Hello and thank you so much for stopping by the blog! In today’s post, I’m sharing everything you need to know to hike the Juan de Fuca Trail on Vancouver Island. This trail is Pacific Northwest hiking at it’s best.
My husband and I hiked this amazing trail in 2014 and it was one of the hardest but most rewarding hiking experiences ever! We hiked the Chilkoot Trail in the Yukon and Alaska the year before and found the JDF trail to be more physically demanding. (You can read my complete hiking guide for the Chilkoot Trail here).
Here is your ultimate guide to the Juan de Fuca Trail! Warning, this post is a long one.
How to Get There
The Juan de Fuca Trail is a located in Juan de Fuca Provincial Park on Vancouver Island. The 47KM trail goes from China Beach to Botanical Beach near Port Renfrew.
It was a bit of a journey for us to get to the trailhead. From Vancouver, we took a Pacific Coach bus onto the ferry from Tsawassen to Swartz Bay. We then took the same bus into downtown Victoria. In order to access the JDF trailhead, we had to purchase a round trip ticket on a private shuttle bus from Downtown Victoria. The shuttle bus service we used was West Coast Trail Express and they were sooo fantastic! I actually left my (very muddy!) hiking boots on the shuttle on the way home from the trail. They cleaned my boots and shipped them back to me, free of charge! I <3 West Coast Trail Express. A rough cost estimate for shuttle bus transportation to the trail head is about $120 round trip per person.
Once we we’re on the bus, it was about an hour bus ride to China Beach, which is where we started our hike. The shuttle dropped us off on the side of the road and we were pretty freaked out at first to be honest! We were able to find the trailhead pretty easily and began our epic journey!
The terrain on the Juan de Fuca Trail is rugged and exceptionally muddy. Even though we hiked this trail in July, it rained for 2 out of the 4 days we were on the trail. I was hoping for sun but rain is typical for the West (wet) Coast! The Juan de Fuca Trail is open May-September.
We booked a backcountry trail permit about 2 weeks in advance, but the campsites are on a first-come first-served basis. You have to carry the trail permit with you. You can pitch a tent anywhere at the campsites, space isn’t typically an issue. The trail map can be found here.
Where We Camped
We hiked from July 5 until July 8 and spent 4 days, 3 nights on the trail. Here is a day by day breakdown of our itinerary:
Day 1 (Sat July 5) Arrive at China Beach, start hiking!
The first day on the trail was fairly easy compared to day 2! The hike to Bear Beach is moderate, as indicated on the map. Make sure to get a good night’s rest so you’ll be energized for day 2, which is the most grueling.
Night 1 – Camp at Bear Beach (9km)
Day 2 – (Sun July 6) Start at Bear Beach
Day 2 was the hardest hiking day without a doubt. The JDF trail map estimations are very accurate. There isn’t a lot of elevation gain in this section but there is a ton of up and down. We had to actually climb up some areas! I could feel those calories sizzle away.
Night 2 – Camp at Chin Beach (21km)
Day 3 – (Mon July 7) Start at Chin Beach
Day 3 was a nice change of pace after the tougher stretch between Bear and Chin beach. A good place to rest is Sombrio beach. There’s also a trailhead and path to the highway here, if needed.
Night 3 – Camp at Little Kuitshe (33km). Little Kuitshe is a small campground in the woods and it was the only campsite we stayed at that wasn’t on the beach. It was still comfortable and worked well for our purposes.
Day 4 – (Tues July 8) Start at Little Kuitshe to Botanical Beach
This is the start of the final day. The hike is pretty relaxed from this point on. I was so happy to see that 47KM sign!!
Depart from Botanical Beach at 47km
Once at Botanical Beach parking lot, we made our way to Port Renfrew to catch the shuttle bus back to Victoria. Because it’s a few kilometres to town, we ended up hitch-hiking. This is pretty common among hikers at the end of the Juan de Fuca Trail and we felt comfortable doing it. It was actually a lot of fun!!
Tide information for Port Renfrew is an important part of planning this hike, which can be found here. Certain areas on the trail are inaccessible when the tide is above a certain level and you’ll need to plan around that.
What to Bring
Here’s a list of everything we brought: tent, first aid kit, sunscreen, tarp, pots and pans, bug repellent, aqua tabs, stove, lighter, knife, utensils, backpack (55+L), sleeping bag -3 degrees, sleeping pad, rope (to tie sleeping pad to your back pack), camel-back (for water), headlamp/flashlight, flipflops (for taking off your boots at camp), cash and ID (ferry and food for after), food + emergency meal (please see helpful hints for suggestions), bowls, mug, toiletries (including biodegradable soap), toilet paper, hand sanitizer, towel, wool socks, quick dry pants/shorts/shirts, fleece/shell, rain/Gore-tex jacket, hiking boots, water shoes, hiking poles (optional), hat, sunglasses, camera, ear plugs, bear spray.
– Keep your trail map in a Ziploc bag, since you’ll probably be looking at it fairly often and the map can get destroyed if it’s raining (which it probably will be).
– Bring plenty of plastic bags and even lining your backpack with a garbage bag may help if you find yourself in the drenching rain.
– Ideas for meals: Breakfast – instant eggs, oatmeal, coffee/tea, cereal with instant milk are common. Lunch/snacks – bagels, jerky/sausages, Clif bars, trail mix, are good. We typically didn’t cook anything for lunch; it was just more snacks. Dinner – Something that can be cooked easily in boiling water is good (e.g. instant rice and curry, instant potatoes, mac/cheese, pasta w/ dehydrated tomato sauce, instant meals that are purchased from MEC, etc.) Avoid canned foods (heavy).
– Check guidelines about how much weight you should be carrying, so you don’t try to carry too much. I was carrying about 20-25 lbs in my bag. But don’t worry! Your backpack will get lighter as time goes on because you’ll be consuming the food that you’re carrying.
– Be bear aware! Read up on bear safety and make sure to have bear spray easily accessible. We were warned by another fellow hiker on the trail of a bear sighting and managed to avoid it.
– The Port Renfrew Hotel restaurant is decent and we had lunch here and charged our cell phones after the hike.
The scenery along the Juan de Fuca Trail is absolutely beautiful! My favouite beach was Sombrio, which is located just after the waterfall. There’s a rope swing at Mystic Beach (just after starting the trail)! I also brought a full box of Passion Flakies (a wicked pre-packaged dessert) and ate the WHOLE box. I sang the theme song to one of my favourite cartoon movies, Mulan, “Be A Man” for hours and hours towards the end (no joke). It got me through! Fun times!
Thank you so much for reading! I hope you found this hiking guide helpful and if you have any questions or comments please let me know in the comment section below. Happy hiking! xoxo Candice