Flores Island Provincial Park Tofino & Ucluelet Area Hiking & Camping
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 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 and considering the two day (average) time people take to hike this island, $25 is not too bad. Beautiful beach camping is the norm on Flores.
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 trail is very expensive to hike/camp, $25 per person is payable at the trailhead. This cost is quite high when compared to the comparably 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 accomodate 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.