16 Tips for Hiking the West Coast Trail Port Renfrew Trailhead

16 Tips for Hiking the West Coast Trail

The West Coast Trail is a breathtakingly beautiful 47 mile (75 km) backpacking route on the southwest coast of Vancouver Island, BC. The trail was originally called the Dominion Lifesaving Trail because it was built in 1907 as a way to rescue shipwreck survivors along the coast. The trail is now a part of Pacific Rim National Park and outdoor enthusiasts from all over the world make the pilgrimage to the island to hike what’s widely considered one of the world’s best hiking trails. Be forewarned, this trek is not for beginners due to its length and difficult terrain and each year many hikers are evacuated from the trail due to injury, illness and hypothermia. If you’re planning on taking on this most rewarding challenge here are some tips from experienced hikers who’ve done the trail to help with your planning:

1. Waterproof Everything

If you’ve ever bought waterproof hiking equipment you already know it usually comes with a hefty price, but in this case it’s worth it. BC is widely known to get lots of annual rainfall and the old growth forests in which the trail runs through are actually rainforests (Yes, rainforests in Canada!). So be prepared for wet days with a good breathable rain jacket, rain pants, waterproof boots (Gortex is a good option) and a rain cover for your pack. It’s also recommended that you line your pack with a garbage bag and make sure your sleeping bag is in a waterproof dry bag or compression sack. Also, be mentally prepared because being wet for days on end can take its toll on the most experienced hikers.

Hiking in the rain

2. Blisters Will Happen

If they don’t, consider yourself lucky! Chances are though that you’ll experience a few of these while out on the trail. Good boots can help minimize your discomfort but some feet just blister more easily than others. Some ways to help this are to use moleskins which are pre-cut fabric bandages that can be built up around an un-popped blister to minimize friction. Duct tape is also very handy and it seems to stay put on your feet longer than a bandage alone. In the morning before putting your boots on for the day, carefully pop and drain the fluid from any un-popped blisters, put on some antibiotic ointment and cover with a bandage, then use duct tape over the bandage to help keep it on longer. For the most part, the beautiful scenery of the trail will distract you from thinking about those sore feet!

hiking boots
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