With unlimited access and limitless beaches, the Nootka Island Trail offers hikers a 5 to 7 day, 35km trek following the coastal shoreline of Nootka Island from Louie Bay Lagoon to Friendly Cove. Unlike Vancouver Island’s popular West Coast Trail, there’s no need to apply for a permit and you will likely have most of the trail to yourself.
The Nootka Island Trail features miles of sandy beaches flanked by old growth rain forest, sea caves carved by high tides, crashing open Pacific surf and stunning west coast sunsets to end the day with. Expect to see sea otters, river otters, black bear, wolves and whales as well as First Nations artifacts along your hike.
Hiking the Nootka Trail begins in Gold River, BC with Air Nootka floatplane service to Louie Bay at the north end of Nootka Island. Far superior to a water taxi, this 40k flight offers spectacular views of Nootka Sound, flying over the route you will hike to help familiarize yourself with the route. Pilots double as tour guides, pointing out significant landmarks and insights into the history of Nootka Island. Upon landing at Louie Bay Lagoon it is a 45 minute hike through a rain forest along a marked trail to Third Beach and the open Pacific Ocean and miles of sandy beaches, perfect for beachcombing. With an‘infinity pool’ thanks to a tidal dammed creek and established campsites this is a great place to enjoy the first day and soak up the west coast experience swimming, beachcombing and exploring.
The majority of the hike is along the shoreline, on sandy beaches and over rocky escarpments. Some areas are impassable at high tide but there are marked trails heading overland for these stretches. Calvin Falls is one the hike’s highlights as Calvin Creek cascades over a waterfall to the ocean. This is a great destination to spend a day, clean up and recharge. Surf huts are tucked away in the rain forest nearby. Wolf sightings are becoming more frequent in the area so be diligent with your food stores and waste. Further along at Bajo Point the remains of an ancient Mowachaht/Muchalaht village still exists in the rain forest. Watch for the remains of a long house and culturally modified trees.
As you get further south the hike turns inland along cliffs overlooking the open Pacific Ocean, offering views of migrating grey whales and rafts of sea otters. Stretches along the shoreline feature sea caves and pocket beaches, perfect sites for sheltered camping at Maquinna Point. From there it’s the final leg to Friendly Cove, serenaded by the crashing surf along a pebbled beach. Friendly Cove is the ancestral summer home of the Mowachaht / Muchalaht First Nations people. This National Historic site in significant in that it is where Chief Maquinna started the sea otter trade with Captain Cook. This lucrative trade eventually led to a war between the British and Spanish. