Long Beach // (c) 2011 Michael Oswald
From the rainforest to the ocean, clients can explore the interpretive trails of Pacific Rim National Park nestled along the southwest coast of Vancouver Island and backed by the Vancouver Island Mountain Range. With a rugged coastline and a temperate rainforest, the park is spread over 197 square miles on a thin strip of coastline near Tofino, B.C., and made up of three major areas: Long Beach, the Broken Group Islands, an archipelago of more than 100 islands accessible by boat, and the West Coast Trail.
By far, the most popular area is Long Beach. Here, a network of trails and boardwalks lead visitors over a range of forest trails and beach walks. There are several walks to choose from, and all can be reached from the main road, Highway 4, that travels through the park between Tofino to Ucluelet.
Of particular interest is the Nuu-chah-nulth Trail, formerly the Wickaninnish Trail, which links Long Beach to Florencia Bay. It is about a 1½-mile-long trail that has been newly renovated with a series of boardwalks and 12 richly illustrated interpretive signs about the cultural and natural history of the First Nations people. Clients can access the trail from the Wickaninnish Interpretive Centre and follow the beach before turning left into the rainforest. Here, visitors will see moss-covered logs and dense foliage with brightly colored flora and fauna as they stroll along the intricately designed boardwalk. The trail ends in a parking lot with stairs that descend to Florencia Bay, which offers stunning vistas of the lush forest and the seaside.
Before the walk, be sure to check out the Wickaninnish Interpretive Centre, which has been recently renovated and features interactive exhibits and engaging experiences regarding the area and information about the First Nations people. Located off of Highway 4 at the end of Wick Road, this is the main center of information for visitors to the region; it receives more than 100,000 visitors per year.
West Coast Trail
For the adventurous, the West Coast Trail is a 47-mile-long trail that follows the west coast of Vancouver Island. Originally constructed to aid shipwrecked sailors, it is now a popular tourist route. Construction on the trail, known then as the “Lifesaving Trail,” began in 1907 and was complete in 1910. By the 1950s, its use had been abandoned and, in 1970, it was transformed to the West Coast Trail, which is now a popular five- to seven-day hike that challenges the adventurous with its rocky beaches, damp rainforests and rough and muddy terrain. Campgrounds dot the trails and Tsusiat Falls is a beautiful highlight, where you can sleep next to a waterfall that lies just above a sandy beach.
The trail is open May 1 to Sept. 30. Maximum group size is 10 hikers and entrance points are at Pachena Bay (Bamfield/north) and Gordon River (Port Renfrew/south). During the peak season, June 15 to Sept. 15, Parks Canada allows up to 60 overnight hikers to start the trail each day; 30 from the Pachena end of the trail and 30 from the Gordon River end. Hikers can now make trail reservations online or by phone.