Any serious hiker has heard about it. Copies of hiking books worldwide have it circled, dog-eared, and highlighted. As of this decade, conquering that one epic Canadian trek – rated by many as one of the best hikes in the world – has been plonked in seemingly endless backpacker bucket lists.
Built in 1907, the West Coast Trail, which meanders for 47 miles along the south-western edge of Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada, is widely agreed to be one of the world’s most difficult hiking routes. It was originally called the Dominion Lifesaving Trail and was created solely as a means of providing access to stranded sailors whose ships had wrecked on the vicious coastline. This area is infamously nicknamed the Graveyard of the Pacific and has claimed thousands of lives over the last few hundred years.
The rich history of the trail doesn’t end here, however. The route also sweeps over multiple First Nations archaeological sites, covering the land of the Pacheedaht, Ditidaht, and Huu-ay-aht tribes. Forestry within the area has proven to be so temptingly beautiful that regulations have been put into place to keep curious hikers from trespassing along ancient Ditidaht soil. If you feel the need to venture into the maze of red oak trees and off the beaten path, feel free to book a guided tour through their traditional lands before heading into the trail.
The highlights of the trail
Now that you have some background behind the beast, let’s talk about how this old rescue trail managed to become a staple in every backpacker bible.
The attraction is a no-brainer. Incredible flora and fauna line the coast everywhere you look. Bald eagles, grey whales, orcas, sea lions, common starfish, banana slugs, and molluscs are familiar friends you’ll almost certainly bump into along the way, while cougars, bears, and wolves are potential foes which you must keep an eye out for. Parks Canada will mark the areas on the map where you should proceed with caution (the trail is within the Pacific Rim National Park).