Vancouver Island’s West Coast Trail is one of Canada’s most popular hikes, and deservedly so. It passes along sandy beaches, stunning waterfalls, towering forests, sandstone sea caves, cliffs and tidal pools. You can see bald eagles, sea lions, seals and maybe even the odd black bear. I hiked the WCT two years ago over four rainy days in May. This year I wanted to come back and take a more leisurely pace, really soaking in the scenery, but also making it a bigger and longer hike by combining it with the Juan de Fuca trail. Together, the WCT and Juan de Fuca make a rugged 150-km coastal route.
You can hike both trails back-to-back, stopping for a night in Port Renfrew. Walking through Port Renfrew between trailheads adds about 10 km but there’s a good chance you can catch a ride.
Our first day was a big one – 24 km over some of the most rugged terrain that the Juan de Fuca trail has to offer. We wanted to make time and get the hardest sections behind us, putting us on schedule to finish the trail in three days. In retrospect, starting with such a long hard day was a bit much for our group. For anyone thinking of hiking the JdF, four days is probably a good pace.
Although not as renowned as the WCT, the JdF was still a beautiful hike with some exciting moments. As Sil and I were walking through the forest, she heard a sound and looked up to see two black bear cubs scurrying up a tall tree right next to the trail! We knew mom couldn’t be far behind. Indeed, she was right at the base of the tree. We backed off, giving the bear family lots of room and waited. After 15 minutes, we realized the cubs just weren’t coming down and we couldn’t find any good alternative way to get past. Fortunately, mama bear had moved further away, almost as if to let us by. She was still keeping a close eye on us but she let us pass as we walked slowly and talked to her calmly. That’s the closest I’ve ever been to a bear!