At 53 metres, Virgin Falls is quite an impressive sight. You walk through the short, two minute forest trail to reach it and it fills your view. It is located in a beautiful oasis it has created. A large, ice cold and crystal clear pool with pebble rocks and waterfall battered logs that flows out in a large, meandering stream through the trees. The whole area is surrounded by huge trees and you feel a strange sense of comfort, like you are in protected place. And when you roll out your sleeping bag in the spectacular setting, you will never want to leave.
The small, but very inviting camping area is amazing. Huge trees to your back, phenomenal waterfall to your front. Room for two tents near the cozy and clean fire pit. Endless firewood litters the edge of the waterfalls pool beautifully. Though the loud waterfall makes conversation a bit tough. The wonderful area where the fire is is somewhat sheltered by a couple large trees deflecting some sound and making the camping area all the better.
The Virgin Falls Road is pretty bad, though very beautiful. It is hardly maintained, though still used logging road that hugs the coast much of its 31k length from the Kennedy River bridge turnoff. The potholes are numerous, though expected. What isn't expected is the narrow, overgrown sections.
If you value your vehicles paint, you will find yourself gritting your teeth quite a bit. But then if you have a 4x4, you should likely be used to that and be fine barrelling through these narrow sections. If you are planning on driving up without a 4x4 you should be able to make it, though there are a couple of steep sections that you may have to make a couple runs at to get up.
The hilariously adorable little cabin near Virgin Falls that can be used by anyone and sits at the end of a short side road definitely requires a good 4x4 to reach. But as it is only about 400 metres from the Virgin Falls road, you can park and walk to it if needed. There are two excellent pullout/turn around points on this short road as well in case you chicken out and want to turn around part way in.
The little Virgin Falls cabin is quite amazing for such a remote place. First off, the setting is fantastic. It is located overlooking the beautiful Tofino Creek, and there is a wonderful campfire spot complete with log seats, just steps from the cabin. The cabin itself is equipped with a wood stove and bunk beds. You could easily have 8 people stay and sleep fairly comfortably as there are six bunks and floor room. There are several empty and partly empty booze bottles lining the shelves as well as quite a few odd curiosities in the little cabin. If you are brave enough to drive right to the cabin there is room for several vehicles to park and not obstruct anyone's exit.
The Virgin Falls cabin even has pots and pans for use with the stove and working lanterns and some fantastically kind people have generously equipped it with lots of cut firewood. There is a funny sign on the door declaring that the cabin is for everyone and despite its shabby appearance you get the impression that this cabin on Tofino Creek near Virgin Falls has been well used and well loved for decades.
Though you have to travel a network of logging roads to reach Virgin Falls it is surprisingly easy to find them. The start of the Virgin Falls Road is immediately after the famous Kennedy River bridge. The focal point of the hugely publicized logging protests in 1993 where hundreds were arrested for blockading logging vehicles. The Kennedy River bridge is worth a look. It spans the Kennedy River above the original and now crumbling, wooden bridge. The current one is a massive, solid steel bridge above the old one. You can still see some where protesters attempted to burn the bridge down. Several wooden pilings are severely burned under the bridge.
This bridge is also the gateway to Kennedy River Bog Provincial Park. There are no trails so access is via boat underneath the Kennedy River bridge. Visitors to this park generally park at the Kennedy Lake bridge just a couple kilometres past this bridge where there is an extensive camping area on the nice, sandy beach. Unfortunately that bridge is falling apart and therefore barricaded. So, at least on wheels, that is, it is the end of the road.
To get to the Kennedy River bridge from the highway is easy. From the T junction where you either go to Tofino or Ucluelet or Port Albernie, drive for a couple kilometres in the direction of Port Albernie. Keep your eyes out on your left for the very visible, West Main logging road. Follow it for about 11k until you cross the large Kennedy River bridge. About 50 metres past it you will see the road branch off to the left unmarked but called the Deer Bay Rd on Google maps, but locally known as the Virgin Falls road. (see Google Map below for this turnoff).
Set your odometer to zero and follow this road (bearing left at the Y junction a few minutes in) for 31k. At 31k you will see Virgin Falls from the road, and about 100 metres after seeing it on your left you will spot the very visible trailhead on your left and a slight widening of the road to possibly accomodate two or three vehicles. The trail to the falls is less than a minute long. The very visible but overgrown road you passed at around 28k on your left is the short road to the little cabin on the river.
Virgin Falls is 31k from this turnoff at the Kennedy River bridge (Kennedy River bridge is 40 minutes from Tofino or Ucluelet)
The West Coast Trail is incredible. Everything about it is amazing. From its wildly, incomprehensibly enormous trees to it's endless jaw dropping views. And it's tough. Very tough. It is a trail that shouldn't exist. Trails always form out of the easiest route worn down over the years. This trail was formed out of necessity. And the route is the only route.
Hemmed in by steep cliffs on one side and the ocean on the other, the West Coast Trail route evolved where it shouldn't have. Always wet, always up and down, thousands of creeks and canyons. Even with all the construction of suspension bridges and ladders to make the hike easier it's brutal. And yearly, winter storms blast down impossibly enormous trees making the whole endeavour more challenging.
