About Coastal Hiking

BC's long distance coastal backpacking trails are a very special, perhaps unique, experience, one that should not be missed by any lover of the outdoors or semi-serious hiker. Join us on a trip for a demanding yet deeply satisfying hike amidst the outstanding beauty of the west coast of Vancouver Island.

There are numerous coastal wilderness trails in BC covering large amounts of Vancouver Island's west and north coasts and each is incredible in its own right. Most famous among these is the West Coast Trail but equally as good are the North Coast Trail, the Nootka Island Trail, the Hesquiat Peninsula and the Juan de Fuca and Tatchu Trails. We offer two of these in our portfolio - the West Coast Trail and the Nootka Trail.

What differentiates coastal hiking from our other trips? The weather is generally milder than you would expect in the mountains, due to the influence of the ocean it is both less hot but also less cold. However, being on the west coast of Vancouver Island means that this is the first place in Canada to get hit by weather systems and storms coming from the Pacific. Consequently rainfall can be extremely high at times and there is often little or nowhere to hide when the rain sweeps in (see below). Of course, in the height of summer, when most of our trips take place, you are most likely to have weather like this: 

A glorious summer day on Nootka Island. Here we are just past Beano Creek and heading towards the big rope pull up.

When the weather gets bad though there's nowhere to hide, Nootka Trail in May.

Another difference between the coast and the mountains is that there is generally less elevation gain and loss than hiking in the mountains (though the stiff up and down type of hiking due to climbing into and out of ravines is quite wearing in its own way). Also, there will usually be a variety of different surfaces to walk on; some easy sandy beach walking, some more difficult gravel sections, some boulder hopping, some rocky headlands to clamber over, some patches of mud, some streams to cross (either fording them or using cable cars) and some 'standard' trails through areas of forest.

Klanawa River cable car on the West Coast Trail.

There are hazards and difficulties on coastal hikes that are different to treks in other types of terrain. Most obvious among these is the issue of tides. Having a tide table, and knowing how to read it, is essential when hiking most sections of coastal trails. Then there are the 'surge channels', narrow, and not so narrow, clefts in the rock through which waves can sweep in catching unsuspecting hikers by surprise. Indeed Adrenaline surge channel on the West Coast Trail has been deemed so dangerous it has been taken off the official route.

A surge channel on the west coast trail.

A surge channel on the west coast trail.

how not to cross one safely (we don't do this with clients!)

how not to cross one safely (we don't do this with clients!)


When it comes to wildlife there is no doubt in our minds that coastal hiking is more conducive to successful wildlife viewing than is hiking in the BC mountains. Creatures tends to come down to the beach to feed because of the abundance of food and consequently it is easier to see them and usually with less obstructed views because of the lack of trees.

Not only is it more common and easier to see the large mammals such as bear, wolves and deer there is the added advantage of having an entirely new section of wildlife to see that one wouldn't experience in the mountains; sea life such as sea lions, sea otters and whales all of which will commonly be seen on any of our coastal trips.

Furthermore, in addition to these large mammals there are also the fascinating smaller creatures such as crabs, anemones, starfish and so on, which teem in their thousands in inter-tidal pools between high tide and surf.

Believe us when we tell you that when hiking a coastal route you are never short of living things to look at.


One of the other pleasures that we really enjoy on the beach is the evening campfire. There are not many things finer in life than sitting round a nice warm fire after a hard day's hiking drinking tea or coffee and munching on something sweet while sharing tales about the day's adventures.

Campfire on the north coast trail.

Campfire on the north coast trail.

A lovely evening at Beano Creek, Nootka Island.

Varied and beautiful scenery, interesting and challenging terrain coupled with wildlife in abundance. these are wonderful trips for anyone looking for a wilderness backpacking adventure.