Juan de Fuca Marine Trail
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Photos of Juan de Fuca Marine Trail, British Columbia
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Distance: 47km - sections of the trail can be done individually
Hugging the southwest coast of Vancouver, the Juan de Fuca Trail is rich in ocean views and dense in coastal rainforest.
It can be done as a whole in one very big day, but it is recommended to take 4 days to thoroughly enjoy all the ground you'll cover.
This is smaller in length than its sister trail, The West Coast Trail, and does not require a reservation prior to embarking.
Details: The Juan De Fuca Trail is a wilderness hiking trail leads through some of Vancouver Islands most remote and isolated shoreline.
You can start at the north end at Botanical Beach near Port Renfrew or the south end at China Beach.
The Juan de Fuca Trail is open year round and reservations are not required for backcountry camping.
Campsites are first come, first served with the exception of China Beach Campground - which isn't really on the trail anyway.
My advice is leave early in the morning (by 9 AM) so you get to the next campsite in good time and have a choice of campsites.
In peak periods, some campsites like Chin Beach will be extremely crowded and nice sites will be at a premium.
If you're planning to backpack the entire length of the Juan de Fuca Trail then you'll need to decide whether to start at Botanical Beach near Port Renfrew in the north or at China Beach at the southern end, located just north of Jordan River.
The driving time between the two trailheads is approximately one hour.
If you have a couple of cars you can do a shuttle leaving one at each trailhead.
We chose to start at Botanical Beach so we could walk out to a waiting car at the end.
I made a reservation on the West Coast Trail Express for a pickup on the highway at the China Beach Provincial Park Day Use Trailhead.
(Drive down about 100 metres and the parking lot is on your right.
Just make sure you're there in plenty of time as the bus won't wait.
At the end of the hike you can take a bus from Port Renfrew back to China Beach or Victoria.
There are several other access points to the trail if you're interested in doing only day hikes or a shortened version of the trail.
You can get to the trail via Sombrio Beach and Parkinson Creek.
Locals know of a road that gets to a trail that takes you to Bear Beach but I'm not sure of its location.
There are two forest campsites - Providence Cove (around Km 40) and Little Kuitsche Creek (Km 33).
These in my opinion are the least desirable campsites because you don't have any ocean views.
But unless you hike all the way from Sombrio Beach to Botanical Beach - a very long go - you'll have to choose one of them.
The beach campsites are found at Sombrio Beach East (~Km 27-28), Chin Beach (Km 21), Bear Beach (Km 9) and Mystic Beach (~Km 2.5).
Sombrio Beach would be a great spot for the night if it works with your hiking schedule.
We stayed at Chin Beach - on a bench and watched high tide come crashing to within about four feet of our tent around midnight.
Bear Beach has some lovely campsites particularly at the southern end of the beach near a large creek.
Mystic Beach gets very busy with lots of people who aren't hiking the Juan de Fuca Trail.
Some parts of the Juan de Fuca map are impassable at high tide.
The sections are clearly marked on the maps and trails.
You will also find tide tables at the trailheads and anywhere there are large boards with maps.
Look for orange balls on the beach as they indicate an exit onto the trail.
Even though there are people that run the Juan de Fuca Trail in one very long day - and we saw about a dozen of them - most people opt to backpack it over three to five days.
We took four days which felt like the right amount of time, considering we averaged about 2 km/hour except for the first three and last five or six kilometres which were some of the easiest on the trail.
Just because a trail is along the coast and not in the mountains, does not make it an easy trail.
The Juan de Fuca Trail has plenty of ups and downs especially on the section between Chin Beach and Bear Beach.
Apart from the fabulous views, it's got a mini-fridge in the room so you can keep your food cold, a great dining room and it's only a 30 minute drive to the parking lot at China Beach.
My cell phone never worked on this trail though there are several exit points should you have an emergency.
There is also an emergency shelter immediately south of Chin Beach at the top of the cliff.
Stop in at the Coastal Kitchen Cafe in Port Renfrew for breakfast before beginning the trail.
If you end in Port Renfrew grab a beer while you wait for the bus at the Renfrew Pub.
Juan de Fuca Provincial Park on the west coast of southern Vancouver Island offers scenic beauty, spectacular hiking, marine and wildlife viewing and roaring surf in its course along the Pacific coastline of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
Although most of the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail is designed for strenuous day or multi-day hiking/camping in this rugged and isolated area, some easy to moderate day hiking opportunities to the beach or along the trail are available starting from the trailheads.
A shuttle service to/from Port Renfrew and China Beach (as well as Victoria) is available during the summer months (see "Transportation" below).
There isn't a simple answer - since the trail starts and ends at the same elevation, either direction could be considered equally challenging.
In the summer months, lowest tides are in the morning and come up through the day)
The dreaded "Bear Beach - Chin Beach" section.
A tip would be to do it at the beginning of the day, rather the end.
Moderate difficulty but trail condition is generally well worn and easy to follow.
Take some extra time to explore; there are lots of shoreline options, but you might reach an impassible surge channel and be forced to bushwack to regain the official trail.
Aim for doing the section at low tide - and it is best to not do this alone!
Sombrio Breach Campground: There are 3 areas..
Sombrio Campsite ("West" - west bank of river): Wooden platforms (could be considered good or bad!), lots of day users.
Sombrio Campsite ("Centre" - just east of river): Can be a busy place with day users but great sites, possibility of grass set up.
Take your time and enjoy some large trees.
The last bit of trail into Chin cannot be hiked at high tide - there is no alternate!
Chin Beach Campground: Very nice campsite, not too many sites, but outlook and beach is nice and sites are tucked in trees.
Possible hike to see large trees - uphill of campsite and shelter, possible loop.
Chin to Bear: 3.5 hrs, 12 km.
The section is the most difficult with lots of elevation change - but all elevation changes are 70 metres or less, except for Hoard Creek which is 100 m.
Bear Beach campground: Westernmost campsite is lousy (best for overflow), Centre (Clinch creek) sites are lovely (small ravine, cleared sites, shade).
East campsite (at Rosemond Creek, past sand bluff) are nice but gets filled up early.
A nice waterfall is located just to the east - but the trail goes past it, so everyone gets to see it eventually.
Bear Beach to Mystic Beach: 2.5 hrs, 7 km.
Mystic Beach Campground: Stunning beach and great walks at low tide, but limited sites and feels exposed when surf is up.
Only 2 km from trailhead so lots of day users, but quiets down in afternoon.
The BC Parks map also includes information on these cut offs.
If you arrive to the cut offs and the tide is above the cut off height, you won't be able to pass.
At the west end of Juan de Fuca Park is Botanical Beach, one of the richest tidal areas along the west coast.
Botanical Beach is the western terminus for the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail and a popular day trip destination for visitors wishing to observe this sensitive and unique ecosystem.
Wildlife viewing is best done at low tide, when visitors can walk out across the flat sandstone and granite outcroppings to view tide pools filled with brightly coloured marine life.