West Coast Trail Booking

The West Coast Trail (WCT) is considered one of the best backpacking trails in the world. People from all over the world come to hike along BC’s beautiful coastlines.

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West Coast Trail Booking, Planning & Preparation

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Nancy and I are avid hikers if you haven’t already figured that out from our blog posts. We spend quite a bit of time hiking around the Vancouver area during the summer, and sometimes even in the winter (when we aren’t skiing).

Ever since we set our plan in motion of moving to Asia, we decided that we should try and do as much as possible in Vancouver before we leave. As a result, we planned and squeezed-in lots of hiking and camping this summer. And naturally, hiking the West Coast Trail was at the top of the list.

Knowing this, we made calendar reminders to book the trip in January – yes, January is when the camping reservation starts, and it is also when it is booked full. Either book early or leave it to luck to book spots from cancellations!

West Coast Trail Highlights

  • 75 Kilometer (47 Mile) of beautiful coastal beach and in-land trail
  • Features many ladders, a few cable cars crossing, and beach-front campsites
  • Possible whale, sea lion and bear sightings

Booking your trip

As mentioned above, reservations for the WCT open early January (this is usually the case, with COVID restrictions, reservations was delayed to June 2021). Reservations are made online on Parks Canada’s website or by phone. Because of its reputation, the hike is very popular, most spots will be booked immediately after the reservation opens. Make sure to book early!

We looked into booking our trip the day after the reservation opened and found that all the spots starting from Pachena Bay and Gordon River were full! We were left with the option of starting from Nitinaht Village.

The booking system only allows 70 people to start the hike in a day. This breaks down to 25 people from Pachena Bay (North access), 25 people from Gordon River (South access), and 20 people from Nitinaht Village (Mid-point access).

Nitinaht Village is the mid-trail access point. By booking our start from Nitinaht Village, it meant that we only got to do half of the WCT. As disappointing as it was not being able to do the entire trail, the options were to do half or nothing. So we reserved our trip to start in Nitinaht Village and end at Pachena Bay.

How much does hiking West Coast Trail cost?

Our 3D/2N WCT trip in 2019 for 2 adults cost a total of $845.80 CAD not including food & camping equipment. This is how it broke down.

  • Reservation Fee for 2 @ $24.50 (Non Refundable) = $49.00
  • Overnight use for 2 @ $127.50 = $255.00
  • Nitinaht Village Water Taxi to trail head for 2 @ 62.50 =$125.00
  • National Park Entry Fee for 2 for 3 days @ $7.80/day = $46.80
  • Stay at Nitinaht Lake Motel @ 120/night = $120.00
  • Trail bus from Pachena Bay to Nanaimo for 2 @ $125 = $250.00

Depending on how you get to and from the trail, you may be able to omit the expensive bus shuttle by driving your own vehicle or getting picked up or dropped off. Lucky for us, we were able to get dropped off at Nitinaht Village. Read about how we got to and from the trail head here.

As you can see, this back-country adventure can add up to be pretty pricey! We knew there were fees associated with the trail but did not expect it to add up to close to $425 a person. This is by far one of the most expensive camping trips we have done.

It was explained to us that the hefty price is because Search & Rescue costs are pre-built into the fees. Since many hikers get injured on the trail every year, Parks Canada decided to include Search & Rescue fees to cover their costs and to deter hikers from not calling for help when hurt.

Refer to Parks Canada website for latest fee information.

Trail Preparedness

The full WCT spans a total of 75 km along the west coast of Vancouver Island. The trail is situated both along the coastline and in the rain forest of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. Most hikers complete the trail in 5-7 days, averaging 10-15 km a day. Because of its remoteness, rugged terrain, and its length, the hike should be attempted only by experienced hikers.

As intermediate hikers with only single night back-country camping experience, we knew we had some preparation to do. The major challenges for us were food preparation and making sure everything we brought was water-proof.

Since we have only done single single night trips, we never had to worry about packing enough food. For our single night trips, we only had to pack 1x lunch, 1x dinner, and 1x breakfast with snacks. For our 3D/2N trip, we had to prepare much more. See our packing post to find out what we ended up bringing.

Our other challenge was to ensure everything we brought was water-proof. The WCT gets on average of 330 CM (130 inches) of rain a year – that is a lot of rain!!

Unlike other camping trips where we are happy to take a rain-check if the forecast calls for rain, we knew we would do the WCT rain or shine. This meant that we had to prepare for the inevitable if it rained.

Lastly, we prepared for our trek by doing a few overnight trips around Squamish. These trips can be seen in our posts Panorama Ridge, and Elfin Lakes and Opal Cone. We also did a little bit of car camping in Tofino as preparation for our time on the “wet coast”. Yes, it did rain on us in Tofino. While we don’t currently have a post about Tofino, it was on that trip that we learned to play with steel wool and long exposure photography.


Posts about West Coast Trail

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The Lions
The Iconic Peaks of Vancouver
Wedgemount Lake
Hike to a Glacier-Fed Lake
West Coast Trail
Day 3 - Michigan Creek to Pachena Bay
West Coast Trail
Day 2 - Tsusiat Falls to Michigan Creek
West Coast Trail
Day 1 - Nitinat Village to Tsusiat Falls
West Coast Trail Access
Getting to/from WCT
West Coast Trail Packing List
WCT Essential Food & Equipment
Panorama Ridge
Overnight Hike in Garibaldi Provincial Park
Lower Myra Falls
A Must-See Waterfall in Strathcona
Elfin Lakes & Opal Cone
Overnight hike in Garibaldi Provincial Park
Mt. Harvey
One of the Best (Difficult) Hikes in Vancouver
Ladner Creek Trestle
Picturesque Train Bridge in Hope
Mount Gardner
Day Hike on Bowen Island
Qualicum Beach Trestle
A Local Favourite Attraction
St. Mark's Summit
One of Vancouver's Best (Moderate) Hikes