The view from the top of Lone Cone looking towards Tofino and the Pacific Ocean.
By Michael Chang
Tofino is a destination that gives visitors a true feeling of the vast and wild Pacific Northwest. Located on the west coast of Vancouver Island, it’s about a 3-hour drive from Nanaimo along one of British Columbia’s most scenic driving routes, passing through old-growth rainforests before reaching the beaches along the Pacific Ocean.
There are lots of hiking trails and most are relatively easy and not too long, offering access to beach areas or thick coastal rainforests. One section of Pacific Rim National Park is located just a few kilometers south of the town of Tofino and there are several hiking trails within the park. Additionally, there are trails located in the town of Ucluelet and on some of the islands to the north of Tofino that are accessible by one of the water taxi services.
Here are our top 5 hikes near Tofino:
Lone Cone is the exception to the suggestion that most trails in Tofino are accessible and easy. This hike is VERY difficult as you climb almost the entire 730-meters in the final 1.5km of the trail. The payoff is one of the best views of the Clayoquot Sound area, extending from south over Meares Island to the town of Tofino, west out towards the Pacific Ocean. The steep, rugged trail is also one of the quietest trails I’ve ever experienced as there is next to no sound except for the occasional pleasure boat passing by far below.
Getting to the start of Lone is also not as easy as you will have to hire one of the local water taxi services to take you there for around $25 return trip. The nice thing about it is you get to experience a boat ride and enjoy some incredible scenery from the water.
In February 1945, a RCAF Canso 11007 took off from the airport in Tofino and crashed shortly after into the heavily forested area on the side of Radar Hill. All of the crew luckily survived and the aircraft still sits in the same spot where hikers can visit the historic crash site.
If you’re planning to hike to the Canso Plane Crash Site, be prepared to get muddy. While the majority of the trail would be considered easy, one section is extremely muddy and depending on what season you do the hike, thick mud can be above your knees. We did the hike in September after a very dry August and the mud then was even over our shoes and took us quite awhile to get through.
The start of the trail is not well marked as it’s not a very well advertised trail within the Pacific Rim National Park area. You will need to park at the lower parking lot at Radar Hill, then walk back to the highway and walk south alongside the highway, counting the telephone poles until you reach the 15th pole. There is a trail into the forest from that telephone pole, which from there is fairly well marked.
Also of interest along the trail, just before the plane crash site, are two perfectly round ponds. These pond were created when rescue crews blew up the bombs on board the plane instead of transporting them out of the thick forest.
One of the things that makes Tofino spectacular is the rugged scenery along the Pacific Coast beaches. The Schooner Cove Trail is perfect for experiencing this as it passes through along wooden bridges and boardwalks through the lush west coast rain forest before reaching the beach, with the site of the large waves of the Pacific Ocean lapping up along the sandy shores.
The trail is about 2km round trip but has several stairs and some steep sections as you make your way along the route. It’s a relatively easy walk and taking your time to enjoy the forest scenery is the perfect excuse to take a break. The hike is best timed when it’s low tide to walk along the beach, soaking in the scenery and Pacific air.
The trail begins directly off of the Pacific Rim Highway and is in Pacific Rim National Park. Make sure you’ve left a parking pass clearly displayed on your car’s dash.
The Rainforest Trail consists of two trail loops within Pacific Rim National Park that pass along raised boardwalks and bridges through some of the most lush, old-growth rain forest on the west coast. The trail gives a sense of what the forests would have looked like before being logged. Huge douglas fir and cedar trees stand tall and thick layers of green moss blanket the forest floor.
Most people start with the Route B because it’s on the west side of the Highway next to the parking lot. Route A is also just as spectacular but be careful crossing the highway to leave lots of time between you and the oncoming traffic.
We’ve taken many people who have come to visit us to Tofino and always take them on the Rainforest Trail. They are always amazed at the forest and how lush it is, making this trail one of the trip highlights.
Located on the southern tip in the town of Ucluelet, the short walk along the Wild Pacific Lighthouse Loop passes the rocky, rugged Pacific Ocean shoreline and the lighthouse built on the rocks. The gravel trail is easy to walk with some gradual uphill and downhill sections as it loops around, then returns to the parking lot area.
Assuming you are properly dressed for it, one of the most interesting times to walk this trail is during a storm. The wind is tremendous and the waves crashing against the rocks are thunderous. The strong winds gusting from the Pacific Ocean make it seem as though the rain is hitting you sideways. This experience gives a good indication of how rugged the Pacific Northwest is.
To reach this trail, drive south along the Pacific Rim Highway, passing the junction and heading into Ucluelet. Turn right at Coast Guard Drive and look for the gravel parking lot on your left.
Published: September 22, 2015
Michael Chang is an avid hiker and runs a local online hiking resource called Vancouver Trails, which focuses on day-hikes around Vancouver, Whistler, the Fraser Valley, and Southwestern British Columbia.