Trip and Wellness

9 Best Hiking Trails on Vancouver Island, BC

9 Best Hiking Trails on Vancouver Island, BC

Vancouver Island boasts an array of natural wonders, including mountains, glaciers, lakes, ancient forests, and extensive coastlines stretching for hundreds of kilometers. The hiking options available cater to diverse preferences, ranging from multi-day coastal expeditions to full-day summit hikes and tranquil strolls through meadows and valleys. The west coast of the island, characterized by its rugged terrain, offers transformative hiking experiences, exemplified by trails like the West Coast Trail and the Juan de Fuca Trail.

Venturing into the island’s interior reveals ancient forests and alpine landscapes waiting to be explored on foot. Even if your journey leads you only to the provincial capital of Victoria, you’ll encounter a wealth of rewarding hiking opportunities. For a comprehensive guide to trails that span from wheelchair-accessible paths to challenging week-long adventures, refer to our article on the best hikes on Vancouver Island.

1. Juan de Fuca Marine Trail, Port Renfrew

China Beach
China Beach/ @istockphoto

The Juan de Fuca Marine Trail, often referred to as the Juan de Fuca Trail, is a multi-day hike tracing the rugged west coast of Vancouver Island, extending from China Beach to Port Renfrew.

This trek guides you through stunning open expanses of beach, along challenging shorelines and headlands, and meanders through a forest adorned with enormous Sitka spruce, western hemlock, and western red cedar—the provincial tree of British Columbia. The sheer size of these trees is awe-inspiring. However, experiencing a day hike along the Juan de Fuca Trail doesn’t necessitate completing the entire route.

Access points at China Beach, Sombrio Beach, and Port Renfrew (near Botanical Beach) offer distinct features. If you’re in Port Renfrew, take a stroll along the trail to the ocean, passing through dense forest and towering trees.

Exploring the trail at Sombrio Beach is worthwhile, featuring oceanfront campsites overlooking a broad beach. Keep in mind that the road to Sombrio Beach is rough and steep, though most standard vehicles can navigate it without issues.

For a taste of the trail, embark on a day hike with a four-kilometer return journey to the picturesque Mystic Beach and the stunning Mystic Falls. The hike descends through tall trees, crosses a long swing bridge, traverses occasional boardwalks, and descends a lengthy set of stairs to the beach. This walk encompasses the initial two kilometers of the longer 47-kilometer trail.

Completing the entire trail typically takes three to four days. The segment nearest to Port Renfrew is the easiest, with increasing difficulty as you head south.

2. Rainforest Hike, Loops A & B

Rainforest Trail in Tofin
Rainforest Trail in Tofin

Pacific Rim National Park Reserve near the town of Tofino is a highlight of Vancouver Island, offering spectacular hiking experiences. The trails are generally short but provide immense rewards in terms of breathtaking scenery. Enormous beaches and some of Canada’s oldest trees characterize this region.

For a profound glimpse into the heart of the forest, embark on the Rainforest Hike. Ideal for families, this captivating trail features colossal trees, some dating back up to 800 years. The entire hike takes place on a raised walkway, adding an element of fun for those who haven’t experienced it before.

Each segment of the hike forms a one-kilometer loop, ensuring a relatively short duration, but you can anticipate spending extra time marveling at the towering trees above you. This ranks among the best hikes in the Tofino area.

3. Cathedral Grove

Cathedral Grove
Cathedral Grove

If you find yourself near Qualicum Beach or en route to Tofino and Ucluelet, make sure to include a stop for this short hike through a forest of majestic trees. Various loops in the area guide you through ancient Douglas-fir stands, some exceeding 800 years in age, and towering western red cedars, reaching heights of 60 meters.

As you explore, you’ll encounter bigleaf maples, transforming into a golden hue in the fall. The highlight of Cathedral Grove is The Big Tree, a 76-meter Douglas-fir with a nine-meter circumference, believed to be over 800 years old. The trails are level and easy, situated on both sides of Highway 4. Parking is conveniently located at the highway’s edge, which is generally not heavily trafficked, though it may be busier on weekends and holidays.

4. Coast Trail, Sooke

Coast Trail, Sooke
Coast Trail, Sooke

One of the most beautiful hikes in the Victoria area and a quintessential day hike in British Columbia is the Coast Trail, located in East Sooke Regional Park, approximately 45 minutes from downtown Victoria.

This trail meanders along beaches, traverses rocky shores, and crosses headlands, offering panoramic views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the snowcapped Olympic Mountains.

Covering a challenging 10-kilometer one-way route, you have the option to undertake a portion of it as a round trip. The preferred starting point is Aylard Farm, a popular day-use area featuring a beach.

Alternatively, you can commence your journey from the picturesque Iron Mine Bay and hike in the opposite direction. Near this trailhead, a small beach attracts visitors on sunny days, providing a delightful spot for picnics or swimming.

5. West Coast Trail

West Coast Trail
West Coast Trail

The West Coast Trail stands as one of Canada’s most renowned hiking trails, attracting enthusiasts with its breathtaking scenery and offering a challenging experience. This multi-day trek unfolds along the rugged southwest coast of Vancouver Island.

Originally traversed by First Nations for both paddling and walking, portions of the trail were established to aid in rescuing shipwreck survivors. Spanning 75 kilometers from south of Port Renfrew to Bamfield, the trail can be undertaken in either direction.

