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10 Top-Rated Hiking Trails in Tofino, BC

Written by Lana Law

Tofino is a special place of natural beauty on the west side of Vancouver Island and an incredible area for hiking. The rainforest is home to enormous, centuries-old trees, including some of the oldest documented trees in Canada. But most people come here to enjoy the incredible golden-sand beaches that line the shores of the Pacific Ocean, particularly those in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. Many of the hiking trails combine walks through the old-growth forest with strolls along the beaches. Most of the hikes listed here are in the park, while a couple are farther south, near the community of Ucluelet. All of these trailheads are accessible by car. Hikes tend to be less than five kilometers and, in many cases, only a kilometer or two. However, you can vary the distance considerably depending on how far you choose to walk along the beaches. Choose your trails with our list of the best hikes in Tofino.

1. Schooner Cove Trail

Schooner Cove Trail | Photo Copyright: Lana Law

If you have time for only one hike in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, this hike is perfect. It offers a chance to see the enormous old trees the area is known for and also takes you down to an incredible stretch of beach, awesome for exploring at low tide. The hiking trail leads through the dense rainforest of ferns and moss-covered trees, where you can walk right up to and touch the ancient firs and spruce trees, but runs along suspended boardwalks, bridges, and stairs much of the way.

The hike is about a kilometer each way and ends at a wide swath of soft-sand beach. This is the far north end of Long Beach. At low tide, you can walk out to what is an island at high tide, and around a point to the right on the hard packed sand. Walking on the beach can easily add another kilometer to your hike. The walk through this stretch of forest is enough to make it one of the top hikes in the area, but the beach takes it to a whole other level. You'll often see surfers, kiteboarders, windsurfers, and other people playing in the waves.

2. South Beach Trail

South Beach Trail | Photo Copyright: Lana Law

This short hike can be done on its own or as a spur off the Nuu-chah-nulth Trail, which leads to Florencia Bay. The hike begins from the Kwisitis Visitor Center, which overlooks Wickaninnish Beach, another must-see stretch of beach that extends in both directions. You can wander through the visitors center, to see displays on the cultural history and natural features of the area, before heading off to South Beach. South Beach is set in a small cove with large rock formations. It's incredibly scenic and a little different from other beaches in the area. The top of the beach is soft sand but closer to the water, small pebbles glisten as the waves roll in.

3. Rainforest Trail

Boardwalk on Rainforest Trail | Photo Copyright: Lana Law

The Rainforest Trail is one of the most peaceful hikes in the park, and offers a chance to see some of the oldest documented trees in Canada. This trail is an easy walk through a living natural history display, with trees that sprouted to life long before Europeans entered Canada or Columbus arrived in the Americas. Trees more than 800 years old line the trails, as do giant logs that provide nutrients to the soil and bring new life to the forest. The monster trees once fallen can take up to 1,500 years to fully decay and support all kinds of vegetation as they break down.

Unlike many of the other trails closer to the ocean, where you hear the constant pounding of the waves, this trail is far enough inland that it is virtually silent on calm days, apart from the birds and wildlife. As you walk, listen for the buzz of hummingbirds that nest in the forest, or for the high-pitched screeching of bald eagles. You can also listen for a sudden commotion in the trees, which is another good way to notice eagles.

The Rainforest Trail is divided into two sections; loop a and loop b. Each loop is just over one kilometer, and both leave from the same parking lot, although they are on different sides of the highway. Most of the trail is along a boardwalk joined by stairs that take you down into gullies. On loop b, a huge fallen log serves as a bridge, and the park has installed handrails on each side.

4. Nuu-chah-nulth Trail to Florencia Bay Trail

Nuu-chah-nulth Trail | Photo Copyright: Lana Law

It may seem after a while that one beautiful beach begins to look like the next, but this trail offers a cultural element that makes it unique from other beach hikes. Plaques along the hike offer fascinating insight into the Nuu-chah-nulth people, who inhabited this area for centuries, from how they used elements in the environment to their advantage to their legends and beliefs. This five-kilometer return-trip hike runs through the forest from Wickanninish Beach to Florencia Bay and can be done in either direction. The impressive Kwisitis Visitor Center is located at the Wickanninish Beach section. If you start from Florencia Bay, the visitor center makes a nice, relaxing midway stop, but you may want to park at this end instead because there is more parking available.

