If you're coming to Vancouver Island, pack your hiking boots. Dozens of hikes, from short strolls to multi-day epics, allow explorers to experience the ocean without actually getting on salt water.

Here are seven stunning coastal treks on Vancouver Island and nearby islands.


Helliwell Bluffs

Hornby Island


Length: 5 km

Time: 1 hour

This is one of the nicest hikes on the coast that allows a stunning view of Vancouver Island. It loops through old growth Douglas fir to a cliffside above the Strait of Georgia. Find the trailhead by taking two ferries from Vancouver Island—first to Denman, second to Hornby Island. Once on Hornby Island, drive or cycle to Helliwell Provincial Park at the southwest side. The trail circles St. John Point with excellent views of the ocean. Watch for sea lions on the offshore rocks and fields of wildflowers in April and May. Cool off afterwards with a swim at sandy Tribune Bay or embark on a scuba diving expedition to search for the rare sixgill shark in the shallows around Flora Islet.


Wild Pacific Trail


photoAlison Karlene Hodgins

Length: 8 km

Time: 15 minutes to 2.5 hours

Elevation gain: Minimal

This is a spectacular trail system, especially when storms are brewing. Broken into three sections, it can be hiked as one or broken into pieces. The best bet is the Lighthouse Loop, a 2.6-km trail that circumnavigates a point jutting into the Pacific.This is a good place to see whales in March and October. In storm season, ocean swells crash into majestic black rock. In summer, bring a birding book and spend some time relaxing in nature.


Juan de Fuca Marine Trail

Juan de Fuca Provincial Park


Length: 47 km

Time: 3 - 5 days

While typically trekked as an overnight backpacking route, this trail can also be appreciated as separate day hikes, thanks to the four access points. When doing it as a multi-day trek, plan using tide tables and prepare for technical elements such as suspension bridges and staircases. You'll be rewarded with lush rainforest, stunning tidal pools and jaw-dropping views of the south western coastline.

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Ripple Rock Trail

Campbell River


Length: 7.7 km

Time: 3 hours

Elevation gain: 360 m

Ripple Rock, a twin-topped mountain just below the ocean surface of Seymour Narrows, created "one of vilest stretches of water in the world" according to explorer George Vancouver before it was blown up in 1958 by the largest peacetime explosion. An interpretive trail now traverses out to a viewpoint. Alternating between varied forest and views of the snaking waterways and distant mountains, the story of Ripple Rock adds one more reason to visit this worthwhile and scenic trail. Tag on a visit the museum in Campbell River to watch the dramatic movie of the explosion.


North Coast Trail

Cape Scott Provincial Park


Length: 58 km

Time: 5 - 8 days

This wilderness backpacking route on Vancouver Island includes plenty of elevation gain, unpredictable weather, cable car crossings and mud. A water taxi is needed to access the Shushartie Bay trailhead from Port Hardy. This multi-day hike is no walk in the woods; it's a backcountry adventure ideal for explorers ready for remote beach campfires, dense forest, ample wildlife spotting and few others hikers.


Nootka Trail


Length: 37 km

Time: 4 - 8 days

A worthy successor to the West Coast Trail, the Nootka Trail takes more effort and money to reach, but offers solitude and wildlife its peers can't match. Get dropped off via float plane drop off at Louis Bay and trek to the lighthouse and small village at Yuquot. Despite the relatively short distance, it's a trail even experienced backpackers will want to take their time trekking.


Ahousat Wild Side Trail

Flores Island


Length: 32 km

Time: 2 - 3 days

This rainforest and beach hike requires a short water taxi from Tofino to the community of Ahousaht in Clayoquat Sound. From there, wander through old growth Sitka spruce to and along beaches to Cow Bay. This is a rarely travelled route today, but at one time, it was a daily commute for the First Nation of Ahousaht.


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photoExplore member Keri Soaadi‎

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