Willowbrae & Halfmoon Bay - Clayoquot Hiking Trails
The Willowbrae Trail is a fairly quiet trail as compared to other beach trails in Pacific Rim National Park. The trail is easy and flat to begin as you hike along the straight and flat gravel path. This trail is prominent in the local history as a connecting route to Tofino. Before the current highway was built in 1942, the route to Tofino was usually via sea and land right through what is now the Willowbrae Trail.
A nice map and information board along the trail points out what historic interests to look out for.. "Notches on old growth stumps that held springboards on which loggers stood to fell the giant trees. Abandoned homestead sites characterized by young second growth trees crowded together with littler shrubbery or undergrowth."
The abandoned homestead sites have been obliterated by the forest but the notches in fantastically huge tree stumps are everywhere. Another beautiful look into history is the remaining sections of the "Corduroy Road". Early settlers constructed roads in the forest by laying down logs next to each other in a fashion that resembles corduroy fabric.
The Willowbrae Trail takes you straight to the southern end of the beautiful Florencia Bay which is reached in 1.4 kilometres from the trailhead. The final descent to the beach is down a wonderfully long and somewhat steep boardwalk and stairs section.
Florencia Bay is certainly one of the most beautiful beaches in Pacific Rim National Park due to its secluded feel, sunny south facing direction and interesting shipwreck history. The beach is big and beautiful and you will usually find just a handful of surfers enjoying the whole area to themselves.
The beautiful and even more secluded feeling Halfmoon Bay can be reached from the branching trail off of the Willowbrae Trail. At 1.2 kilometres from the Willowbrae trailhead you come to a nice, big sign and map board indicating the trail to Halfmoon Bay in just 500 metres.
Both routes should be taken on any visit to this area as both are very nice. Walking to both beaches and back to your car only adds up to 3.8 kilometres and can be done at a leisurely pace in less than two hours or one hour in a faster pace. The Willowbrae Trail trailhead is just 5 kilometres from Ucluelet and actually lays just south of Pacific Rim National Park. Pacific Rim National Park begins a few metres into the trail.
Directions to Willowbrae & Halfmoon Bay
The Willowbrae Trail does not have a visible sign from the Tofino Ucluelet Highway. It is however, at the end of Willowbrae Road, but the street sign is easy to miss. If you are coming from the Tofino Ucluelet T junction on the Pacific Rim Highway, Willowbrae Road is exactly 2 kilometres away, on your right. If you are coming from Ucluelet look for Willowbrae Road on your left at about 5 kilometres from Ucluelet. From Tofino, the turnoff to Willowbrae Road is about 36 kilometres.
More Trails Near Willowbrae and Halfmoon Bay
The Wild Pacific Trail is a must see on any visit to Pacific Rim National Park, Ucluelet and/or Tofino. Located in Ucluelet, the Wild Pacific Trail is actually a set of three trails that connect into a wonderful 8.4 kilometre route. The Lighthouse Loop trail is a great place to start is wild meandering 2.6km trail that has endless amazing ocean views and an amazing array of twisted, weather beaten, and endlessly interesting trees along the trail. There are several great access points to the ocean where you can clamour over the rocks and see all sorts of sea life lurking in the pools and crevices where the ocean pours in and out of. The Wild Pacific Trail is wide and leisurely with numerous viewpoints to the ocean and guides you in and out of the forest on a constantly interesting route. The Nuu-chah-nulth (aka the Wickaninnish Trail), has the amazing distinction among all the other beach hikes in the Tofino-Ucluelet corridor, in that it is flanked on one side by the amazing, and historic Florencia Bay. And on the other side by the unexpectedly, extraordinary and beautiful, Kwisitis Visitor Centre. The Kwisitis Visitor Centre(previously called the Wickaninnish Centre) is in fact a pretty impressive little museum. They have taken a very small space and filled it with jaw dropping murals, carvings, exhibits and an amazing full sized native whaling expedition in mid-attack. Fantastic! You certainly don't expect such a well designed exhibition to be so understated.. and free. The Kwisitis Visitor Centre is a beautiful and astonishingly elaborate little museum next to the very nice Kwisitis Feast House(previously the Wickaninnish Restaurant). Both the Centre and the Restaurant lay in the rainforest of Quisitis Point that separates Wickaninnish Beach and Florencia Bay. The restaurant has incredible views and the Kwisitis Visitor Centre is free. Kwisitis, in the Nuu-chah-nulth language, means "other end of the beach". The restaurant and visitor centre are in a very nice building perched on a point in the middle of seemingly endless beaches in either direction. The restaurant is perched so far out on this point of land that you feel as though you have ocean all around you. There is a huge sundeck outside the restaurant where you have the ocean crashing below you. Florencia Bay, named after the ship that was wrecked here in 1861 is certainly one of the most amazing places in the world. Just a short, 1 kilometre (.62 mile) walk to the beach you descend down a wonderfully sketchy tangle of wooden stairs onto a fantastic, wild and secluded feeling Canadian beach. Florencia Bay seems to have it all. Gorgeous, sandy beach. Excellent waves for surfing. An absurdly wild jungle forest that spills over the beach alive with colour. It has to be explored to be appreciated. The 5 kilometre bay cuts a wide arch, often with abrupt cliffs just off the beach. Florencia Bay is known locally as Wreck Beach due the shipwreck that happened here. Four people died when the 200 tonne ship, the Florencia was wrecked. The Florencia actually capsized elsewhere, however, during the salvage effort, the ship towing the Florencia had engine trouble and cast off the Florencia to be wrecked here. The Bay's name was officially changed to Florencia Bay in 1930, but the original name is often still used. Hiking/walking the is a surreal experience. As you wander through this weather beaten forest that looks nothing like anything else you've seen in the rest of the park. It is absolutely bizarre. Pacific Rim National Park is almost entirely rainforest. Giant trees, wet, mossy ground, dead and decaying giant trees, laying on the dark, wet forest floor. And yet the looks more like a desert. Everything looks blasted by wind, and unexpectedly dry, very dry.