The hike has large trees, and long sections of boardwalk. As with many of the beaches, you'll see surfers on the long stretch of beach at either end. Florencia Bay looks out to picturesque mountains off to the north. Wickanninish Beach is at the far south end of Long Beach, and you can seriously extend your walk if you add on some time walking the beach at either end of this hike.

5. Long Beach

Long Beach | Photo Copyright: Lana Law

Is it a hike if you just walk the beach? Maybe not in some destinations, but the 16-kilometer-long Long Beach can certain be an all-day hike. Long Beach technically encompasses a number of beaches that are divided by headlands, passable on the beach only at low tide. You can access Long Beach from several areas, but one of the most impressive stretches is the area you access directly from the Long Beach parking area. The massive Incinerator Rock is the most iconic site along this stretch. From here, you can hike for 10 kilometers if you feel like it, but be mindful that unless you have someone picking you up at the far end or somewhere along the route, you'll have to hike back to your car. Distances are deceptive on this long and wide stretch of beach. Pack a lunch and have a look at the tide charts before you head out.

6. Wild Pacific Trail, Ucluelet

Wild Pacific Trail | Photo Copyright: Lana Law

About a 40-minute drive south of Tofino, Ucluelet is another hot spot for hiking along the west coast of Vancouver Island. The Wild Pacific Trail, one of the highlights of this area, is different from other coastal hikes in the region. Unlike the soft-sand beaches of Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, this trail runs along a rugged coastline of jagged rocky points and looks out to offshore islands. The trail is comprised of two sections; the Lighthouse Loop trail and the Brown's Beach to Rocky Bluffs trail. Both are worth doing, but the Lighthouse Loop is the most popular. This 2.6-kilometer section takes you out onto a point, where the actual lighthouse is located, and above the dramatic rock shoreline, for fantastic views out to sea, before cutting inland. Twisted and windblown trees line the trail, which in some sections runs just meters inland from the shore. Cut-out areas for forest all along the trail, many with benches, offer windows to the water and peaceful areas to watch the waves crashing in against the rocks. Many people simply walk from the parking area to the lighthouse and back, which is the busiest portion of the trail.

The second section of the Wild Pacific Trail runs along the coast between Brown's Beach and Rocky Bluff. This is an eight-kilometer return-trip hike, along the ocean and through the rainforest. You also have an option to add on the short Ancient Cedars Trail to see some truly huge trees.

7. Ancient Cedars Trail, Ucluelet

Ancient Cedars Trail | Photo Copyright: Lana Law

The Ancient Cedars Trail is a short loop off the main road (Peninsula Road), which will quickly have you standing at the base of monster cedars that have stood here for centuries. This one-kilometer trail rivals anything you might have seen if you stopped off at Cathedral Grove on the drive across to Tofino and Ucluelet. Among the trees here, which include Sitka spruce and western hemlock, are red cedars up to 800 years old, some of which have up to a 12-meter circumference. Parking is along the roadside, and a small sign marks the entrance to the hiking trail.

8. Combers Beach Trail

Combers Beach Trail | Photo Copyright: Lana Law

This one-kilometer round-trip hike takes you through the forest to Combers Beach, technically a section in the middle of Long Beach. If you reach the sand at low tide, it looks more like a desert, stretching out for hundreds of meters from the forest to the water's edge and seems endless in either direction. You'll often see surfers here taking advantage of the waves. The trail is short but has a steep descent to the beach. It's also an interesting area during storm season when the huge waves are rolling in.

9. Willowbrae Trail and Half Moon Bay

Willowbrae Trail | Photo Copyright: Lana Law

At the farther southern tip of Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, the Willowbrae Trail offers access to both Florencia Bay and, if you take the half-kilometer spur trail, Half Moon Bay. The 2.8-kilometer round-trip trail to Florencia Bay is wide and easy to follow, and it brings you to a huge set of stairs that take you down the final section to the beach. One of the beautiful things about this hike is the solitude. This is one of the less heavily trafficked trails in the park, and you may even have the beach at the bottom to yourself. The beach here seems more wild and rugged, with huge sand cliffs on the north side and a headland to the south. The walk in to the beach is most scenic as you near the beach, with large trees and huge, prehistoric-looking ferns.

