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.

Ready to rock at the Juan de Fuca trailhead
Ready to rock at the Juan de Fuca trailhead

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.

Sea views
Sea views
Mystery object spotted in the forest
Mystery object spotted in the forest

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.

Slippery rocks
Slippery rocks
The bridges are so fun!
The bridges are so fun!

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!

Bear cubs!
Bear cubs!
Mama bear
Mama bear
Ocean fog
Ocean fog
Sunset
Sunset

Up next, Michael and I continue to the West Coast Trail and become engulfed in eerie forest fire smoke. Continue reading…

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8 thoughts on “Juan de Fuca + West Coast Trail thru-hike

  1. Looking forward to the WCT. Starting to pack.
    your photos are stunning as always. Your description takes me walking with you.

  2. Hi!! Thanks for sharing this great experience!! Have you heard about someone doing both trails together solo? Thanks you 🙂

    1. Thanks Aitor! I’ve never heard of anyone doing both trails solo back-to-back but lots of people do the individual trails solo, so I’m sure you could do it. You might want to leave some food at the start of the WCT, so that you’re carrying a bit less. Good luck and feel free to ask me if you have any questions.

      1. Thanks for the help Justin, My bigger concerns are the tides and specially the wildlife (being solo). Anything to think about the wildlife? When sleeping? 5 days for the WCT and 3 for the JF is my plan, you see that tight? I backcountry ski a lot, good in fitness…

      2. You can find the tide tables here: http://www.waterlevels.gc.ca/eng/station?type=0&date=2016%2F07%2F01&sid=8525&tz=PDT&pres=1
        The Juan de Fuca trail is mostly inland in the forest, so there aren’t too many places where high tide will cause any problems. On the West Coast Trail, when you arrive at the visitor center they give you a copy of the tide tables and a map showing all the areas where high tides are problematic. It’s pretty straight-forward.

        There are lots of bears on the coast. Both times I hiked the WCT I saw bears. As long as you make noise so they can hear you, you should be ok. All the campgrounds have bear lockers where you can store food. Just make sure you put your food away at night. Crows and ravens are actually a bigger problem. They will steal anything you leave out very quickly.

        3 nights for JF and 5 for WCT is doable if you’re in good shape but if you can afford some extra time, give yourself another few days. The first time I hiked the WCT I did it in 4 days. The second time I intentionally made it 7 days and I got to relax and enjoy it more. Both times I wished I could stay even longer!

        Have a great trip!

      3. Thanks for all the info again! I’m really excited about it yeah! One more thing, I’m doing it North-South. Would you say it’s better to leave the car in Bamfield or Pachena Bay?

      4. I think most people leave their car at Pachena Bay, since that’s the official start of the trail and where you go to get your permit. If you’re taking the trail bus back at the end, it will drop you off right at your car.

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