A Guide to Hiking the West Coast Trail

Hiking West Coast Trail: Camping and Accommodations

Tsusiat Falls is a popular beach for camping along the West Coast Trail.
Tsusiat Falls is a popular beach for camping along the West Coast Trail.

If you plan to hike the West Coast Trail, you'll need a good waterproof tent, because there are no roofed shelters along the trail. And because you'll be carrying all of your food, rain gear and other necessities on your back, it would be wise to bring the lightest tent possible (most backpacking experts suggest carrying less than one-third of your body weight for men and one-quarter for women).

As we mentioned earlier, several thousand people hike the WCT every year, and to lessen the impact on the vegetation surrounding the trail, Parks Canada requests that hikers practice low-impact camping. On the WCT, that means camping in designated campgrounds wherever possible. These larger campgrounds feature outhouses, bear boxes for food storage, and they're very popular among hikers. The best way to ensure that you make it to an established campground each night is to carefully plan out how far you'll hike each day in advance [source: Parks Canada].

If you can't make it to an established campground, pitching a tent on the beach is a good option because it limits your impact on vegetated areas. But to avoid being surprised -- and soaked -- by the changing tide, be sure to set up camp well above the high-tide line. In a typical 24-hour day there are two different tide changes; be mindful of this if you plan to camp on the beach, or else you could find you, your tent and all of your gear unexpectedly swept out to sea in the middle of the night.

Campfires are permitted below the high-tide line on beaches, but they aren't allowed in the forest, or anywhere else on the trail. Parks Canada asks that hikers use only driftwood that is thinner than their wrist for fires (don't go chopping down trees or tearing off limbs), and no trace of the fire should be left after it's extinguished.

There is one place where you can leave the trail to sleep on a bed, if you're missing the comforts of home. The Ditidaht First Nation tribe is now renting luxury tent cabins at Tsquadra, which is just a short walk from the main trail. For $60 per night, the accommodations include a four-person canvas frame tent with wide cots, wood-burnings stoves and wood floors. It may sound rustic now, but after a couple of days on the trail, those tent cabins will probably look like The Ritz-Carlton [source: Derworiz].