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Tips for hiking the Juan de Fuca trail

PureOutside - 13 hours 41 min ago

Having a great hiking trip is all about preparation. The more you know about where you’re going and the gear you’re taking the better. The Juan de Fuca trail is no different. It can be a fantastic trip if all goes as planned but it can be a struggle if everything goes wrong.

Here are a few tips that will help you have a great trip on the Juan de Fuca.

Prepare for the mud

The west coast of Vancouver Island can be a very wet place. Prepare for mud on the Juan de Fuca if it’s just rained a lot, the mud puddles can be big enough to swallow hiking boots whole.

Gaiters and hiking poles are a great defense against the thick mud.

Know your distances

Every time I hike the Juan de Fuca our plans change slightly. We hike longer one day and shorter the next or finish a bit early. Knowing the distances from campsite to campsite let’s you change plans on the fly. Knees giving you trouble? Hike less that day. Feeling great? Bank some extra kilometers and take an easy day later in the trip. You’ll need to pay attention to where the campsites are located along the trail. They are at set points so if you start off to the next site, make sure you have time and energy to make it.

Lock your car

I’d rather not have to give this tip. It sucks to have to worry about your stuff but I’ll say it anyways. Lock up your car. Don’t leave valuables in your car in the parking lot. They say on the BC Parks page that thieves operate in the area and I’ve heard many stories that they actually do.

Bring camp shoes

Be nice to your feet. They’re the ones carrying you that 47 kilometers. Walking around at the start and finish and at each campsite mean you are actually walking more than 47. Having loose camp shoes like sandals let your feet and your boots dry out. Having dry, rested feet means less blisters and other problems. Give your feet a break whenever you can. Happy feet equals happy hiker.

Tarp it

When it’s pouring down rain and you have to get camp ready, a tarp is great to have to keep the rain off. It provides a dry place to rest, put together your tents and make dinner with your friends. Sitting in a small 2 person tent the entire time it’s raining can get a little claustrophobic. When you are ready to go in the morning, wait until everything is packed up and then take down the tarp last.

Sombrio Beach can be busy

The middle of Sombrio where the trail comes down from the parking lot can get busy with other folks that aren’t hiking the trail. If you are looking for a more relaxed experience, you might want to camp at the east end of the beach where you get to first if you are hiking south to north.

The south end is harder

The south end is more work. I prefer to hike the more difficult end first when your legs are fresh. Some people save the hardest for last for when your pack is the lightest. I find my pack weight doesn’t change very much as I eat through food and my gear gets wet. Based on that, I recommend hiking south to north, going from China Beach to Botanical. The easy stroll to Botanical Beach is a really nice way to finish the trail.

Check the tide

There are high-tide cut off points in certain places so make sure you know where these are and have how high the tide is going to be. You don’t want to have to wait a couple hours in the middle of prime hiking time during the day so you can get going again.


Dogs are allowed on the trail but you they have to be leashed all the time. Remember there are cougars and bears in the area and smaller dogs have been taken by cougars other places on the island.

Good weather is best

Well, I think this one goes without saying. Who wants to go hiking in the rain. Rain isn’t all that bad though. “There’s no bad weather, just bad gear,” some say. So don’t forget to aim for good weather. Rain and the resulting mud make for wet gear and clothes and that just makes everything harder. When it is pouring down, that tarp comes in handy.

Keep yourself upright with hiking poles

The first time I hiked the Juan de Fuca years ago we ended up doing it in 2 days. In hindsight, it would have been much nicer in 3. We ended up hiking it from North to South and those last few kilometers up from Mystic Beach were wicked. I’m glad I had my hiking poles with me, and I’m pretty sure my hiking partners did as well. I used them to pick my way through mud pits (although sometimes solid-looking spots aren’t so solid), balancing on slippery board walk and pushing myself up steep hills. The final kilometers of that first Juan de Fuca hike were spent leaning on my hiking poles. Not only can you use them to push yourself up hills, they hold you upright when you stop for a rest. I also used them on the West Coast Trail, though the ladders can be a bit awkward.

