The West Coast Trail, originally called the Dominion Lifesaving Trail, is a 75 km (47 mi) long backpacking trail following the southwestern edge of Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada. It was built in 1907 to facilitate the rescue of survivors of shipwrecks along the coast, part of the treacherous Graveyard of the Pacific. It is now part of Pacific Rim National Park and is often rated by hiking guides as one of the world’s top hiking trails
The West Coast Trail is open from May 1 until September 30. It is accessible to hikers outside this period but Parks Canada does not guarantee the accessibility of services (such as search and rescue) in the off season.
The trail starts at Bamfield near Barkley Sound and runs south to Port Renfrew on Port San Juan Bay. In 1902, Bamfield became the North America terminus of the All Red Line’s Pacific submarine cable, which spanned the globe linking the British Empire. A trail was constructed to carry the line south to Victoria (and thence across Canada to link up with the Transatlantic telegraph cable at Heart’s Content, Newfoundland), as well as providing telegraph service to the lighthouses at Cape Beale (on Barkley Sound) andCarmanah Point (27 km or 17 mi north of Port Renfrew, at the mouth of theStrait of Juan de Fuca).
Hikers can choose to begin the trail in Port Renfrew and travel north, or in Bamfield and travel south. The southern parts of the trail are far more challenging than the flatter area in the north. Overnight hikers must buy a permit as only a set number of people are allowed to be on the trail at any one time, however individuals are permitted to visit during the day at no expense.