Different Ways to Hike (bike, ride) the Vancouver Island Trail

There are many ways to ultimately complete the Vancouver Island Trail.  Of course, one may choose just to complete one, two or several individual sections of the Trail, sections comprised of multi-day excursions or just day-hikes to places of particular interest or attraction.

Completing the entire Trail:

If your goal is to complete the entire Trail, then you can undertake an epic hike and complete it as a “through-hiker”.  Of course, no one has actually done this as yet so the time required is still somewhat uncertain.  However, a through-hiker should be thinking in terms of a a full month, at minimum, and more likely in terms of 6 weeks to 2 months.  A through-hiker might plan on having (would be advised to have) a support team, which would allow different modes of travel (on foot, by bike) to suit different sections, as well as allow for periodic re-supply and on-going assistance.  However, VISTA does not anticipate this approach will suit the majority of users.

A more likely, alternate approach would involve hiking one section of the Trail a year so as to eventually cover the entire route over a period of several years, an approach taken by many users of the Pacific Crest Trail and similar long-distance trails.  Some realistic/logical sections to tackle include:

  • hiking or biking from Victoria to Lake Cowichan – 99.4 km – a 1-5 day trip
  • hiking from the west end of Cowichan Lake to Port Alberni – 85.1 km – a 3-5 day trip
  • hiking over the Beaufort Range, from Port Alberni to Cumberland (land use agreements not yet in place) – 89.5 km – a 3-5 day trip
  • hiking across Strathcona Park, north to the Gold River Highway (north of the Park, land use agreements not yet in place) – 85.1 km – a 4-6 day trip
  • hiking (or hiking and biking, using a support team) from the Strathcona Dam (Gold River Hwy) to Woss via the Salmon, White and Davie watersheds – 115 km – a 4-7 day trip
  • hiking or biking the Englewood Rail Trail (land use agreement not yet in place) and ‘Namgis section between Woss and Port McNeill – 74.4 km – a 2-4 day trip
  • hiking between Port McNeill and Port Hardy, mostly along the coastline – 43.4 km – a 2-3 day trip
  • travelling from Cape Scott to Port Hardy (or vice versa), combining hiking between Cape Scott and Shushartie Bay (55.1 km) and a water-taxi between Port Hardy and Shushartie (34.7 km) – total 89.8 km (one way) – a trip of 5-8 days.

The number of days each of these sections would actually take would of course depend on a number of factors – each hiker/hiking group will set their own pace – plan your trip accordingly.  Weather delays are always a possibility.  Including travel to and from trail-heads, most of the above sections will require about 1 week to complete (from home doorstep to doorstep).

Overnight trips and day-hikes:

A multitude of overnight trips and day-hikes are feasible along most of the length of the Vancouver Island Trail.  The only limitation is the lack of access via roads.  This can be somewhat problematic only along the Beaufort Crest Route, in the more remote sections of the Strathcona Park and Strathcona Gap sections and along the North Coast Trail.

Just a few possibilities are as follows.  On southern Vancouver Island, examples of day-hikes to particularly attractive features/areas include:

  • the suspended bridge over the Goldstream River from the Humpback Lake trail-head
  • the McGee and Kinsol Trestles from the Sooke Lake Road trail-head on the TCT/Great Trail
  • Skutz Falls and the Marie Canyon Bridge, accessed from Highway 18 between Duncan and Lake Cowichan

On central Vancouver Island, good day-hikes include:

  • Phase 1 or phase 2 (or portions) of the Alberni Inlet Trail immediately south of Port Alberni
  • Sections of the Runners Trail such as from the old Franklin River logging camp to and along Francis Lake
  • Several trail options from Cumberland up to the Trent River ‘Potholes’ at the start of the Tsable Lake Trail
  • Day-hikes (or overnight trips) into Strathcona Park starting from the former Forbidden Plateau Ski-hill (good winter snow-shoeing routes too)
  • just north of Campbell River, off the Menzies Main logging road, consider day-hikes on the Salmon River Riparian Trail , along the Grilse Creek Riparian Trail and along Glen’s Trail (overnight too)

On central Island, overnight or longer trips are feasible along the Vancouver Island Trail route in Strathcona Park, and:

  • from Cumberland via the Tsable Lake Trail to Tsable Lake, possibly continuing south to Mt. Clifton

On northern Vancouver Island, day-hike or overnight trip possibilities include:

  • from Sayward, south up the White River, hike the White River Riparian Trail and/or the trail through Kokummi Pass (some clearing remains to be done, but an elk trail works for now)
  • from Port McNeill to the north along the coast, hike the Suquash Trail (combination of inactive logging road and newly cleared, ‘light’ trail)
  • from Port Hardy, hike around Hardy Bay to the Commuter Trail that leads to the First Nations (Kwakiutl) community of Fort Rupert

Take a look at the Vancouver Island Trail Guidebook and the Blog for more routing details on any of the above.