We would venture to guess that most hikers hope for good weather, but plan for rain. On Ucluelet's Wild Pacific Trail, visitors cross their fingers for stormy weather.
The Wild Pacific Trail isn't counted among British Columbia's most strenuous hikes. In fact, a seasoned outdoorsman (or woman) would opine that calling it a 'hike' is misleading. But not all trails trade incredible views for well-earned blisters. The Wild Pacific Trail is a scenic one, winding through old growth forests, along craggy shores and the rocky outcrops of Ucluelet's southwest coast. Trail viewpoints plant hikers on the precipitous edge of Canada's west coast; on the continent's edge for that matter. Stare into the empty Pacific horizon, knowing that your line of sight drives straight to Asia.
When to go?
The trail is accessed year-round by recreational users, tourists and residents. Our favourite time of year though is during storm season. (Ucluelet, in fact, has five seasons: spring, summer, fall, winter and storm.) From November to March, gusting winds and sideways rain send waves pounding along the shoreline. Framed by a foreboding grey sky, the effect is nothing short of dramatic.
The Wild Pacific Trail is comprised of three distinct portions, with a few additional sections for good measure. The eight cumulative kilometres can be easily navigated in a day. But as with a decadent meal, it's best savoured in courses. Or in this case - loops.
Section I: The Lighthouse Route
Total distance: 2.6 km
Difficulty: easy coastal grade, hilly interior and no stairs
Start at the gravel parking lot on Coast Guard Road for a mellow hike. Follow the trail (clockwise) as it skirts mossy rain forest toward the wind swept coast of Barkley Sound. You'll encounter the trail's namesake: Amphitrite Lighthouse. This iconic sentinel celebrated its 100 year anniversary in 2015. Amphitrite Point is also frequently visited by marine visitors. It's not uncommon to spot a grey whale just off the coast.
Extend this loop: at the two kilometre fork, head left onto the Terrace Beach Interpretive Trail to explore the site of an ancient First Nations' canoe beach. The history of this location dates back thousands of years. Signs along the path identify native plants and their homeopathic uses.
Section II: The Artists Loop
Length: 2.75 km
Difficulty: easy-moderate (all things considered!), small hills.
Artists Loop marks the longest stretch of the Wild Pacific Trail. Access the trail from Brown's Beach parking lot or Big Beach Park. The trail twists through tunnels along the cliffs, marked with Krummholz trees. Krummholz - translating to 'crooked wood' - creates a unique landscape of deformed and stunted vegetation. Peering down from viewing nooks and decks, spy seals and sea lions playing in the surf. Keep an eye out for spray, bursting out from surge channels. This portion of the trail is named aptly; the best views are afforded by wooden painter's perches. Many local artists and photographers find inspiration here.
Extend this loop: the Ancient Cedars loop is a 1 kilometre extension that leads hikers into lush, mature forest. Tiptoe through the moss-lined and wave-damped woods. Here you'll be enveloped by some of the oldest trees on the Ucluelet Peninsula. Admire Sitka spruce, western hemlock and giant red cedars. Keep your eyes peeled for two crowning gems: a pair of towering 800-year old cedars. The hulking trees measure more than 12 metres around.
Section III: Rocky Bluffs
Length: 1.25 km
Difficulty: easy grade until a short hilly section on the bluffs
This section is furthest from Ucluelet, embracing the wild in Wile Pacific Trail. Some interesting features define this short section. Rocky Bluffs see waves hammered into the coastline. A barrier reef offers some shelter to sea lions, that is, when they're not catching a wave. At the 8 kilometre viewpoint, turn your gaze to the rocky headlands to spy an eagle sentry point.
The Rocky Bluffs section is an especially exciting location to storm watch. Water gushes through surge channels and scours the rocks. Note: be vigilant for errant or rogue waves. Barren spots on the shoreline where no vegetation grows indicates the water's reach. Stay on the trail!
Housekeeping & Trail Notes
- Toilets are only located at the trailheads
- No bikes permitted, walking and hiking only
- While the trail is easy in difficulty, it is not wheelchair friendly due to stairs and uneven sections
- Dogs are permitted hiking companions but must be kept on a leash
- This is a wilderness area, wildlife encounters are possible (bears and wolves are most common)
Rained off the trail?
5 things to do when it rains in Ucluelet
1. Soak in a hot tub overlooking the ocean
2. Check out the Ucluelet Aquarium
3. Indulge at Drift Spa - discover how seaweed, kelp and other seaflora resores mind and body
4. Sample artisan chocolate and gelato at Chocolate Tofino
5. Tempt your tastebuds at Fetch Restaurant with creative West Coast cuisine crafted of local ingredients
Related content on Explore Magazine