24.50 reservation fee
  • $67.70 Parks Canada Annual Pass Adult
  • +Additional transportation fees depending on start/end point

Transport

Unless, you drive by car and swop keys with other hikers on the trail, you need to reserve transportation. There are several companies offering rides to and from the starting, respectively middle and or end point. We had no issue booking them just one week ahead. The route to the trail is demanding on the vehicle, but totally doable. Perhaps you should calculate more time than bus companies do. First, it is a bumpy road and I almost threw up on the ride (one kid did), and secondly there is an outstanding photography opportunity of a young tree growing on a sunken one in a lake. Unfortunately, I could not stop the bus.

Bus ride to the West Coast Trail start
Bus ride to the West Coast Trail start

Physical Fitness and other Dangers

The West Coast Trail is demanding and depending on the environmental circumstances tough. Read: it can rain for weeks and even if it is not raining, the tempered rainforest with its mystical mist wets everything. I do not advice anyone to attempt this trek light-heartedly. Careful planning and outdoor experience is key to have a save passage and pleasant experience. Even though there is only little elevation – mostly with ladders – the terrain poses serious difficulties at times. The sand makes walking arduous and the slippery roots are abundant. Apart from this it is bear, cougar and wolf country.

Ladders, ladders and ladders - the West Coast Trail demands trained thighs
Ladders, ladders and ladders – the West Coast Trail demands trained thighs
West Coast Trail Surge Channel
Dangerous West Coast Trail Surge Channel

Did I mention that it is Tsunami-prone area all the way?

If you feel unsure, contact Parks Canada for further information, whether you should attempt the West Coast Trail or not.

With good preparation for the West Coast Trail you almost hiked it.
With good preparation for the West Coast Trail you almost hiked it.

Preparation for the West Coast Trail Advice

  • Reserve well in advance (opening 7th January)
  • Prepare for wet weather even if the forecast says it is dry (rain jacket, rain pants)
  • Get in shape
  • Hiking poles help on sand but hinder you at ladder climbing
  • Waterproof bags are your best friend
  • Tarps are worth their weight in gold
  • Hike it Southbound in order to climb ladders when your pack is emptied from food.
  • As we later found out, we’d probably had gotten a spot even without reservation to do the entire trail – but we did not want to wait at a starting point and followed the rules that were in place.
  • Alternatives: Juan de Fuca Trail is very close and I heard great stories. The WCT seems to be more popular though. Besides the fact that in BC and AB there are endless possibilities to go hiking – even cheaper one’s. Make sure to follow this blog for more on that one.

West Coast Trail Field Diary

Day 1: The Map
Day 2: The Rain Cover
Day 3 : The Step Counter

Stay tuned for next week's post about the field diary of the West Coast Trail
Stay tuned for next week’s post about the field diary of the West Coast Trail

4 Responses

  1. […] Phil and I prepared for the WCT in Vancouver and drove by ferry to Vancouver Island and by bus to Victoria. […]

  2. […] Preparation for the West Coast Trail […]

  3. […] Preparation for the West Coast Trail Day 1 The Map (Nitinaht to Cribs Creek Day 2 The Rain Cover (Cribs Creek to Walbran Bay) Day 3 The Step counter (Walbran Bay to Campers Bay) Day 5 Fed-up […]

  4. […] Preparation for the West Coast Trail1 The Map (Nitinaht to Cribs Creek2 The Rain Cover (Cribs Creek to Walbran Bay) 3 The Step counter (Walbran Bay to Campers Bay)4 The Necessaire (Campers Bay to Trasher’s Cove)5 Fed-up (Trasher’s Cove to Gordon River) […]

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