Another successful trip, with thanks to @keencanada . I brought with me on the hike, two pairs of shoes. The Terradora Waterproof Mid Hiker for during the day, along with the Terradora Ethos, for at camp, both pictured below.
How did this trip come about?
In mid July I was on a backcountry camping trip with some friends, out to Skoki Lodge in Banff National Park. Just like any other hike or backpacking trip, you come across others on the trail, who are just out day hiking, or camping as well. One of my favourite parts about getting outside and these types of activities, are the people you meet along the way. Also when you are out somewhere with no service at all, it lets you be even more in the moment, conversing with others on the trail, at camp and around the campfire at night.
At our second campsite we had met a couple guys who we ended up visiting with all evening. The morning after we were planning to hike out, and they asked us if we wanted to join them in a different more ‘adventurous’ path out, different than the one he originally planned. We agreed, and ended up joining them. Aaron and I began chatting about other trips we had up and coming this summer. Aaron mentioned that him and him, his sister and her friend had the North Coast Trail booked for 5 days out on Vancouver Island. The NCT (North Coast Trail) was a trip I had on my list for a while now. I hiked the West Coast Trail last summer (pictured below) and was looking forward to getting back to the island. He told me I was welcome to join, and so I agreed!
We swapped info and soon enough we were all making plans to go and hike mid August. His sister ended up not being able to do the hike due to an unfortunate concussion, and it was a trip they had planned to do together so we then had choices to make… Juan de Fuca was an alternative trail, along with doing some ‘touristy’ things on the island. Nothing like last minute changes!
The Juan de Fuca trail is a 47km trail that begins just South of the more popular West Coast Trail. We decided to do the trail from North to South, though you can approach it from either direction, and can even start at different points throughout it, if you are not wanting to hike the entire duration. A few beaches along the route are also accessible as day use beaches/camping as well.
The trail itself is open year round, though most popular between mid June and mid September. Reservations are not required for back country camping, though there is a fee of $10.00 a day per person. You can either pay cash at the start using a self registration envelope, or online. From there you can then make the call as to which campsites you are wanting to stay at along the way, campsites are first come first serve (with the exception of China Beach Campground) – on the South end. There is no limit for bookings, unlike the West Coast Trail takes only 20 people from both the North and the South per day. Even though there was no limit, we still found it not to be TOO busy, which we were a little concerned about to begin with. I do know that during PEAK times some campsites can get a bit crowded, so best to start hiking early in the morning to arrive at camp at a decent time to snag the ‘best site’ with the best views!
Unfortunately due too the wildfires all over British Columbia, there was a fire-ban on, so we couldn’t have any during the 3 days. The air quality and far out ocean views were also effected due to the smoke, but beautiful still, without a doubt.
Also there is ZERO service on the trail, so be sure to let someone know where you are, or bring an in-reach/spot device. The great thing about this trail is that is is busier, and there are always people on it in the summer months. If something were to happen, you wouldn’t have to go to far to find help, though the devices are always encouraged, especially if you are hiking solo.
Trailheads on the Juan de Fuca
Do I start from the North or South?
If you’re planning to backpack the entire 47kms, then you’ll need to decide whether to start at Botanical Beach near Port Renfrew (where we started) in the North or at China Beach, which is at the Southern end, located just North of the Jordan River. The driving distance between the two ends is approximately one hour, also be prepared for windy roads (I get car sick easily so this wasn’t super fun). We drove from Victoria, and found that doing that hour drive at the start was best, cause once we were done we wouldn’t have to face the windy roads, and would have a shorter drive back to Victoria from there. Aaron’s sister dropped us off and picked us up, though if you don’t have someone who can do that, you will either have to drop a car at one end, then drive to the other OR you can book a shuttle bus through the WEST COAST TRAIL EXPRESS. The shuttle can pick you up from China Beach, just make sure you plan to arrive well ahead of time so you don’t miss it. There is also a bus you can book that will take you from Port Renfrew back to China Beach, if you plan to hike South to North. You can ALSO take a bus right from Victoria, to either trail head if you don’t want to drive a car out.
What if I don’t want to hike the entire 47km?
That’s one nice thing about this trail, is it’s flexible. Like I said at the start, there are a couple of entry points along the way. It’s possible to just do some day hikes, or a shortened version of the trail. You can get to the trail through Sombrio Beach and Parkinson Creek. I did also read the locals know of a road which takes you to Bear Beach but I’m not sure of its location (you may have to do a little more research yourself for that). You can also just day camp at either Sombrio or Parkinson if you would like.
How many days do you suggest taking for the hike?
Well, that would be a individual answer, depending on your fitness level, and number of days you have to work with. We did it a lot quicker then most, 3 days and 2 nights, which meant a lot longer days of hiking, though nothing like a good challenge, right? I read online that it is suggested you take a minimum of 3 nights (which looking back may have been the best option… as we would’ve had more time at each site and could’ve gone a lot slower, making more stops during the day to simply enjoy it. We ran into a couple people along the hike that were powering through the entire 47km in a single day. If you are big into trail running, this may be a great challenge for you to do in one day, or if you are up for a LONG day hike.
What are the campsites like?
Everyone on the trail is asked to camp at the established camping areas ONLY, which have outhouses and bear bins provided. There are NO garbage cans provided along the way. You MUST pack out what you pack in.
There are two campsites in the forest, and the rest are on the beach. The two forest campsites are at km 40 (Providence Cove) and km 33 (Little Kuitsche Creek). We didn’t plan to camp at either of these, as I much preferred the ocean view campgrounds! When you are at Little Kuitsche you can hike down to the beach, though aren’t camping by the water. If you are not planning to hike from Botanical Beach to Sombrio (18km) you will have to chose one of them.
