Vancouver Island’s outdoors are a big draw for visitors, especially those who’ve never experienced BC wilderness and super natural beauty. Many of those visitors don hiking boots and head out to BC trails—in the 2010-2011 season in BC, 19.7 million people visited provincial parks, while 2.4 million visited national parks. If you’re new to hiking, or have never trekked Vancouver Island, this your guide to hitting the trails.
Plan A Safe Trip
Hiking safely should be your number one priority while out in the woods. There are so many resources available to travellers, so it’s easy to plan a safe hike on Vancouver Island.
- Make a hiking plan & share it with a friend
Of course, you never want a hike to go wrong, but if it does, you’ll be grateful you planned ahead and shared your itinerary with a friend. This is an important step no matter what amount of hiking experience you have, so it’s good to get in the habit with your first hike. Adventure Smart has a great online trip plan tool, that you can easily fill out and send to a friend. When you’re out on the trails, make sure to stick to the plan!
- Never rely on cell service
If you’re a new hiker, it’s best to stick to easier hikes closer to cell towers for your first-time around. That being said, service can be spotty on Vancouver Island, so don’t rely on your cell phone for directions or for calling for help. It’s easy to pack something like a whistle to signal for help, and a map and compass for directions—just make sure you know how to read the map and use the compass. For those of you heading further north on Vancouver Island, there’s a great offline hiking app that uses your cell phone’s GPS signal. Head over to VancouverIslandNorth.com to download the North Island Trail Guide App. http://www.vancouverislandnorth.ca/things-to-do/outdoor-adventure/hiking/
- Be savvy about travelling solo
A quiet solo hike in nature can be just the thing to get you into vacation mode, but it has its risks too. Choose a well-populated park or trail closer to a town center, or join a hiking group! You’ll meet the locals and likely learn so much about the path you’re walking on. Who knows, you may even amaze your friends and family with new nature knowledge upon your return!
- Pick the Right Trail
Rating a hike as easy or difficult is relative, so make sure to research the trail you’d like to take before you head out. For a first-time hiker, you could choose a hike with less elevation gain and that’s more populated. There are many accessible trails on Vancouver Island for first time hikers. Simply know what your capable of, and choose something that fits your limits.
Canadian’s are famous for talking about the weather, and with good reason! Our climates are so varied from region to region, and the weather in one spot can turn on a dime.
- Check the forecast
It sounds so simple, but make sure to check the weather for the day in your area. If there’s a storm rolling in, you certainly don’t want to be caught in shorts and a t-shirt while out on the path.
Some Canadians live by a motto of “there’s no such thing as bad weather, just poor clothing choices”, and that really resonates in hiking. You can get out hiking 360 days of the year, if you’re well prepared! Pack a coat, wear proper shoes (no flip flops!), and wear the right gear for the weather.
As for your other gear, check out the Adventure Smart brochure on which gear makes for the perfect hiking companion.
- Pack a snack
There is nothing worse than hangry hiking! Not only is it prudent to pack snacks for your hike, but most hiking end points also have stunning vantages that are the perfect backdrop for a picnic.
Respecting the trail & those you share it with
- Bear aware & cougar safety
Black bears and cougars call the wilderness of Vancouver Island home too. They amble through bushes or jaunt down trails, and it’s very possible that you could run into one of our wild neighbours while you’re hiking. By knowing more about these animals, you can help protect them and yourself.
Read more about respecting bears and cougars and staying safe on the Government of BC website.
- Other wildlife
From the rolly, oozy banana slugs to the proud marmot to the quiet deer, we share the trails with all sizes of wildlife. Always respect these animals by observing from a safe distance; they are wild after all! Tip: Pack in some binoculars. Be a responsible hiker of Vancouver Island by staying on the designated trails and keeping your pets on a leash.
Leave no trace
Leave no trace applies to any outdoor activity, and it’s an easy principle to apply: pack out what you pack in, and pick up garbage along the way if you see it. B
Start planning your Vancouver Island hiking trip! Check out our Land Activities page and find your element.