The Graveyard of the Pacific is a portion of the Pacific Ocean stretching from Tillamook Bay on the Oregon Coast to Cape Scott Provincial Park on the northernmost tip of Vancouver Island, BC. The unpredictable weather year-round in this area, as well as the rugged, undeveloped coastline is responsible for treacherous sea conditions that have endangered or wrecked thousands of ships since exploration of the area first began in the 15th century.
Built in the late 1800s as a method to facilitate the rescue of shipwreck survivors, the West Coast Trail is a 75 kilometer (47 mi) long trail that follows the rugged southwestern edge of Vancouver Island. Today the West Coast Trail hosts backpackers eager to test themselves on the trail both physically and mentally. It is regularly rated as one of the world’s top hiking trails.
Hiking the West Coast Trail isn’t a simple undertaking. The trail winds through thick forests, bogs, and beaches, passing old-growth forests and waterfalls. At time hikers must wade through thick mud, battle high tides and surge channels, and remain mindful or exposed cliffs. Furthermore, hikers must carry in their own provisions and carry out all garbage. “Bear boxes” are located in campsites for food storage and primitive outhouse style washrooms are the only facilities along the trail.
Completing the West Coast Trail requires a high level of fitness, knowledge, and skill. Of the approximately 6,000 hikers who attempt the West Coast Trail annually, 1-2% require emergency evacuation due to injury, illness, or hypothermia. However for those that chose this undertaking the rewards are plentiful. Stunning views of the Pacific Ocean and Olympic Peninsula, as well as possible wildlife encounters, allow hikers to reconnect with nature. And the trail’s difficult nature rewards those that complete it with an unmatchable sense of accomplishment.
Operated by Parks Canada, the West Coast Trail is generally open from May 1st to September 30th, as Parks Canada cannot guarantee access to amenities such as search and rescue during the rest of the year. The number of visitors allowed on the trail per day is strictly limited and reservations are required for anyone looking to overnight along the trail. Space fills up quickly and making a reservation early is highly recommended.
For more information on hiking the West Coast Trail visit the Parks Canada Website here.