Fresh water at all campsites but filter it

You aren’t going anywhere without water and being 3 or 4 days, you probably aren’t carrying all that in your backpack. You’ll need to filter it. Each campsite has fresh water nearby but it needs to be filtered. Bring a filter or water purification drops to prep the water you will drink.

There are black bears and cougars

There are black bears and cougars in the area. Use the bear caches to store your food and be noisy. They are probably more scared of you than you are of them. Be especially careful with mothers and cubs. Do not approach them trying to get photos.


Campfires are allowed below high tide mark on the beach. There aren’t any campfires allowed at Little Kuitshe Creek or Payzant Creek because they are forest campsites up away from the water.


Now go hike!

Hiking the Juan de Fuca is an amazing experience and well worth every ounce of sweat and effort to do it. Keep these tips in mind and you’ll have a great hike.


Categories: Hiking

Rocky beaches to Owen Point

PureOutside - Tue, 07/15/2014 - 07:00

This post is part of the West Coast Trail series from my hike there in 2013.


The “trail” along the “beach” to Owen Point

The West Coast Trail starts with a good hike to Thrasher Cove. You can either choose to stay at Thrasher Cove for the night or continue on to Walbran Creek. The start to Walbran Creek in one day is a long hike so most people choose to stay at Thrasher Cove.

To continue from Thrasher Cove you have a choice of going to Owen Point along the “beach” or taking the island trail. Here is when the tides come into play as they do in multiple places on the trail. If the tides are too high then Owen Point is out of the question and you have to take the inland route.

We were excited and fresh the day we started so we decided to take the route around Owen Point. There is one other important part to the decision to go around Owen Point. It was dry. If every one of those rocks in the picture above was slippery, it would be a nightmare.

The “beach”, aka huge pile of rocks and logs, that goes to Owen Point from Thrasher Cove is pretty, but not easy.

Trekking poles and patience were valuable that day.

Categories: Hiking

Sleeping bag shopping? Here’s what to look for

PureOutside - Tue, 06/24/2014 - 14:10

Mike from Valhalla Pure Outfitters in Nanaimo dives into sleeping bags. He covers the differences, materials, temperature ratings, and what to look for when you’re shopping for a new bag.

Categories: Hiking

How to carry trekking poles on a ladder

PureOutside - Tue, 05/20/2014 - 07:02

One of many West Coast Trail ladders


The West Coast Trail has a lot of ladders. Some days it feels like you are spending more time climbing ladders than you are hiking. I loved the change of scenery and being able to use my upper body instead of just hiking with my legs all day long.

We carried trekking poles on our hike and they saved my bacon a few times. They help on slippery boardwalks and big rocks on the beach to keep you upright. But with so many ladders, what do you do with your trekking poles?

We tested out a few different solutions on the West Coast Trail. Some worked better than others. Here are a few that we tried.

Collapse and attach to your pack

This is the most comfortable way to organize your poles but it’s also the most time consuming. You can take your pack off to do it yourself or you can have someone else attach them to your pack for your, if you’re lucky to have someone willing at every ladder. If I had a personal assistant with me on the trail, this is what I’d do. Seeing as it’s such a pain in the real world it doesn’t really work.

Loop around your wrist

This is one of the easiest solutions but it becomes a nightmare when the ladders are close to trees and brush. Every time you move your hands and trekking poles they get caught on some random branch. You spend half your time on the ladders unhooking yourself from the foliage behind it.

Throw them to the bottom

This way is the fastest way down. It only works for short ladders though. Some of the ladders were enormous and on the edge of cliffs, so you’d be tossing your poles off the cliff if you tried this method there. 10 steps down though, no problem. There is the risk of breaking your poles when you throw them. Highly NOT recommend when there are people standing at the bottom of the ladder.

