Trails, Pacific Northwest
The BC coastal region is considered by some to have the best hiking trails in the world. The trails run through varied and beautiful areas, with sandy beaches, old growth rain forests, mountain caves, waterfalls and rugged mountain hikes. The trails can range from easy one hour walks to week long, hard, wet and wild journeys.
The west coast of Vancouver Island and in particular, Botanical Beach and the adjoining Botany Bay brought Dr. Josephine Tildon to this Vancouver Island area, it was a perfect location for the University of Minnesota’s marine station that she had built in 1900. To me, it still is one one of the prettiest places on the coast of Vancouver Island.
The trail between Botany Bay and Botanical beach is an incredible walk through a forest of wind swept and twisted trees, its a beautiful place, a place of wonder.
For 7 years researchers and students journeyed here to study at the seaside Marine Station. To get here, they would travel from Victoria to Port Renfrew by steamer, then traverse some very steep, muddy and narrow trails to the station. There was talk about building a better road to the bay, but it never got built, this all but sealed the fate of the station, it was closed in 1907.
When you are hiking in the area, if you look close, you can still see remnants of the buildings sticking out of the west coast rain forest.There is a lot of history here, but you need to look close, as the west coast rain forest is claiming the land back once more. The area became a provincial park in 1989.
The beaches at both botany bay and botanical beach are full of a wide variety of sea life. Both plant and animal life is in abundance, and each has adapted to contend with the variable conditions found here.
Black bears and cougars can also be present at any time. Black bears can become used to feeding on garbage, so to avoid teaching bears about trash, please pack out what you pack in. Cougars normally avoid people and are rarely seen, but please leave pets at home if possible and watch over young children.
British Columbia’s toughest and most beautiful trail is the West Coast Trail, situated in the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve on the west coast of the island. Considered by some to be the toughest trail in North America, the trail traverses 75 km of wind worn and storm tossed coastal shoreline, you will see giant cedars, huge hemlock and unending spruce forests, cliffs, beaches, sandstone ledges and suspension bridges spanning rivers and streams. This is Vancouver Island wilderness, wild and wet even in the summer. Hikers who attempt this trail must be fit and well equipped for the back country.
Then there is the 47 km Juan de Fuca Marine Trail in Juan de Fuca Provincial Park boasts scenery similar to West Coast Trail, but with vehicle accessible points at several spots along the trail, making it a favorite for beginners and day hikers. The trail begins at China Beach and ends at Botanical Beach. Its a pretty awesome hike.
China Beach is a very beautiful beach, a great place to go for a weekend walk. China Beach also has a great campground that is located in the west coast rain forests that grow so lush on our coast. The trail down to the beach is quite pleasant with some incredible views, not to difficult to walk and the beach at the end is awe inspiring to say the least. There are 78 drive in campsites available at this campground.
Campsite reservations are accepted and a few first come, first served sites are also available. Some facilities are wheelchair accessible; pit toilets and water taps are located throughout the campground. China Beach itself is a great place to picnic and beach comb at.
Remember that black bears and cougars may be present. It would be a good idea to leave pets at home and keep your children in your sight. Lately, we have seen a number of wolves showing up along the trails of the west coast, more north of here, but you should keep pets on a leash at all times.
Take a wander to the western end of the beach during the wet season and you will see a waterfall that will take your breath away. You can walk along the shore to second beach or if you are camping, you can reach it by taking a wonderful trail through the forest to reach it. The waterfall is pretty awesome during the wet season.
In the spring and fall, you might get to see a grey whale as they migrate along the coast. So keep your eyes open and your camera ready. The best times to see whales is in March and April, as they migrate past the island on their way north to the feeding grounds.
Then there is Strathcona Park with trails that can take into some incredibly beautiful back country with awesome mountain vistas, trails like the Forbidden Plateau trails, or the Flower Ridge Trail with its display of flowers in the spring. You can hike into Della Falls, the highest falls in Canada, or run across Buttle lake and hike up to Marble Meadows and be blown away by the expanse of these meadows and maybe see a Marmot.
There are many other mountain trails on the coast and some very historical trails like the Woss grease trail, First peoples used this trail to take grease for trade to the west coast areas. This trail runs from Woss to Tahsis, it is hundreds of years old if not older.
So put on your boots, grab your pack and camera and head out into the back country to see what the the coast has to offer.