Navigating diverse terrain, from forests and bogs to beaches and rocky headlands, this trail is far from a simple woodland stroll. Hikers must contend with ladders, climbing sections, and various obstacles.

While the southern part is more demanding than the north, the challenges extend beyond terrain to include unpredictable weather. The region experiences frequent wet and cool conditions, leading to slippery paths and the risk of hypothermia.

The trail operates from May 1 to September 30, and a permit is required for West Coast Trail hiking. The reservation system opens in early January, and spots fill quickly. To increase your chances of securing a reservation, create an account before reservations open and book promptly on the opening day. Consult the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve site for detailed information and planning.

6. San Josef Bay Trail, Cape Scott Provincial Park

San Josef Bay Trail
San Josef Bay Trail

Located in the remote western expanse of Vancouver Island, Cape Scott Provincial Park boasts rugged beauty and remains a less-explored destination. Situated approximately eight hours north of Victoria and 4.5 hours north of Campbell River, the area beyond is characterized by vast forests and a couple of small towns.

The park provides access to striking landscapes and captivating hiking trails. The San Jose Bay Trail, a relatively easy five-kilometer round-trip hike, leads to San Josef Bay—a stretch of beach, rocky shoreline with tidal pools, and sea stacks. Visitors can pack a lunch and spend a day exploring the area, discovering small shore caves during low tide, and relishing the sense of remoteness and tranquility.

San Josef Bay is approximately a two-hour drive from Port Hardy. For those in Port Hardy, a convenient way to experience the region is through a San Josef Bay Tour, offering transportation from Port Hardy to Cape Scott Provincial Park, inclusive of this hike.

For more seasoned hikers seeking a challenge, the 23-kilometer one-way Cape Scott Trail or the North Coast Trail, a 43-kilometer extension of the Cape Scott Trail, are options within Cape Scott Provincial Park. These trails are designed for experienced hikers familiar with the coastal conditions in the area. The North Coast Trail requires a minimum of five days, but hikers should plan for seven to eight days to complete it.

7. Wild Pacific Trail, Ucluelet

Wild Pacific Trail, Ucluelet
Wild Pacific Trail, Ucluelet

Situated just south of Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, approximately 40 minutes from the town of Tofino, lies the small community of Ucluelet and the Wild Pacific Trail. This trail provides a glimpse of the wild and rugged coast that characterizes this region of Canada, offering easy access via a well-maintained trail.

In contrast to the hiking trails in the nearby national park that lead to beaches, the Wild Pacific Trail showcases a distinct landscape. Offshore islands, waves crashing on rocks, a lighthouse, and the presence of twisted, windblown trees contribute to its unique and captivating beauty.

The trail is segmented into two sections. The Lighthouse Loop, spanning 2.6 kilometers, represents the most popular section with the most breathtaking scenery. The Brown’s Beach to Rocky Bluff portion, an eight-kilometer round-trip hike along the ocean and through the rainforest, is equally worth exploring.

8. Mount Work Trail, Victoria

Mount Work Trail
Mount Work Trail

Just a 40-minute drive from downtown Victoria, Mount Work provides breathtaking mountaintop views overlooking Saanich Inlet, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and the dramatic peaks of the Olympic Mountains.

The 4.5-kilometer round-trip trail ascends through a forested area, featuring occasional steep sections that are not technically challenging, leading to two viewpoints. Each of these viewpoints offers distinct perspectives in different directions. It’s advisable to undertake this hike on a clear day to fully appreciate the expansive vistas. The trailhead is in Mount Work Regional Park, beyond Durrance Lake, at the Ross Durrance Road Parking Lot.

9. Elk River Trail, Strathcona Provincial Park

Elk River Trail
Elk River Trail

Located just a 45-minute drive from Campbell River in North Central Vancouver Island, Strathcona Provincial Park features the renowned Elk River Trail. Stretching 11 kilometers with a 600-meter elevation gain, this trail stands out as one of the park’s most popular and stunning hikes. The journey leads you through the Elk River Valley, culminating at the picturesque Landslide Lake, where the tranquil waters mirror the surrounding mountains.

For those interested in a two-day excursion, camping options are available at Butterwort Flats, six kilometers from the trailhead, or the upper gravel bar campsite, situated nine kilometers into the hike. It’s important to note that camping is not permitted at Landslide Lake, as this hike follows an in-and-out route.


Q: Is hiking on Vancouver Island suitable for beginners?
A: Absolutely! Vancouver Island offers trails of varying difficulty levels, catering to both beginners and seasoned hikers.

Q: Are there guided tours available for the mentioned trails?
A: Yes, several tour companies provide guided hikes, ensuring a safe and informative experience.

Q: What wildlife can I expect to encounter during my hikes?
A: Vancouver Island is home to a diverse range of wildlife, including bears, eagles, seals, and various bird species.

Q: How can I contribute to environmental conservation while hiking?
A: Adhering to Leave No Trace principles, participating in clean-up initiatives, and supporting local conservation efforts are impactful ways to contribute.

Q: Where can I find more information about upcoming hiking events on Vancouver Island?
A: Local hiking communities, social media platforms, and event websites are excellent sources of information on upcoming hiking events.