What was your itinerary?
Beginning at Botanical Beach (km 47), we had planned to camp at Sombrio Beach and Bear Beach – which we were told were the two most scenic beaches. We hiked 18kms the first day (from km 47 to 29) and then 20kms the second day (from km 29 to 9). Again these were long days.
Day 1 – We started hiking at 10am and arrived at Sombrio Beach around 4pm, making little pit stops along the way.
It felt so great to be back hiking by the ocean again, as it had been over a year since I hiked the West Coast Trail (which I have a blog post of as well). I LOVE my mountains but I also LOVE the ocean. There’s something great about going to bed and waking up to the sound and sight of ocean waves crashing against the shore.
If you look at the trail map (scroll up a bit) it shows what parts of the hike are rated as, easy, moderate, difficult and most difficult. Sombrio to Bear was rated as moderate.
We hiked down the beach, to a waterfall tucked away. If you plan to camp at Sombrio be sure to check it out. It is located at the Southern end of the beach, if you follow the creek bed up a minute or two into the woods.
Day 2 – Hike from Sombrio to Bear Beach. 20kms. First thing first – wake up, coffee, breakfast. Is there anything better then morning coffee when out camping?
This part of the trek is rated as ‘difficult and most difficult. 99% of people split this into 2, or even 3 days. We Hiked for approximately 7.5 hours, with breaks along the way, but we were powering through. We took a break for lunch at Chin beach (pictured below), which was 8kms in.
We may have underestimated this section a tad. It was continuous up and down, up and down. We did about 1000m of elevation gain, throughout the day. It felt so great to get to Bear beach, and set up camp. Enjoying sunset, before hittin’ the sheets early. After a long day, crawling into your sleeping is such a great feeling. Then add the sound of crashing waves, if that doesn’t put ya right to sleep I don’t know what would.
Day 3 – Hike from Bear Beach to China Beach. 9kms. We planned to have a quick hike out the last day. His sister was to be picking us up at noon, so we left camp at around 830, which left time to stop at Mystic Beach, 7kms down the way.
The lighting in the morning was unbelievable. If someone were to ask what my favourite part of the hike was, I would’ve said the 3rd morning, waking up to this view (above) and hiking for the first km or so (pictured below).
Mystic Beach – Many people do this as a day hike, as it is only 2kms in from China Beach (4kms round trip). You can camp here as well!
What did you pack for food?
Three days, two nights is a lot easier to pack for then 5 days and 4 nights, on the West Coast Trail. I usually am pretty simple when it comes to back country food, every trip I go on I often pack the exact same things for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
- Coffee – @kujucoffee
- Oatmeal – I brought individual packets. Though sometimes I will portion out oats in baggies, and then bring brown sugar to add into it. Boil up some water and you’re good! If you need a bit of a heftier breakfast, add in peanuts, chocolate bits, raisins or peanut butter. I often have a difficult time eating TOO large of a breakfast before hiking.
- Granola bars – Clifbar, Kind bars, Solo bars (My three favs)
- Clifbar shot blocks or Honey stingers
- Pepperoni sticks
- Candy! I often bring a pack of skittles or 5 cent candy for a little pick me up.
- Individual seasoned tuna cans (which you can get at any main grocery store) & pita bread – My ideal lunch snack!
- Avocado/hummus tastes great on it as well if you are comfortable packing that in as well.
- Dehydrated meals – Backpackers pantry was my go to for this trip!
I am always open to hearing what other pack for their backcountry trips, as my food choices can become repetitious and boring, but hey it works and I always feel energized. Also always pack a bit extra then you plan on eating! Nothing worse then running out of food, and you burn so many more calories then you think hiking, with a heavy pack on.
What gear did you pack?
- 55L + 10L Deuter backpack
- 0 degree sleeping bag & sleeping pad
- I would recommend a lightweight tarp and tent footprint if the forecast is rain
- Stove, pocket rocket, pot
- Bowl, camping mug
- First aid kit
- Sunscreen & bugspray
- Quick dry towel
- Bear spray
- 2 pairs of shoes
- @keencanada Terradora Waterproof Mid hikers for during the day & my Terradora Ethos for at camp
- Rain jacket & light weight puffy
- One long sleeve, three tank tops, two sports bras
- One pair of capris & two pairs of shorts
- You may want to bring a pair of light weight waterproof pants as well if rain is in the forecast
- Bathing suit
- A buff, hat & sunglasses
- Hiking poles
- 3 pairs of socks
- A pair of light mitts (which I didn’t end up needing, but always bring incase)
- Gators (optional) – due to mud (which there was a lot of)
A reminder: We were super lucky with weather, and had zero rain. Though if is in raining be prepared for a TON of mud, and be cautious when hiking. Hiking poles and gators are a must, along with waterproof covers for your backpack, a tarp and tent foot print. A change of clothes too – nothing worse then having nothing dry to change into when you get to camp/crawl into your tent for the evening.
If you have any questions at all regarding the hike, planning, gear, food anything, feel free to reach out and I will do my best to make suggestions.
After we ended the hike, I still had 2.5 days to enjoy the island, so we did some touristy things! Shopping downtown Victoria, touring parks, and a couple other little hikes, one which is pictured below (Trestle Bridge Hike). Victoria and area in itself has SO much too offer, and I feel I barely scratched the surface.
Again, a huge thanks to @keencanada for making this trip possible, alone with Aaron, for joining me on this adventure and helping me with all my pics. It was the perfect way to end an eventful, adventure packed summer & I already can not wait to get back out to the coast!