The West Coast trail is an extraordinary adventure in Pacific Rim National Park, hiking and camping along the beaches and forests of Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada. Making a West Coast trail reservation is the first step in planning to hike this rugged route.
All spots on the trail must be booked ahead through National Parks Canada. In this post we run you through all bookings and planning that must be done ahead to hike the West Coast Trail with links to the appropriate sites (to just make it a little easier).
Why make a West Coast Trail Reservation?
Make a West Coast Trail reservation ahead to avoid disappointment, the popular dates are often grabbed up as soon as reservations open up. The West Coast Trail is open to hike from May 1 – Sept 30. There are only 70 spots available to start hiking the trail everyday; 25 from Gordon River, 25 from Pachena Bay and 20 from Nitinaht Narrows. Deciding where to start hiking? See all about different options to hike in our Complete Guide to hike the West Coast Trail.
West Coast Trail Booking and Planning to do Ahead
To hike the West Coast Trail the following must be reserved and arranged in time:
- Get to Vancouver Island.
- Accommodation before and after the trail.
- Book transport to and from the trailhead.
- Reserve the West Coast Trail.
- Food for the trail.
- Packing (gear and clothes).
Information Needed to Make a Booking on the West Coast Trail
Keep the following information ready to make a reservation on the trail
- start dates – first choice and alternate dates
- number of hikers in your group
- emergency contacts for hikers
- payment method – Visa, MasterCard or American Express accepted
- starting point – Pachena Bay, Gordon River or Nitinaht Village
- contact email address
How to make a West Coast Trail Reservation
Reservation of the West Coast Trail is done on the Parks Canada Reservation Page. West Coast Trail reservations opened at 08:00 am on 22 January 2022. Book online 24/7, you can also phone the call center 1-877-737-3783 (toll-free within Canada & US) or 1-519-826-5391 (international).
On the Parks Canada West Coast Trail Reservation Page select
- Reservation Type – West Coast Trail
- Park – West Coast Trail
- Your arrival date of interest (starting date)
- The amount of nights you are planning to spend on the trail
- Your group (party) size
You still have to select your starting point.
Click on ‘find sites‘ you have three options; List, Calendar or Map. It is the same information displayed in different ways and makes no difference which one you select.
In the sidebar on the left of the screen you will see a ‘find a sight‘ section, my settings above were as follows:
- Reservation Type – West Coast Trail
- Arrival Date – 1 May, Nights – 6
- Back Country Experience – West Coast Trail, Entry Points
- Party Size – 2
- Access Point – Gordon River (South)
Your access point options are Gordon River in the South, Pachena Bay in the North or Nitinaht Village in the middle. You can reserve your booking here, or click on details followed by site calendar to see a site calendar showing which starting dates are booked or still available.
Couldn’t Get a Reservation on the WCT?
If you couldn’t get a spot or you would like to do a shorter hike consider hiking the Juan de Fuca Trail. This awesome beach and wilderness trail also start at Port Renfrew and takes 3 to 5 days to complete the 47 kilometer trail. Scenery is similar to the West Coast Trail and no reservation is required. You can also start at and finish at several points along the trail making it more flexible. I really enjoyed the Juan de Fuca trail, but in my opinion the West Coast Trail is more famous for a reason and was a more spectacular hike.
West Coast Trail Transport Reservation
Booking or arranging some sort of transport is important since the West Coast trail is not circular. You can not hike from your car ending at your car again. Most people hiking the trail will drive to one trailhead, and use the shuttle bus to get to the other trailhead. You can also use the shuttle bus both ways. The West Coast Trail Express provides a shuttle bus service in season, May 1 to September 30, picking up and dropping off passengers at Victoria, Port Renfrew, Gordon River, Pachena Bay, Bamfield and Nanaimo.
The Shuttle Bus tickets are quite pricey at $CAD55 from Victoria to Port Renfrew/Gordon River and $CAD 110 from Bamfield/Pachena Bay to Victoria. The shuttle buses are old style school buses, not very fancy or comfortable, but it gets you there and back. If you do book the return shuttle there is a 20% discount. You can cancel the tickets with a minimum of 10 days notification.
The most convenient way to get to and from the trail is with your own transport. For car rental we like to use Rentalcars Connect, this site compares all the main rental agencies giving you the best deal online.
