Wild Side Trail (Vancouver Island, BC)

DISTANCE (round-trip)

14 mi (22 km)

DIFFICULTY

TIME

2 days

SOLITUDE

Ancient Trail Takes You Along Stunning, Untouched Beaches

This coast-straddling route was used for centuries by local aboriginal people to access the west side of Flores Island.

Today, it gives backpackers a unique look at some of the most beautiful scenery in the Clayoquot Sound. But just getting to the trailhead is half of the fun.

The only way to access Flores Island is via water taxi from the town of Tofino. The rides takes you past lush islands and jagged coastline, where it's common to spy wolves, seals and other wildlife.

Once you arrive at the Ahousaht Village, it's a quick walk to the trailhead. You'll then hike along four wind-swept beaches as the route meanders in and out of ancient sitka forests.

The tide dictates much of where you can trek. Beach-walking is  easy, but the route gets more difficult when you have to head inland through mud and slippery sections of boardwalk.

The final beach at Cow Bay -- a ribbon of brilliant white sand -- makes a great spot to set up camp, kick back and soak up the views.  

Best of all, there's a good chance you'll have most of Cow Bay all to yourself (the taxi ride likely keeps the crowds away).

In fact, this is one of the most underrated backpacking trips on B.C.'s Vancouver Island. 

When to go

Vancouver Island's West Coast is typically rainy from late fall to early spring. Although this trail never gets really crowded like the over-trekked West Coast Trail, summer does see more backpackers. Hit the route in late spring or early fall to enjoy great weather without running into loads of people.

Getting there

Take a 40-minute water taxi from Tofino ($20 per person) to the village of Ahousaht. They'll likely be somehow to point you in the direction of the trail once you get there.

Know before you go

  • The tides will dictate what routes you take. But if you can, it's fun to whip off your boots for the Kutcous River Crossing.
  • This is wolf territory, so take proper precautions. 
  • At one time, you could hike up the Mount Flores Trail (860m) at Cow Bay, but it's now too overgrown.
Wild Side Trail

The brush gets thick along some inland sections of the Wild Side Trail. Photos: Dustin Walker

Wild Side Trail beach

Ribbons of white-grey sand stretch along the coastline.

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About the author

Dustin Walker

Dustin Walker is a journalist, travel copywriter and editor/owner of Slick and Twisted Trails. Follow him on Twitter @dustinjaywalker