WEST COAST TRAIL, CANADA

Australian Geographic Outdoor - - World’s Greatest Walks -

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.

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