Flores Island Provincial Park
Flores Island is located just a 40 minute water taxi ($20 scheduled or $25 on demand) ride away. This beautiful, remote and wild feeling island is a popular beach camping destination, relatively close to Tofino. Some of the beautiful beaches have excellent vantage points for whale watching as Gray whales pass here on their annual migration between Alaska and California.
Fishing and kayaking are very popular in this park as well. The park has no fees for hiking or camping in Flores Island Provincial Park, but to walk the Wild Side Trail you have to pay an alarming $25/person as it is maintained by the local Ahousaht First Nations. The trail is 22k roundtrip(Ahousat to Cow Bay) and considering the two day (average) time people take to hike this island, $25 is not too bad. Also, if you consider the free and amazingly beautiful camping at Cow Bay in Flores Island Provincial Park, $25 sounds OK.
runs through a beautiful jungle forest of massive Sitka trees and passes along Whitesands Beach and Cow Bay and leads to Mount Flores. The views from Mount Flores are amazing. As with many rainforest trails in this part of the world be prepared for mud with good footwear and of course possible wet weather. The trail is generally easy, though fairly steep at the Mount Flores ascent.
The Wild Side Trail is a stunning, though very rugged, revitalization of the centuries old trail used by the Nuu-chah-nulth. The present day Nuu-chah-nulth have embraced hiking tourism and meticulously formed the Wild Side Trail into a museum of sorts, an art exhibit, and a history lesson. They do this wonderfully by displaying frequent points of interest along the beautiful, forest, then beach, then forest, then beach, etc route. There is even a "Warm Springs" along the route. The poorer cousin to Hot Springs Cove. The Warm Springs consist of a grubby, cement pool. You may not want to jump in, but it is still a nice, short side hike.
The trail has an abundance of other interesting things to do. Along with the various beaches and forest sections there is Mount Flores towering in the middle of Flores Island at an impressive 902 metres. The trail to Mount Flores ascends quickly along a much more overgrown and challenging route than the one that brought you to Cow Bay. Gaining 902 metres in just 4k is exhausting which is yet another reason for making the Wild Side Trail a multi-day adventure hike instead of a gruelling day-hike.
The Wild Side Trail is very expensive to hike, $25 per person is payable at the trailhead. This cost is quite high when compared to the similarly beautiful beach and island hikes such as the Vargas Island hike to Ahous Bay, which is free. The high cost does have a couple benefits however. First, it enables continuous upkeep of the trail, which being in a coastal rainforest is quite a task. Second it keeps this trail relatively quiet. If it was free, or more reasonably priced it would likely be extremely busy, certainly in the busy and beautiful summer months. The high cost keeps it fairly serene.
The main camping beach at Cow Bay, does get quite busy at times. Frequent groups of kayakers descend on this well known and sought after camping paradise so close to Tofino. Fortunately the beach is quite expansive and can accommodate dozens of campers. Still, nothing beats a pristine wilderness beach like the one at Cow Bay, busy or not. The Wild Side Trail is not difficult and generally easy to follow but it is a good idea to buy the trail book on sale at the trailhead. It gives wonderfully elaborate descriptions of everything on the trail and gives you a fuller appreciation of the hike.
Island hiking in Clayoquot Sound is phenomenal. Few people, endless beautiful beaches, wild and enormous forests overlooking the wild Pacific Ocean. Just a short boat taxi ride will get you to dozens of these beaches. Here are five great island hikes near Tofino. For more, and probably better islands to visit, ask your boat taxi driver. They are always happy to drop you off in paradise.
Meares Island was the centre of dispute in the 80's when the Nuu-chah-nulth protested Macmillan Bloedel's intent to log the island. The Nuu-chah-nulth together with environmental groups blockaded the island and fought in the courts. The court ruled that until the Nuu-chah-nulth's land claim to the island was settled, no development can occur on the whole of Meares Island. This tremendous victory enabled the creation of The Big Tree Trail and its breathtaking star feature, the Hanging Garden Tree. This monster of a tree. A Western Red Cedar, estimated to be older than 1500 years, is enormous. 18 metres around and magnificently tall, it easily is included among Canada's greatest trees. A nice boardwalk takes you from the trailhead to the Hanging Garden Tree. Hot Springs Cove is a wonderful day trip from Tofino. Lots of whale watching companies offer whale watching/hot springs tours for very reasonable prices. The boat ride is out on the open ocean is quite fun and there is a fair bit to see, not least the whales that you hopefully encounter. The hot springs themselves are wonderful, and the 25 minute (1.2 kilometre) walk to them is unexpectedly beautiful and interesting. Intricate cedar boardwalks and bridges move you up and through massive trees and wind through the forest. Years of interesting carvings into the boardwalk planks adorn the route. Hundreds of names of visiting people, groups, and vessels, give the walkway a historic and artistic feel to it. Along the boardwalk there are a couple very nice viewpoints looking out to the ocean beyond the forest. Lone Cone is the wonderful cone shaped mountain that dominates the skyline in Tofino. It is just 6k from Tofino on the north-western end of Meares Island. Lone Cone is an incredible hike to do while in Tofino. There are several attributes that make it fantastic. First, its location. Very close to Tofino. Just a short and very scenic boat taxi takes you to the trailhead. Second, is it is such an abruptly steep hike that you go from the ocean to absurdly sweeping views in just over an hour. Due to the location of Lone Cone requiring a water taxi to access, ensures that it remains serene and quiet most days. In the 15 minute, fast taxi, you will see a quick look at the spectacular scenery that has made Tofino famous. Vargas Island Provincial Park is a popular Kayak camping destination due to its wonderful location close to Tofino. It has wonderful, wilderness camping for free and a beautiful feeling of remoteness from the world. And if you are lucky you might see whales pass in the distance from Ahous Bay. The relaxing trail from the Tofino side of Vargas Island to Ahous Bay is 3 kilometres. Making this an easy day-hike from Tofino or Ucluelet at just 6 kilometres roundtrip, trailhead to trailhead.