The West Coast Trails difficulty can be measured by its relatively short distance of 75km yet it takes 4-7 days to complete. This is for two wonderful, spectacular and telling reasons. First it is a jigsaw of a trail, up and down over endless chasms tangled with rainforest. It just takes a long time to snake through. The second reason is just too good to be true. It's so beautiful. Wildly beautiful. This is a phenomenon that the West Coast Trail is alive with. It's unbelievably beautiful at every glance. Everywhere you look.
This alone would secure the West Coast Trail as one of the worlds best hiking destinations. But there is another thing that combined with its beauty, makes it what it is. The West Coast Trail. This is a phenomenon that is seldom understood or explainable, but I'll try here. It's tough. The trail is brutal. It's invariably raining, so you are always wet. This makes you soggy and crabby. Tired and exhausted. The treacherous trail in this wet is muddy, slippery and requires your full attention at every step.
This mesmerizes you as you hike. You focus completely on your next step and your mind relaxes into a meditative state. This is when it happens. You look up, catch a glance of what's around you. And it's marvellous. This is it. The West Coast Trail is a perfect combination of brutal difficulty and spectacular wildness and beauty.
The West Coast Trail, originally called the Dominion Life Saving Trail was built out of necessity because of the Graveyard of the Pacific. With at least 484 known shipwrecks, this trail formed to facilitate survivors hiking out to Victoria and rescuers hiking in to rescue them., the
It inevitably became a recreational hike in the last few decades. It's difficulty, once it's worst trait, now it's defining feature. It lies within the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve which represents and protects three beautiful, coastal lowland forests. Long Beach, the Broken Group Islands, and the West Coast Trail.
There are two main access trailheads to the West Coast Trail. Just a short boat ride from Ucluelet, through the spectacular Broken Group Islands takes you to the northern trailhead near Bamfield. Bamfield is a very small community and somewhat lacking in facilities and appeal, therefore making Ucluelet an ideal setting off point. Starting at Ucluelet has the distinct advantage of hitting this coastal hiking mecca before setting off through the breathtaking Broken Group Islands by boat taxi in style to the West Coast Trail trailhead.
Due to the West Coast Trail being linear. Meaning you start at one point and finish 75k from where you started, you have the difficulty and expense of getting back to your car. Unless of course you use public transit, which is unexpectedly easy, efficient and relatively inexpensive. For example, if you want to start and end your journey in Victoria, the roundtrip journey via hiking the West Coast Trail, is fairly straight forward. Victoria to Ucluelet by bus takes just over six hours by bus and costs $66. Boat Taxi to Bamfield From Ucluelet is about $45 and there are scheduled times. Then after hiking the West Coast Trail there is a regularly scheduled bus from Port Renfrew to Victoria that takes just a couple hours and costs $55.
With the convenience and relatively inexpensive transit for the West Coast Trail and Ucluelet, Tofino, Port Renfrew and Victoria. You can make the circle route for the West Coast Trail and incorporate some great hiking in the Ucluelet and Tofino area for a travel cost of just $166. Considering the distances travelled via these buses, that's pretty inexpensive, and the best part is you don't have to worry about dropping off and picking up your vehicle and paying for parking.
It's a tough one, one in a hundred don't make it. They need to be rescued. That's why there are so many fees. By the time you are done preparing and registering, you laugh at how hiking got so expensive. It's usually free. All the costs are for saving people that don't make it, and for all the trail construction. And there is a lot. A lot of both.
Firstly, consider the one in one hundred statistic. It's really bad. Think of it. Every day sixty people enter. So every two days one exits. Badly. To be rescued requires no little effort. The place is a jungle. It's no wonder that there is supposed cell phone coverage all the way (though there isn't). Still you feel comforted, sitting on the beach, in the middle of the West Coast Trail, marvelling at the serenity of such a remote place, then a coast guard helicopter, combing the coast, lingers past. The comfort and serenity soon pass as you notice two boats, out past the kelp beds, shadowing you as you now walk along the otherwise perfect beach. It's eerie, they move in perfect time with you walking. Then you realize, they are fishing, or sightseeing. Either way, they are not concerned with you, but also oblivious to spoiling the supposed serenity of the West Coast Trail. It's hard to feel like you are days away from civilization, when boats follow you along the coast.
It's hard to get reliable information on injuries and fatalities on the WCT. You might as well start calling it that as it's a hike that requires a lot of studying beforehand. Whenever you hike a long trail in British Columbia and the danger of bears is so overshadowed by other dangers as to be insignificant, you'd better worry. "You need to examine tide charts to determine your route." This isn't an idle recommendation you understand. It's a serious matter. See the thing is. You, me, everybody, gets to a beautiful beach on the WCT, walks a bit. Marvels at how beautiful it is, then gets trapped by the tide coming in. It doesn't just surprise the unwary hiker.
