About the Journey:
The North Coast Trail is a 43.1 km extension to the original Cape Scott trail. Yet, when combined with a round trip to/from the Cape Scott Ligthouse, and the trip south to the San Josef staging area, the trip totals nearly 80 km. The minimum recommended one way hiking time is 5 days; although, it is more commonly completed in 6 to 8 days. Hiking times are estimated for the average hiker in good physical condition in optimal weather conditions. The trail become operational in 2008.
This is a very challenging route and is not recommended for inexperienced hikers. Many sections require hikers to climb over or along fallen trees, to cross through deep mud, and to use fixed ropes to climb up and over steep sections. It is not recommended for those with a fear of heights. Consider hiking sections of the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail or the Cape Scott Trail to Nels Bight prior to attempting a trip to the North Coast Trail.
The North Coast Trail is not recommended for dogs. There are many steep headland sections on the trail with extensive rope work. These sections are not suitable for domestic animals.
The trail is located in a wilderness area with minimal supplies or equipment of any kind. It is not regularly patrolled, so hikers should be completely self sufficient. It is strongly recommended that ALL hikers carry a satellite phone or VHF radio in case of emergency. Cell phones do not work in the park, and assistance may be days away in case of an accident.
The trail runs along the northern end of Vancouver Island spanning Cape Scott Provincial Park. It can be traversed east to west from Shushartie Bay to the eastern end of Nissen Bight or in reverse from west to east. The trail becomes progressively easier in the east to west direction. Access to the Shushartie Bay trailhead is by boat or floatplane only. There are currently no docking facilities. One water taxi service runs from Port Hardy during the summer season. Access to the western portion of the trail is from the San Josef parking lot at the Cape Scott trailhead. Shuttle service to the parking lot can also be arranged in Port Hardy.
The trail offers visitors a glimpse into wild, west coast ecosystems. The rugged trail passes through old and second growth Sitka spruce, hemlock and cedar forests, upland bogs, riparian areas, across sand, gravel and cobble beaches, and past sea stacks, rocky headlands, and tidal pools. The park is home to bald eagles, black bears, cougars, wolves, river and sea otters, mink, and an array of marine mammals. Sighting and encounters are common in the park, so visitors should use precaution.
Cape Scott Provincial Park is rich with First Nations history. Many signs of their historic presence are evident in the park. Please respect all cultural sites and leave them in an undisturbed state. Do not touch or remove any cultural items.
GPS Download Instructions:
- KML files can be opened in Google Earth, and many smartphone apps (such as Orux Maps).
- GPX files can be opened by many GPS software packages for computers running Windows or Mac. Some smartphone apps support GPX files (such as ViewRanger).
- GPX-Garmin are GPX files that we have optimized for Garmin units that only display tracks that contain 500 points or less (such as Garmin eTrex units).
The eastern staging area is considered to be Port Hardy - from here, a boat is required to shuttle hikers to the trailhead at Shushartie Bay.
The western (southern) staging area is San Josef.
No services are available along the route.
Outhouses are available at the campsites along the hike.
Most travellers rely on a boat to shuttle themselves from Port Hardy to the trailhead at Shushartie Bay. Also, a shuttle bus can pick up/drop off travellers from San Josef trailhead. Contact North Coast Trail Shuttle for details.
Camping only. Sites are available at Skinner Creek, Cape Sutil, Shuttleworth Bight, Nissen Bight, Nels Bight and south of Eric Lake. Unofficial sites can be found elsewhere but do not have outhouses or food caches.