Near the top of the stairs, a trail branches off to the south, and this is the side trail to Half Moon Bay. This is a great way to extend your hike. Most of this spur involves a long set of stairs that take you down to the bay. Views are beautiful, making it worth adding this portion on to the Willowbrae Trail.

10. Shorepine Bog Trail

Shorepine Bog Trail: Photo Copyright: Lana Law

The Shorepine Bog Trail, often just called the Bog Trail, is less than a kilometer in length but it is unlike any other trail in the park. Rather than towering trees and golden beaches, this hike takes you along a boardwalk through what feels like a miniature forest after hikes like the Rainforest Trail. The soil here is very acidic, and only a limited variety of vegetation is able to survive in this area of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. Shorepines are able to survive here, and they dominate the bog. Although some of these are hundreds of years old, they are stunted and small. Sphagnum moss is the main vegetation in the bog and is almost 400 years old. Depending on the time of year, you may also see a variety of blooming flowers. Anyone can do this level hike, even pushing a stroller.

Where to Stay in Tofino for Nature and Hiking

Tofino lies at the north end of Pacific Rim National Park. Between the park and the town center are a number of beaches and resorts that make wonderful getaways. Chesterman Beach is one of the most popular beaches in this area, where you can surf, walk, swim, or relax.

  • Luxury Hotels: Just north of Pacific Rim National Park, and set on one of the nicest stretches of beach in the area is the Pacific Sands Beach Resort. This property has a mix of lodging styles, from the newly built ocean-side suites with modern decor and design, to traditional woodsy-style beachfront suites and townhouses. Touting itself as a surf-in, surf-out resort, this is a great option for surfers, families looking for space, or even a romantic getaway for couples. At the north end of Chesterman Beach, the Wickaninnish Inn is one of the poshest resorts in the area, with wonderful views from the windows and balconies of the seafront suites, an incredible stretch of beach, and outstanding dining options. At the opposite end of the same beach is the quaint and charming BriMar Bed & Breakfast, offering views from all rooms. You can simply walk out front of the building and insert yourself into this view, which is often a scene of surfing and swimming and evening campfires. Rooms are each tastefully and individually decorated.
  • Mid-Range Hotels: North of Chesterman Beach, overlooking a wide cove of golden sand, Middle Beach Lodge offers a little of both worlds; it's not a huge resort, but large enough to offer suites in the main lodge, as well as individual cabins. The property sits high above the beach for a little different view over the ocean, but you can still walk down to the beach. It offers a quiet retreat for those who are looking to escape the crowds. The Best Western Tin Wis Resort is located not far from Middle Beach Lodge, and just a few minutes by car from downtown Tofino. All the rooms come with balconies and ocean views.
  • Budget Hotels: A good option right in the heart of Tofino with a laid-back vibe is the Tofino Travellers Guest House. The location can't be beat, and breakfast is included. At the top-end of the budget category is the Tofino Resort + Marina. The hotel is a short walk from downtown, newly renovated, and some rooms have balconies overlooking the boats moored below. The restaurant has great food and nice views. Right on MacKenzie Beach is Ocean Village Resort. Accommodation here is in the form of cabins, complete with kitchens, which is handy because dining out in Tofino can be expensive.

More Related Articles on PlanetWare.com

  • Vancouver Island Outdoors: Tofino has much more to offer than great hiking. For more ideas, from surfing to bear watching, have a look at our list of things to do in Tofino. If you have made your way up to Tofino, you are likely planning on visiting other destinations on Vancouver Island. While Tofino offers wild and rugged, you can find scenic and historic on the hiking trails around Victoria. If you have time to explore farther abroad, to destinations like Port Renfrew, or even up to the far north of the island at San Josef Cape, be sure to see our list of the best hikes on Vancouver Island.
  • The Best of Vancouver Island: For ideas to help plan your trip and figure out where to go, have a look at our top attractions on Vancouver Island. Most visitors begin their trip with a stop in Victoria and this is a city definitely worth spending some time enjoying. To the north, on the east side of the island is Nanaimo. A ferry links Nanaimo with Vancouver, so this is also a gateway city, but if you are looking to park yourself for a while or do some whale watching, this is a great base.

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