This summer, my roommate Leslie, her fiancé Kevin and I hiked the coastal Juan de Fuca Trail. The trail is 44km long and is located roughly 80km West of our hometown Victoria on Vancouver Island, BC. If you’re on the Island, I highly recommend this four-day hike along the beautiful and breathtaking Northwest Coast.
We hiked 11-14 km per day, carrying roughly 20 lbs. on our backs for roughly five to six hours a day. This was definitely a highlight of my summer!
Day 1: to China Beach to Mystic Beach to Bear Beach
From the parking lot at China Beach, you hike 2km outland to Mystic Beach. As its name suggests, Mystic is, well, mystic! Seriously! The pebbled beach is squished between rising cliffs and tall evergreens on the East side and wide ocean expanse on the West. Mystic is one of the camp-ready beaches on the Trail. We took a small break to snack, then picked up again.
We continued onwards to Bear Beach where we quickly found a campsite, sheltered under the trees and hidden from the beach. We pitched the tent, started a fire and ate dinner.
The weather on the first day was perfect: not too warm, but not too cold either. Also, the trails between the beaches on this first were not too difficult despite our heavy backpacks.
Day 2: Bear Beach to Chin Beach
In the little guidebook, lent to us by my dear aunt, the Bear to Chin section was considered the most difficult section of the Trail. Luckily for us, the sky was clear and not a drop of rain fell on us!
This section , although beginning on the beach, is spent in the forest hiking up and down hills. Many, many hills. To be exact, we counted 17 hills, each taking anywhere from 20 to 45 minutes to ascend and descend.
But do not be discouraged!
After the first ten up-and-downs, you get used to it. Also, the sections spent in the forest are worth it. Intermittent cracks through the branches and foliage give a sneak peak of the ocean scenery to come.
Arrived at Chin Beach, we set up camp and ate dinner. I had Mac n Cheese. Gross.
Day 3: Chin Beach to Little Kuitshe Creek via Sombrio Beach
The rain had started to fall early the night before and had left the hikers with pools of mud on the trail. We were discover that mud sucks. It can turn a ‘moderate’ hike into a ‘challenging’ hike. Good thing my aunt lent me her gators.
We were lucky to have patches of sunshine during the first half of the day. The third day of the Trail was spent zig-zagging between the forest and pebble-beached shoreline on Sombrio Beach.
We walked a few kilometers along Sombrio before passing a small group of children, aged between ten and twelve years, by accompanied by two young leaders. They were Camp Thunderbird kids here to hike from Sombrio to Parkinson Creek, via one night in Little Kuitshe Creek.
As we were also planning on staying the night at Little Kuitshe Creek, we hurried the last few kilometers to snag a campsite before they arrived. The Little Kuitshe Creek Campsite is one of two campsites located deep in the forest, far from the beach. At the campsite, we met John from Newfoundland, who would later join us for dinner.
An hour or so later, the kids from Camp Thunderbird arrived and set up their camp, which consisted of hanging tarps from trees. Not the best shelter from the West Coast Rainforest.
Day 4: Little Kiutshe Creek to Botanical Beach
The rain continued throughout the night and we awoke to puddles here-and-there in the campsite. Thankfully, we were dry. The Camp Thunderbird kids, on the other hand, were not so lucky, or dry. They appeared to be having fun, nevertheless.
Along with our new friend John the Newfie, we set off early to conquer our last leg of the Trail.
This leg, according to the guidebook, was the flattest and therefore the easiest. The mud, aka a hiker’s worst enemy, made this last leg a struggle. Luckily, we each had a good pair of hiking boots, rain pants and gators. A word to anyone willing to undertake any West Coast hiking trail: take these three items with you!
Every few hundred meters was met with knee-deep puddles (or pools) of mud so thick and sticky you could easily lose a shoe in one of them.
At a given opportunity, we took a “shortcut” along the beach. For almost a kilometer, we hiked along the misty shoreline on the reef shelves.
It was along these gorgeous reef shelves that we encountered a small black bear. He (or she) had been following us for the last few hundred meters, but had eventually caught up with us. We hadn’t taken much of a fright from it. In fact, we ignored it most of the time, until it began to approach us, head on. I couldn’t manage to get my bear spray in time, but John already had his bear-banger (a small pen-shaped device that makes a loud “Bang!”) ready. The bear was less than twenty feet from us when John shot off his bear-banger. A loud shotgun sound burst and the bear turned and ran to the forest. We all breathed a major sigh of relief.
Regardless of our near-encounter, we had to eventually return to the forest as the tide was too hide to continue along reef. Unfortunately, we had long passed the trail head back into the forest. Our quickest solution was to bushwack our way back to the trail. Oddly enough, this part wasn’t as hard as I would’ve imagine. Within two hundred meters or so, we found ourselves in the Payzant Creek campsite. The hard part proved to be finding our way back to the Trail from the campsite. It’s a maze!
After going round in circles for nearly ten minutes in the campsite, we found the Trail again. From the Payzant Creek campsite, we counted down the last seven kilometers back to Botanical Beach.
Two hours later, we finally arrived at Botanical (aka the END)!
Four days, three nights and 44km later, we had completed the Juan de Fuca Trail! What an experience! If ever you should be on Vancouver Island have four days and lots of energy to spare, I highly recommend this purely West Coast adventure!
Until the next adventure,