Travel idea: Hiking the West Coast Trail

By: Karma Vance

Author: Canadian Living


Travel idea: Hiking the West Coast Trail

By: Karma Vance
This story was originally titled "Trekking with My Son" in the May 2008 issue. Subscribe to Canadian Living today and never miss an issue!

Hiking the West Coast Trail was something I had always wanted to do. My hiking companion and son, Russ, and I love the outdoors, the beauty of British Columbia and the opportunity to spend time together. We started our hiking trips two years ago, and they have become an annual tradition.

How to prepare
I prepared for the 75-kilometre-long West Coast Trail by doing sit-ups and pushups, bike riding and taking long walks to break in my boots. Between us, Russ and I carried eight days' worth of food, clothing and bedding, as well as a tent. We started our trek at the Gordon River Trailhead, near Port Renfrew on the southwest coast of Vancouver Island, and ended at the Pachena Trailhead, near Bamfield. This is the most rugged and demanding part of the whole trail. From the first slippery step, we were faced with a series of steep inclines and declines and mucky trails. Some of the ladders were washed out so we clung to roots to ascend and descend steep pitches.

On Day 2 we had to read the tide charts carefully to determine our path.  It was a difficult route over slippery boulders, then inland bog slogging, but the rainforest was beautiful. That afternoon my son suggested we "kick ass" and challenge ourselves to push harder. He relentlessly pushed me on, praising me for my efforts. 

Marching on
We walked over expanses of rock along the shoreline. One day we saw a baby seal basking on the shore, flocks of pelicans afloat on the ocean and thousands of seagulls on the sandy beach. Another day we were so thankful to pay $12 for a hamburger at a shore-side "restaurant" but alas, there was no bathroom. (All campsites stationed along the trail do have access to fresh water and toilets.) 

By Day 4 we were getting up at 5 a.m., in the moonlight. It was mystical, quiet and foggy – a new kind of serene beauty apart from cliffs, drop-offs, crags and rainforest. At 5 p.m. Russ wanted to walk on another two hours. We struck a deal. He would beg for Tylenol from the other campers, and as long as I couldn't feel my feet, I'd march on. It was worth it. We were guests in Mother Nature's wilderness, appreciative of and awed by the splendour and magnificence of every vista and challenge.

If you go 
For information on the West Coast Trail and hiking in B.C., visit and

More field trips
• Jasper National Park in Alberta is full of natural attractions for your family. Hike, canoe, swim, surf or horseback ride during the day, and relax by the campfire at night. (

• At Lawrencetown Beach, just outside Halifax, you can learn the tricks of the trade from a local surf-school or relax and send the kids to a surf-camp. (

• Learn climbing tricks and glacier travel tips from the Canada West Mountain School in B.C. They offer introductory mountaineering courses for both new and experienced adventurers. (

• The Véloroute des Bleuets is a scenic 256-kilometre circuit of Lac Saint-Jean that takes cyclists past vast blueberry fields. Ride for an expert cyclist’s two-day whiz or a pleasant long-weekend family excursion. (

by Kim Fisher and Elizabeth Baird

Read more:
Cross-Canada travel guides
Hiking highs in the Rocky Mountains
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Travel idea: Hiking the West Coast Trail