WEST COAST TRAIL, CANADA
STUDYING THE WEST Coast Trail (WCT) on a map, you might think it is a straightforward, seven-day hike following the western coastline of British Columbia’s Vancouver Island, but this would be a serious mistake – not because the trail is tough, but because it offers everything you could wish for in seven days in the wild. The WCT experience includes whales and orca splashing about in the Pacific Ocean; cougar, black bear and wolf roaming the dense forest; and an undulating path over a multitude of tree roots, plenty of mud (especially after rain), some old (and some new) timber boarding, and 70-plus ladders that provide access to the mainly beach-based campsites. If there’s another weeklong walk that packs in as much excitement, we’d be very surprised.
Hikers can tackle the WCT either north to south or south to north. We’d opt for the tougher south to north version, as the southern section of the WCT includes rugged track sections, water/creek crossings and steeper terrain – and you will be carrying a heavier pack – but it’s worth it as you’ll experience some of the best beach campsites you can imagine, each with clean toilets and bear boxes, where all food is stored to lessen the attraction of the bruin kind.
This walk is one that always appears on “best of” lists (indeed AGO included it in a 2013 collection of global foot-borne adventures) and, as a result, booking a place on it means planning well ahead – especially if you’re keen to tackle it as an independent hiker via a WCT Overnight Use Permit, rather than as part of a guided group (AGO hiked the WCT with Ecosummer Expeditions).
Whatever your poison in regards to the WCT, you will need to be strong and fit: at a minimum your pack (whether guided or independent) will weigh at least 20kg, and you will have to be capable of negotiating tricky, occasionally technical ground, as well as crossing those few waterways that aren’t bridged (or have a cable car) and getting used to climbing ladders. It sounds challenging but if you’re fit and have walked multiday routes before, the WCT will, over the course of its seven days, ingrain itself permanently in your memory as an epic adventure.