To walk north from Gordon River and end at Pachena Bay, just take a shuttle bus with West Coast Trail Express back from the end of your hike at Pachena Bay to your car at Gordon River.
to walk south from Pachena Bay finishing the hike at your car at Gordon River, you take a shuttle bus from Gordon River to Pachena Bay ($90) before the hike and start walking south. Very few people drive to the northern and park at the Pachena Bay trailhead since the gravel road to the trailhead is not good and difficult to navigate.
Arrive in time for the orientation – The WCT orientation is compulsory to attend before you start your walk. Orientation is given twice daily at 10:00 and 14:00 daily between May 1st and September 30th, following the orientation there is an included ferry crossing to the trailhead.
The Ferry back to the mainland – it is important to note that if you take the shuttle back from either side Pachena Bay or Gordon River you will probably not make it back to the Swartz Bay ferry terminal in time to catch the last ferry back to Vancouver.
Parking your car – Gordon River trailhead, there is parking at the Pacheedaht First Nations Reserve near the Gordon River trailhead. Parking is $5/day, pay at the Pacheedaht Campground office.
Arrive by boat from Vancouver – How to get to Bamfied by boat; take a public ferry from Horseshoe Bay in Vancouver to Departure Bay on Vancouver Island, from here an Island Link Bus to Port Alberni, The Lady Rose Marine Services runs a freight ship that transports some passengers a few days a week between Port Alberni and Bamfield. Go by taxi from Bamfield to Pachena Bay trailhead.
Getting to Vancouver Island
BC Ferries is the easiest way to get to Vancouver island from the mainland. Ferry tickets do not need to be reserved, you can buy ferry tickets on the day of boarding. The ferry terminals are serviced by regular public busses on both ends. It is also possible to board the ferry with your own vehicle. Ferries depart from Tsawwassen (near Vancouver) to Swartz Bay (Near Victoria) Ferry Schedule and from Tsawwassen to Duke Point (near Nanaimo) as well as from Horseshoe Bay (near Vancouver) to Departure Bay (in Nanaimo). It is a nice ferry trip to Tsawwassen that I have done several time. The ferry rides takes about 1h30min with food and coffee available on the ferry. You sail close to the islands with good views, you can even see whales with some luck!
There are some amazing things to do in Vancouver if you have a couple of days before come to Vancouver Island.
West Coast Trail Cost
Hiking the West Coast trail cost me in total around $CAD 600, of which $210 was payable at registration online.
- Registration – $CAD210 (payable upon registration)
- Break up West Coast Trail Overnight Use Fee: $136 and two ferry crossing fees, Gordon River: $24 and Nitinat Narrow: $24, reservation fee is $25.75
- Pacific Rim Park Permit – $CAD 52.25 payable at the orientation
- Food – $CAD17 per day pp – $102
- Transport – $CAD55 + $CAD110 = 165 – 20% discount = $CAD132
- Bear spray – $CAD50
- Stove Gas – $CAD10
Booking Accommodation before and After the West Coast Trail
There are plenty of accommodation options to suit your budget in Port Renfrew and Victoria for the night before or after the trail. Check below and reserve well rated accommodation to suit your needs.
- HI-Victoria Hostel – budget dormitory hostel, good rating central location
- Ocean Island Inn – good price, in the city center, good rating
- The Bedford Regency Hotel – bit more luxury, in the city center, good rating
- On a Budget – You can camp at Port Renfrew if you are on a budget.
- Trailhead Resort (economy cabins)
- Wild Coast Chalets (good rating, 400m from town center)
- Remote Renfrew Riverside Retreat
Packing for the West Coast Trail
You need to pack and carry all clothes, food and gear that you will need for the complete duration of the trail. The West Coast trail can be wet and grueling, so it is important that your pack is light and waterproof. You do not want to climb a 100 ladders with a heavy wet pack and sleep in wet clothes! Check our West Coast Trail packing list guide to pack like a pro! Everything from food and paperwork to clothes and gear.
The strong half of Stingy Nomads, a nomadic aquaman that would be happy to spend all his life in the water diving, surfing and spearfishing but often has to compromise with Alya and go hiking instead. Campbell is responsible for all our marine adventures and following them with write-ups. He loves traveling, braai (BBQ in South Africa), red wine and spending the day in a wetsuit.