Tents routinely become engulfed in water, set up so carefully, so closely to the jungle wall. Imagine waking up to ocean waves soaking into your tent. It seems to happen a lot on the WCT, yet strangely, doesn't seem to phase people. On day one you get used to it. The mantra. To be safe from high tide, look for grass and weeds in the sand, camp there. Grass can't grow if the tide reaches them. You wonder why the ocean battered beach extends past these patches of green if this is true. Evidently, in the winter, stormy weather batters the beach further up. Up where you now safely put up your tent.
This is one of the ironies of the WCT. When they drill into you the need for waterproof this and waterproof that. You assume, it's because of the constant rainforest rain. That's only part of it. There is the engulfing white wall every morning of mist. Cold, wet and ever-present, mist. Damping everything. Don't bring a non-synthetic sleeping bag on the WCT, I heard over and over. It doesn't get wet from rain or carelessness. It gets we because the air is wet! If it touches oxygen, it will get wet. And on the first day. Then you carry this wet dog around with you for days wondering why you paid $300 for its down lightness, when it's probably going to kill you.
Speaking of deaths now. How is it that you hear so much about, "That's where most of the deaths occur," on the trail alarmingly often, yet in preparing for the trek, that's never heard? Surely these talkative people gossip on the net too? But they don't seem to...
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 20 minute boat taxi takes you to the drop off pier near the trailhead. In the all to brief, boat taxi, you will see a quick and dazzling look at the spectacular scenery that has made Tofino famous. Small and large islands crammed almost solid with beautifully huge trees. Sandy beaches that make you think more that you are in Hawaii than in Canada.
Abrupt, rocky outcrops with chaotic, swirling, clear and green water that the boat taxi/tour guide continuously points to unexpectedly beautiful creatures lurking in. Then you look up in the trees and spot a resident eagle staring menacingly down from a tree branch next to its nest full of offspring. And that's just the first five minutes from the pier.
The return boat ride to and from this pier costs $39 - $59 per person depending on who you travel with. The local favourite seems to be Tofino Water Taxi, which will get you over there anytime you want (two person minimum). Just call them to arrange a time, and they don't mind early departures if you want to catch the sunrise. Their current rates are $39 (return) and Lone Cone is just one of several possible hikes and camping spots they are happy to drop you to.
Their knowledge of where to go and when to go seems endless. They have a passion about Tofino in general and hiking in particular that fills you with excitement and the sudden realization that you couldn't possible hike all the extraordinary places they describe, even in a lifetime.
The boat drops you off at the grungy, though unexpectedly charming pier at the now abandoned village of Kakawis. There are still a few dozen houses that line the gravel road you will see as you make your way to the trailhead. A resident caretaker still has a boat at the dock, though you will probably not encounter him. If you encounter an emergency on the Lone Cone hike there is excellent cell phone reception from almost anywhere on the trail except a few spotty areas. In an absolute emergency the caretaker may assist you, if you can locate him in the Kakawis village.
From the pier you follow the gravel road which seems to take you further from Lone Cone. About five minutes down this road you will see the houses of Kakawis on your right, and keeping on the gravel road you will soon see the large "Lone Cone" sign pointing you left to the very well marked trail into the deep forest and muddy first section of the trail. Though there has been a fair amount of mud avoiding constructions you still might get a bit muddy here. Though you can hop from one tree root to another fairly effectively, a couple slips and stumbles may get you wet and dirty.
1.2k into the hike (from the pier), you finally begin ascending. Slowly at first then at 1.8k steeper and steeper. From this point until the end of the trail the hike averages about 45 degrees! Lone Cone is, near and at the top, quite massive. And though the marked trail ends and the amazing views the exploring has just begun. You could wander for hours through the forest at the top, however, the viewpoints on the marked trail are hard to beat.
At the main viewpoint the is a small and evidently well used place for a fire right at the edge of the cliff. This area also, if you were inclined, have room for a tent or two, though you read at the trailhead that camping is prohibited. There are several suitable places to put your tent if you are keen, further into the bush past this viewpoint.
Florencia Bay is the First Beautiful Beach You Come To In Pacific Rim Park
Florencia Bay, also known as Wreck Bay from the Peruvian shipwreck of 1860 named the Florencia that wrecked here. The memorial plaque on the trail reads:
January, 1861, the brigantine Florencia, homeward bound to Peru with lumber from Victoria, became unmanageable and drifted helplessly to the Nootka area where HMS Forward finally took her in tow. But Forward developed engine trouble and the luckless Florencia, cut adrift, shattered on the islet in the bay. Until 1930, Florencia Bay was know as Wreck Bay, a name still in common usage.
Wreck Bay has an amazingly huge sandy beach, great surfing and an extraordinary feel of desolation. From the beach the land rises quickly behind the beach giving the bay a tremendously cozy feel. All this just a short five minute walk from the parking lot.
You will quickly see a local subculture here of surfers as you quickly figure out that this is a locals favourite for surfing or just walking and relaxing. The beach is fairly long and you can easily spend a couple hours walking the length. Both ends of the beach are enclosed in cliffs and all sorts of ocean wildlife can be seen.
In terms of convenience and beauty, Florencia Bay is hard to beat.