At 75 kilometers (or 46 miles), it’s certainly not the longest trail in the world, but the rain, fog, and mist can be relentless. The trek hugs the Pacific Ocean on the notoriously damp west coast of Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada, passing through some grueling terrain along the way.
Once you can get past the exhaustion and utter sogginess, you’ll realize why so many hikers have the West Coast Trail on their bucket lists: the views, the beaches, the wildlife, and the pure rugged wilderness of the trail more than make up for any discomforts that come up along the way.
If you’re thinking of hiking the West Coast Trail, then you most likely already have the essentials of backpacking: a good pack, sleeping bag, sleeping mat, hiking boots, tent, cooking equipment, etc. In addition to these important items, there are several things specific to hiking the West Coast Trail that you want to make sure you budget for. Here’s what to save for this once-in-a-lifetime adventure.
You can’t just hike the West Coast Trail on a whim—you need to acquire a camping permit first. The number of permits issued per year is limited, and they sell out quickly. The trail is only open from May to September, and reservations are accepted starting mid-January for the following summer.
While you’re reserving your trail use permit, you’ll also have to pay the fee for the hiker ferry service across the Nitinat Narrows—there’s no other way to get around this section of the trail.
Set this Goal for a trail use permit, hiker ferry service, and reservation fees.
The West Coast Trail is a point-to-point hike: You either hike from Port Renfrew up to Bamfield, or vice versa. Park your car at one end, and book a trip on the West Coast Trail Express bus that will take you to the other end of the trail.
Did we mention the West Coast Trail can be super rainy? The area gets about 130 inches of precipitation per year, and the odds are pretty good that you’ll get at least a few days of rain on your trip (in fact, chances are good it’ll rain every day!).
It’s not just the rain that you have to contend with; it’s the morning fog and the ocean mist that seems present just about everywhere.
The best way to combat the dampness is to find a reliable, waterproof, breathable jacket. A yellow rain slicker from the hardware store won’t cut it for this trip—look for technical materials that will keep water out without trapping your sweat in.
There are numerous muddy sections on the trail, and gaiters are a must both for keeping your hiking boots dry and your sanity in check.
Pick up a pair that can easily be pulled on and peeled off without having to remove your hiking boots, and you’ll be good to go.
Dry bags will become your very best friend on the West Coast Trail. A dry bag for your sleeping bag is key—nobody wants to go to bed in a damp sleeping bag. Another dry bag will keep your camp clothes dry and separate from your sweaty hiking gear. Small dry bags are useful for keeping small goods dry and organized—think camera, medication, spare socks (you can never pack too many), and toilet paper.
The West Coast Trail usually takes around five to seven days, most of which you’ll spend eating hiker meals. After a week of backpack food, nothing will feel better than stumbling across Chez Monique’s—a bona fide burger shack along the West Coast Trail. You’ll swear that Monique’s cheeseburger is the best thing you’ve ever sunk your teeth into—and at $20 a burger, it’s probably the most expensive, but it’s worth every penny. There’s also a chance to nosh on fresh local seafood by the ferry across the Nitinat Narrows, including delectable crab and melt-in-your-mouth salmon. Both places are cash only, so don’t forget to bring a few bills with you!
Set this Goal to ensure you have enough food for the trip, and a bit left over to spend on a good meal.
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