The Juan de Fuca Marine Trail stretches 47kms, from China Beach to Botanical Beach along the southwestern shore of Vancouver Island. It started as a lifesaving trail for shipwrecked sailors in an area that was known as “The Graveyard of the Pacific”. The trail was established in 1994 through the Commonwealth Nature Legacy commemorating the Victoria Commonwealth Games.
Day 1 – Botanical Beach to Payzant Creek
We left town fairly late in the day, with the plan of driving as far as Jordan River, leaving the car there so we could park for free for the week, and then hitch-hike into Port Renfrew to the Botanical Beach trailhead.
By the time we got the car parked and spent an hour or so walking/hitch-hiking it was close to 5 PM before we found ourselves at the trailhead and the beginning of our hike.
With the obligatory photos at the trailhead taken we headed down the trail and it wasn’t long before we found ourselves at Botanical Beach. Since it was now fast approaching 6 PM we decided to sit here and eat our dinner before continuing on to our campsite for the first night at Payzant Creek.
It’s a 7 km hike from the trailhead at Botanical Beach to the campground at Payzant Creek and it was pretty much full-on dark by the time we rolled in. I did keep a video journal of our trip, so here is the first clip.
It rained all night last night and quite hard. As mentioned in the video above not all of the tent pads at the campground at Payzant drain well, so if you’re showing up during rainy periods take your time and choose a good spot!
Today’s hike is 11 kms from Payzant Creek to Sombrio Beach. There isn’t a lot of beach hiking on this trail and the little bit that you do get to do tends to be when you’re leaving camp for the first 1 – 2 kms or at the end of the day just before camp, when you do get to do another 1 – 2 kms on the beach.
There was a fair amount of up-and-down today. Seems like you’re either dropping down to the water or climbing up away from it the whole time. From headland to headland and cove to cove. And like all coastal hiking here in B.C. it’s muddy, very, very muddy the whole time. Which is saying something considering we just came out of one of the worst droughts that we’ve seen here in quite a few years!
Day 3 – Sombrio Beach to Chin Beach
It’s an 8 kms hike from Sombrio to Chin beach and is a really nice, fairly easy section of the trail. It starts off with a long walk down Sombrio Beach. Sombrio is definitely the longest, biggest beach on the trail and is by far the busiest one as well. It’s only about 250 metres from the parking lot to the beach and the surfing is really good.
After making our way down the beach, you leave the water and begin the longest, single up-hill hike that you’ll do on this trip. The trail climbs from sea level up to about 170 metres in pretty much a straight, uphill climb but it’s not too bad and once you reach the top, it levels off next to an old road and continues on fairly flat for another 2 – 3 kms.
Day 4 – Chin Beach to Bear Beach
This is considered the hardest day of the Juan de Fuca trail. It’s called, “The Day of 12 Hills”. The trail climbs from the water to the top of the headlands and then back down again to the ocean, and as the name suggests it does this 12 times between Chin Beach and Bear Beach.
We’d been lucky so far on this trip and the rain had mostly fallen at night while we were asleep, today it felt like it was on the edge of raining the whole time. So by the time we rolled into camp it was definitely “misting” out, so we put up the tarp and settled in for the evening.
I spent most of the evening watching Shana put in a good couple of hours work trying to get a fire started today. After the rain from the previous evenings and the off/on bit of showers we saw today everything was quite wet and it was only through her determination that we did get to spend the evening sitting next to a rather cheery fire, sipping warm tea.
Day 5 – Chin Beach to China Beach trailhead
We awoke to sunshine and blue skies this morning. Hard to believe the difference a day makes!
The hike from Chin Beach to China Beach is quite nice and after the non-stop either climbing or descending of the day before it certainly feels much easier. There are still enough ups-and-downs to remind you that you’re hiking a coastal trail but there are less of them, and there are more level bits in between them.
We took our time wandering through this last section and it didn’t seem long before we could begin to hear traffic from the road and a few minutes later we could see the parking lot through the trees. All too soon we were standing at KM 0. We had discussed hiking the beach between China and Jordan River but at this point we were looking forward to the beer we had left in the car so we walked out to the road and hitch-hiked back to the car.
Ending and beginning the trip with the help of strangers. We did feel really bad for the poor guy that picked us up and drove us to Jordan River though. We weren’t in his vehicle for long before the wonderful smell of backpackers reached his nostrils. He promptly rolled down all the windows in his truck and Shana and I apologized while laughing about it.
At the end of the trail, but still the beginning of our adventures!
You can see more pictures from our Juan de Fuca trip here – Juan de Fuca Album on Facebook