May 26th – 28th, 2014 Juan de Fuca Trail
This time last year my sister-in-law & I hiked the West Coast Trail – one of the most spectacular hikes I have ever done. I was excited this year to hike the 47-km continuation trail (almost, but not actually a continuation) from Port Renfrew to China Beach.
I think this was a classic situation of having our expectations too high and being disappointed. But I should also factor in both of us being really tired starting off – we had caught the 630 am ferry to Nanaimo, so we had been up since the crack of dawn. The 14km hike to the Little Kuitshe campsite our first day was exhausting and slow going. Our nemesis from the West Coast trail was back in full force – MUD. So much mud. Again I was thankful for hiking poles (and waterproof, high-ankle boots). The highlights from the west coast trail which countered the negativity of the mud were pretty much inexistent. No beach walking today, no whales and sea lions, no lighthouses, no ladders, no cable cars. We did however see a bear. It was sitting in the middle of the trail about 5 km into our hike. Sonia saw it first and starting yelling bear, so we retreated and waited as we continued to make as much noise as we could. In about 10 minutes, I ventured forward armed with a hiking pole in one hand and my bear spray (safety off) in the other to see if the bear had moved. It hadn’t. We retreated again and waited for awhile longer. Then it was Sonia’s turn to go check – and this time the bear had disappeared. For the rest of the day we sang and whistled up a storm.
Little Kuitshe was a camp site in the woods – quite dark and no beach views. I guess you could have walked down to the beach but by the time we got the fire going and dinner cooking, we were too tired for further exploring. That night I dreamt of bears.
The next day we hiked 12 km to Chin Beach. The trail got more enjoyable as we got to walk along the beach at Sombrio and left the mud behind as we started to gain elevation. The mud was never far away though and we still encountered it frequently. We had a bit of a mix up with the tides and found ourselves knee deep in the ocean skirting a small cliff. The tide was higher than it was supposed to be, or there was a human error which I am still not sure what it was.
Chin beach was a fabulous camp site – right on the beach, and secluded – our own little paradise. There was a fire pit with ocean-views and a tree grown into the perfect lounging seat. Definitely worth a stop if you can.
The next day we had planned on hiking to Bear Beach and spending one more night on the trail, but we made great time as the trail gained elevation again and dried out. What the trail map calls “most difficult” we found most enjoyable and easier-going. But we are both more used to hiking up hills more than we are through mud, so perhaps whatever you are used to. We got to Bear Beach at around 3pm and decided to just keep going. Maybe camp at Mystic Beach. However along our walk to Mystic, we started dreaming of soft mattresses and hot showers, and decided to just hike the remaining 2 km out to the car we left waiting at China Beach – a total of 21km for the day. Neither of us really wanted to spend longer on this trail than we had too.
Would we do the trail again? No. We both agreed Mystic Beach was beautiful and we would go camping there, but the whole hike – no.
Would we recommend to a friend? Hmmm no….. I would recommend the West Coast Trail, hands down. If there is some reason you cannot do the west coast – time restraints (75km vs 47km) or if you have a dog you want to bring… then yes the Juan de Fuca is still a nice hike through the woods and sometimes on the beach. But do not expect the West Coast trail, that’s for sure.
- Trail map
- West Coast Trail part 1, part 2, packing list
- Hiking poles for the west coast trail?
- Juan de Fuca Provincial Park website