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BC is has the famous tagline “Beautiful British Columbia” for a reason. If you’ve ever visited, or are currently living here, you understand wholeheartedly. The outdoor majesty is everywhere, from the numerous local beaches to tall mountains that border the city. Countless public parks, and easy access to deeper wilderness. It’s due to the surroundings that BC is a premier outdoor hotspot. Adventurers and explorers alike come to our province to experience Mother Nature. However, we at GoFetch feel that there is an uneven amount of attention spread across the outdoor scene. One example of this is hiking! Vancouver is an optimal home base for such activities, thus the North Shore, Squamish, and Whistler seem to get all the love. There are other, truly fantastic BC Hiking Trails just a stones throw away!
In this post, we are going to focus on some BC Hiking Trails that exist on Vancouver Island and along the Sunshine Coast. Yes, these do take a bit more planning and effort than a simple drive up to Squamish. However, we assure you that they are well worth it. Due to the slight inconvenience of being further away, these trails are much less crowded. Here, you are able to enjoy the beauty of BC, on your own (plus a four legged friend or two)! Before you head on out though, make sure to read up on our previous post on BC Hiking Safety! Live on the east coast and came across our piece? Check out our list on some equally great (perhaps less hilly) Ontario Hiking Trails!
One of the many vistas offered during the 10 day journey through the Sunshine Coast Trail
Backcountry Safety on BC Hiking Trails
As with any off-the-grid exploration, venturing into the backcountry can be dangerous. It is vital to go in prepared, and be ready to tackle the challenges that lay ahead. Please keep in mind the following:
- Bring reliable communication — the BC hiking trails below will lead you through areas of spotty, to non-existent, cell coverage. Satellite GPS and phones are useful to carry on person, especially if you are leaving for multiple days
- Pack proper gear — layers, reflective clothing, emergency survival equipment and the knowledge on how to use it
- Time the days — know when sunset is and plan to be ready for the night before darkness sets
- Weather — can be unpredictable, but still check ahead of time and pack accordingly
- Bring a friend — never go alone, and choose partners who are knowledgable, experienced, and fit enough to complete the journey
- Overconfidence — leave it at home, be realistic of your ability
- Wildlife — be aware of what you can encounter and what to do if so, as well how to properly store camp provisions during the night
- Communicate — let someone know where you are going, and when you expect to be back. If you are driving, leave a note on the dashboard with the same information
Remember, it’s better to ask before you leave, than be left with questions 3 days in. Do your research, train, and be prepared. Adventures are fantastic experiences, and the more you think ahead of time, the more you will be able to enjoy the moment! For more information on trail safety, check out Adventure Smart!
BC Hiking Trails
1) Sunshine Coast Trail
- Total Distance: 180 km
- Time: 7 – 10 days (can be done in sections)
- Level of Difficulty: moderate
Perhaps one of the best known adventures in the province, the Sunshine Coast Trail will undoubtedly be a highlight in your outdoor career. Expanding for 180 km end to end, this trail offers truly jaw dropping views & pristine wilderness. Additionally, the Sunshine Coast is the longest hut-to-hut trail in Canada! This means that along the trail, there are 13 huts where hikers can stay during the night, free of charge. The huts are built and maintained by local volunteers, so while they are free to use, please be mindful and leave them cleaner than you found them! The Coast trail starts at Sarah Point in Desolation Sound, and winds hikers into alpine meadows and past the region’s hinterland lakes. The trail is best hiked in late summer, when each day, barring foul weather, is simply perfect. You can read more about this hike here.
The Tin Hat Hut at the 90km mark along the Sunshine Coast Trail, one of the 13 huts that dot the trail and provide nighttime shelter
2) Cape Scott Trail
- Total Distance: 24 km
- Time: 2 days
- Level of Difficulty: moderate
This trail is located in the Cape Scott Provincial Park, near Port Hardy. The park is known for its old growth forest and sandy beaches. The rugged terrain and area, however, is also known for its heavy rain and often unpredictable storms. While for some this may be a deterrent, for others, it adds to the attraction. If you are well prepared and properly equipped, this then 2 day hike will pass by without incident (do be on the lookout for bears and cougars though). Read more about this trail here!
Interior of Cape Scott Provincial Park
3) Mt. Albert Edward
- Total Distance: 31 km
- Time: 14 hours
- Level of Difficulty: difficult
A local favourite, Mt. Albert Edward is the 6th tallest mountain on the Island, and is also the most easily accessibly. Located in Strathcona Provincial Park, the mountain is a popular destination both in summer for hikers and in winter for skiers and snowshoers! With a prominence of 1,203m and a total elevation of 2,093m, you are rewarded with breathtaking views of the surroundings up top. Breathtaking is an apt description, as the steep climb and narrow trails are the hallmarks of this trail. If you are looking to break up the hike, there is a campsite at Circlet Lake. The good news is that once you’re in the high alpine, the hike becomes more of a gentle trek along the ridge to the summit. Read more about Mt. Albert here!
The high alpine ridge towards the summit of Mt. Albert Edward
4) Judges Route on Mt. Arrowsmith
- Total Distance: 6 km
- Time: 5 – 6 hours
- Level of Difficulty: moderate – difficult
At 1,819m in elevation, Mt. Arrowsmith is the tallest peak in southern Vancouver Island. This is one of those BC Hiking Trails that is a grind to get up, but the views make it completely worth it. This hike, which follows the Judges Route, is the quickest and easiest way to the top. With a incredible gain of 1,000m on this short hike, your heart will be pumping for sure. The good news is that the route is not technical, just steep, and requires a little scrambling up top. Make sure to bring plenty of water if you are hiking this in the summer! There is no water access on-route, so bring 2 – 3L. Read more about the Judges Route here!
360 degree panorama views from the top of Mt. Arrowsmith
5) Juan de Fuca Marine Trail
- Total Distance: 47 km
- Time: 2 – 4 days
- Level of Difficulty: moderate
A true Vancouver Island classic. The Juan de Fuca is a wilderness hiking trail that leads you through some of the Island’s most remote and isolated shorelines. The hike is 47 km of costal hiking, which means you will be going up and down, marked by scenic old growth forest. When not in the forest, you’ll be flat through the beaches, with thundering surf off to the side. The opportunities for spotting wildlife is ample (beware of black bears!) and the tidal pools at Botanical Beach are just sublime.
The hike can be made as strenuous or easy as you want. Each beach (and a few interior camping spots) offers ample space to pitch your tent. The main thing it keep in mind is Juan de Fuca is notoriously muddy! Make sure bring some tall gators, and get ready to be a little damp. Read more about this classic trail here!
Hiking through Chin Beach, one of the many costal sections along the Juan de Fuca
We hope you have found our list of BC Hiking Trails useful! These hikes were selected due to the experience offered, but also they are on the track less-tread. So, pack your bags, do your research, and get ready for another adventure! Much love,
– The GoFetch Team