Easily the best reason to visit Vancouver Island, Pacific Rim National Park serves up some of North America’s most incredible scenery: a mixture of rainforest, coastline vistas, mountains and rocky beaches can all be seen here in just a few day.
Hiking trails run south from Tofino to Port Renfrew. There are three distinctly different areas:
- Long Beach: A long stretch of beach popular with day-hikers and surfers.
- West Coast Trail: A 75 km (47 mi) hike along the west coast from Port Renfrew to Bamfield. This hike usually takes 5-7 days to complete.
- Broken Group Islands: hundreds of small islands mostly accessible by boat or canoe.
Regardless of where you choose to visit, whale watching and surfing are popular activities. Consider making Tofino – located at the northern section of Long Beach – your base for exploring outlying areas.
Great Walks on Long Beach
Long Beach is just that: a long, uninterrupted stretch of beach. While there is over 18 miles (30 km) of hiking, roughly 11 miles (19 km) can be hiked continuously. The following briefly describes several official trails on Long Beach (listed from east to west):
The Willowbrae Trail (1.7 miles/2.8 km round-trip): this trail is located just off the Highway 4 junction. It begins with a fairly level walk through woodland, then descends sharply through rainforest to either Half Moon or Florencia Bay.
The South Beach Trail (0.8 miles/1.5 km round-trip): this easy walk leaves from behind the Wickaninnish Center and winds along a series of small coves. After a short walk through forest, you climb up to the headlines for a dramatic view of the coastline. From the headlands it is possible to hike down to South Beach, though keep an eye on the tides.
The Nuu-chah-nulth Trail (3 miles/5 km round-trip): Formerly known as the Wickaninnish Trail, this trail has been recently covered with cedar boardwalk and includes illustrated information on its flora and fauna along the way. It begins at the Wickaninnish Centre and climbs a short hill up to the rainforest before descending to Florencia Bay.
The Shorepine Bog Trail (800 meters): This wheelchair accessible trail provides an interesting look at Vancouver Island’s bogland. You’ll walk through short, stunted shorepine trees which – despite their diminutive status – may be hundreds of years old. Be sure to grab a pamphlete from the information center beforehand; it describes various vegetation you’ll encounter along the way.
The Rain Forest Trails (0.6 mile/1 km): There are two small loop trails which follow a boardwalk through pristine old growth rainforest; there are several interpretive boards describing the life cycle of a rain forest’s plants and animals.
The Schooner Beach Trail (1 mile/2km round-trip): A leisurely walk through rain forest leads you to an exceedingly scenic Schooner Cove. The trail technically ends here, but most people choose to push on to the viewpoint at Radar Hill.
When To Go
The best time to visit the park is from June to September when the weather is pleasant and dry (comparatively).
However, a new trend of storm watching during the colder months when the park is open (mid-March to mid-October) is emerging. Attempt at your own risk.
The following temperatures are taken from Tofino as a general reference.
From June to September, the average high temperatures range from 61.3 to 65.5°F (16.3 to 18.6°C), low temperatures range from 47.3 to 51.1°F (8.5 to 10.6°C), and precipitations ranges from 3.4 to 5 inches (82.6 to 121.7mm) each month.
Getting There & Around
Pacific Rim National Park is located on Vancouver Island in the southwest of Canada. It stretches for 80 miles (130km) between the northern town of Tofino and southern town of Port Renfrew.
Most people fly into Vancouver International Airport and then drive 7 hours east on highway 4 to Long Beach, the most popular part of the park.
However, you can also catch a connecting flight to Tofino or Ucluelet Airport if you prefer not to drive.
- Mid-range accommodations: $100-150
- Meals: $25-35
- Bottle of beer: $5.50
- Camping fees: $18-24
- Plan on paying a vehicle entrance fee of $8 per day.
- Plan for fog. Bring a rain jacket and waterproof boots.
- Keep your pets on leash around the area as there are cougars and wolves.
- Plan on sun-bathing and swimming. The area is pretty chill and most people visit the park for the sights and hiking rather than water activities.
- Miss the sea lions on the beach. From a far, they can look almost identical to a rock.
- The park was founded in 1970.
- In 1993, the Canadian government allowed logging in the park which accounted for the loss of nearly two-thirds of the forest. After a massive civil disobedience, there are now more protected areas.
Feature Image Credit: meaduva