12 Top-Rated Hiking Trails in Tofino, BC
Tofino is a special place of natural beauty on the west side of Vancouver Island and an incredible area for enjoying short hikes through captivating scenery. The main features are the ancient rainforest and extensive beaches. 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 beautiful 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 wide expanses of beach that run for kilometers. Most of the hikes listed here are in the park or nearby, while a couple are farther south, near the community of Ucluelet. All but one 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. Since some of these are very different from each other, you might also plan on doing two or three hikes in a day. Choose your trails with our list of the best hikes in Tofino.
1. Rainforest Trail
Although most vacationers visit Tofino for the outstanding beaches, the old-growth forest of western red cedar and western hemlock here is truly a natural wonder, and for nature lovers, it's the real highlight of the area. If you do only one hike while your in Tofino, make it this walk through the ancient trees.
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 they 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 raised boardwalk joined by stairs that take you down into gullies. One of the interesting features on loop b is a huge fallen log which serves as a bridge, and the park has installed handrails on each side.
2. Wild Pacific Trail, Ucluelet
About a 40-minute drive south of Tofino, Ucluelet is a 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.
The Lighthouse Loop is a 2.6-kilometer section that 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. Or, you can walk along the trail to the lighthouse and then cut up to the road and walk back along pavement to the parking lot.
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. It gives a different perspective with slightly tamer views. You also have an option to add on the short Ancient Cedars Trail to see some truly huge trees.
3. South Beach Trail
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 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.
4. Long Beach
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.
The sand is hard packed and easy to walk on, whether you are at the top of the beach or close to the water's edge. Families push strollers along the beach without difficulty and, as with all beaches in Tofino, dogs are welcome as long as they are on a leash.
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.
5. Nuu-chah-nulth Trail to Florencia Bay Trail
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 this 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 Wickaninnish Beach to Florencia Bay and can be done in either direction. The impressive Kwisitis Visitor Center is located at the Wickaninnish 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. Note that the visitor center is scheduled for significant upgrades and renovations in 2021/22.
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 sand 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.
6. Ancient Cedars Trail, Ucluelet
Near Ucluelet, the Ancient Cedars Trail is a short loop off the main road (Peninsula Road), that will quickly have you standing at the base of monster cedars. These giant trees 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.
7. Meares Island Hike (Big Tree Trail)
For something a little different that also includes a boat ride across the waters near Tofino, check out the Big Tree Trail on Meares Island. This 2.4-kilometer round-trip hike takes you through some of the oldest trees in North America, many estimated to be 1,000 years old or more. The trail takes place on handmade boardwalks and, although slippery and a bit uneven, is suitable for hikers of all abilities.
The highlight of the trail is an approximately 2,000 year-old cedar tree called the Hanging Garden. This massive tree is 18 meters in circumference; boardwalks completely surround its base. This marks the end of the hike on the boardwalks. Most people choose to turn around and retrace their steps; however, if you have the appropriate footwear and don't mind a bit of mud, an unmarked trail continues onward.
If you turn right at each junction, you'll eventually end up back at the spot where you were dropped off. This trail adds another three kilometers to the hike for a total of 5.4 kilometers round trip.
Boat rides can easily be arranged in town, just call once you are done for pick up. If you have your own kayak or canoe, it's an easy two-kilometer (one-way) paddle to the trailhead.
8. Combers Beach Trail
This one-kilometer round-trip hike takes you through the forest to Combers Beach. It's technically a section in the middle of Long Beach, but has a completely different look and feel to it. If you reach the sand at low tide, the area looks more like a desert, stretching out for hundreds of meters from the forest to the water's edge. It also seems almost endless in either direction.
The trail is short but has a steep descent to the sand. Logs and driftwood of all sizes line the top of the shore but are easy to negotiate as you make your way farther out. If you are looking to walk on a beach, away from the crowds of Long Beach, this is a nice escape. You can easily tack on a few extra kilometers to this hike by walking along the hard-packed sand.
As with most of the beaches in the park, you'll often see surfers here taking advantage of the waves. It's also an interesting area during storm season when the huge waves roll in. Many people come here specifically to watch storms.
9. Willowbrae Trail and Half Moon Bay
At the far 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 crescent of sand here seems more wild and rugged, with huge 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. Tonquin Trail
The three-kilometer-return-trip Tonquin Trail leads to a series of small, stunning beaches and is a great way to access the ocean if you are staying in downtown Tofino. Leaving from the Tofino Community Center parking lot, this trail winds its way down to the shoreline through rainforest, eventually emerging at the main Tonquin Beach. The trail is fairly level, and the final descent to the sand is via a set of stairs.
Tonquin Beach is unlike other Tofino beaches because it is protected from the full frontal onslaught of the wild Pacific Ocean. As a result, the water is clear and calm, perfect for swimming or wading. This is one of the best places to catch the sunset in Tofino.
To continue along the trail after reaching the beach, return to the trail leading back to the Community Center (the southernmost trail). Continue along for a short distance, being sure to branch off to the right heading towards Third Beach. Along the way, small side trails lead to outlooks over the water. Eventually the trail ends at Third Beach, a small and rocky inlet. Retrace your steps and take a right where the trails join up to head back to the community center.
Note that there is also another trail to Tonquin Beach. This short trail is confusingly named Tonquin Beach Trail and leaves from a small parking lot at Tonquin Park Road. If you only want to hit the beach for sunset and aren't interested in a longer trail, take this shorter route.
11. Shorepine Bog Trail
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 leads through a forest of shorepines, small trees with twisted branches and curved limbs that resemble bonsai trees. After hiking through other trails in the park, this trail feels like a walk through a miniature forest.
The soil here is very acidic, and only a limited variety of vegetation is able to grow 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.
The trail is along a level boardwalk, meaning anyone can do it, even pushing a stroller. It's aslo much more open and sunny. Unlike the rainforest that is always in shade, or the beaches that can be extremely windy, on cool clear days, this is a warm hike.
The Bog Trail is located in the same area as Wakaninnish Beach and Florencia Bay. These each have separate parking areas, but they are all on the same road off the main highway. You can easily combine a stop here with a visit to either of those two areas.
12. Schooner Cove Trail (May Be Closing)
If this hike is open, be sure to take advantage of it. One of the best hikes in the park, if not the best, 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.
This trail was closed in 2019, and remained closed for various reasons, including storm damage. Its future and eventual reopening is up in the air, and it may not reopen at all. Check with the park staff for current accessibility. If the hike is closed, and you still want to see the amazing beach at the end, just park at Incinerator Rock and walk north. Eventually you'll come to Schooner Cove. This walk is best done 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.
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.
- 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 décor 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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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.