Tuck them between your backpack and back

This is the method I ended up using most. Like Bryn in the photo above, you tuck the poles in between your back and your backpack so they stick out the side. You might have to loosen your pack and curve your back in a bit to get the handles to fit through. Remember handles first! I felt like a ninja pulling the poles out of my pack the first few times. After the 100th ladder I didn’t feel so much like a ninja.

Your turn. Comments? Questions? Random thoughts?

How do you carry your trekking poles on ladders? What do you find works best?

Categories: Hiking

1000 Trails

PureOutside - Tue, 05/13/2014 - 18:33

Where is all the trail information for trails on Vancouver Island? All over the place. It’s a “potpourri” of information online, not to mention everything in peoples heads, in books, scribbled on blogs and in videos.

Imagine a resource that had organized, accurate information for every single trail in one place? That’s the goal of MapVI.


What is MapVI?

Map Vancouver Island, or MapVI, is a crazy project to document all the trails on Vancouver Island. Get more information at


What is 1000 Trails?

1000 Trails is the first part of the MapVI project. It’s a major push document the first 1000 trails in the MapVI project. There are many more than 1000 trails on Vancouver Island, and the total number grows every day. 1000 is a starting place though. Once there’s 1000 on the list, we’ll re-evaluate where to go from there.

The 1000 trails will be linked below on this page so you’ll have one spot to come back to.


The 1000 Trails

1. Mount Benson from Witchcraft Lake

2. Green Mountain Main Ski Run

3. Mount Cokely Saddle Route

4. Westwood Lake Loop

5. Roberts Roost

6. Doumont

7. Colliery Dam

8. Ammonite Falls

9. Green Mountain

10. Haslem Creek Trail

11. Heather Mountain

12. Christie Falls

13. Heart Lake Trail

14. Pipeline Trail: Nanaimo River Road to Nanaimo River

15. Pipeline Trail: Extension to Nanaimo River Road

16. Bonnell Creek Falls

17. Mount de Cosmos via Deadhorse Creek

18. Cable Bay Trail

19. Morrell Sanctuary Trails

20. Mount Arrowsmith via Judges Route


How you can help

There are a lot of trails on Vancouver Island. You can help by submitting trails informations, photos and gps tracks. Simply email your trail information in to or submit it through the contact form and we’ll get it into the list.

Categories: Hiking

Choosing the right outdoor sport for you

PureOutside - Tue, 05/06/2014 - 07:00

The number of outdoor sports you can choose from is growing every day. It can be hard to choose which one to start with. One of PureOutside’s contributor’s, Susie Wing, has a few questions for you to help figure out which sport you should start with.


Running equipment can be simple.

So you know you want to take up a new sport and you know that you want it to be outdoors. So far, so good. But what if, when you come to research it, you find yourself overwhelmed by choice? It might seem obvious, but when you start to consider what the ideal outdoor sport for you might be – it’s important to remember to begin at the beginning!

Land or sea?

Apart from the obvious differences between these two, there are things you may not have considered. Yes, you’ll probably get wet in the water-based activity (think canoeing, kayaking, sailing, windsurfing) but you will also be far more confined by seasons (no-one likes to canoe on a frozen river) and more at the mercy of the elements (sailing without wind is no fun). Things like running, cycling, hiking and climbing can take place in almost all weathers so they may be a better bet for guaranteed fitness.


Some outdoor activities require significant expenditure on equipment so consider carefully before you make your mind up. Take diving for instance; as well as a sturdy wetsuit and dive mask, you will also need a broad range of accessories from a regulator to fins to a drysuit if you really get into it. Whereas with running, it’s wise to invest in a decent pair of trainers, your nearest sports shop should be able to advise you based on your needs, but that’s about all you’ll need. Grab any old t-shirt and shorts from the drawers and you’re ready to go.

The best laid plans…..

How organised are you? Are you prepared to spend hours poring over the finer details of your activity? For example, if you were planning your first ski trip then you would have destination, accommodation, equipment, clothes, travel, footwear and much more to consider before you even got to the sport itself. Those among you who are more immediate may prefer not to get caught up in such detail and just head out hiking in the nearest countryside when the fancy takes you.

To team or not to team?

Are you a social butterfly or a quiet wallflower? It’s wise to consider this before you make your mind up as some outdoor sports are necessarily more sociable than others. In sailing it’s not uncommon to spend a number of days cooped up in a cabin with the same five faces. Can you take this? Or do you prefer to exercise alone?

Whatever you choose, it’s certainly better than nothing at all. Your physical health is of paramount importance – and looking after it now will set you in good stead for the future.


Categories: Hiking

What is a Steam Donkey?

PureOutside - Tue, 04/29/2014 - 08:00

This is one of a series of posts about the West Coast Trail trip I did in 2013. See the rest of the West Coast Trail posts.


At a couple places on the West Coast Trail you can see into the logging history of the area. Steam donkeys were one of the relics on the trail that you get to gaze at in confusion while hiking by. Cool, it’s a steam donkey! What’s a steam donkey?

Steam donkey on the West Coast Trail

I had a bit of an idea but didn’t really know until I wrote this post up today. Here is what a steam donkey is.

A steam donkey is basically a steam-powered winch that was used in the past for logging. The “donkey” part of the name refers to small engines that were often in sailing ships. The “donkey” engine was a small secondary engine that helped load or unload cargo, raise and lower sails or power pumps.

The steam donkey is basically  a steam engine with a winch attached to it. The winch would have a hemp rope or cable around it that would be taken off into the woods by the “line horse”. The cable would be attached to a tree that had been cut and then drag or “skid” the log back to the steam donkey using the winch.

The trees would be moved back to mill or “landing” where the trees would be transferred to boat or rail.

If the steam donkey needed to get to a new location, crews would attach the cable around a tree or other strong anchor point and the donkey would pull it self overland to the new location.

Often other things were attached to the steam donkey like water tanks, fuel oil tanks or a “donkey house”, which was a makeshift shelter for the crew.

Categories: Hiking

75km Countdown: The Ladders on the West Coast Trail

PureOutside - Wed, 04/23/2014 - 07:00

Ladder #… a lot

There are a lot of ladders on the West Coast Trail.

The number goes up and down as they do work on the trail be estimates put it around 70.

My feelings towards the ladders ranged from excitement to hatred. We’d come around another corner and sometimes I’d be happy to see another ladder, they added interested to the trail and meant we were dropping down into a river gorge.

The only problem with the ladders is that for every ladder you went down, there was an equivalent ladder up. If you went down 200 metres into a valley then there would be 200 metres of ladders lurking in the near future to get back up to the trail.

No matter how sick we were of climbing ladders by the end of the trail, nearly every ladder offered a great view of the lush green forest around you.


Categories: Hiking

The First Mud Pit of the West Coast Trail

PureOutside - Tue, 04/15/2014 - 08:00

This is one of many posts about the West Coast Trail trip I did in 2013. See the rest of the West Coast Trail posts.




Lots of it.

I expected to see a lot of mud on the West Coast Trail but I don’t think anything really prepares you for how much there really is.

The photo above is a mud pit not 50 metres in from the start of the trail. We had officially begun the trail and we had officially begun the mud.

Some of the trail is nice and dry. The south end is a lot of mud. If you take beach routes, you’ll be spared the mud. Beach routes have their own … challenges. More on that in another post.

Even knee deep mud is really just what you make of it. It doesn’t have to be that bad. A couple of girls we met on the trail were doing the entire trail in Chaco sandals. Pretty crazy in my opinion!

No matter how bad it can seem, they still managed to get through all the mud fine.








Categories: Hiking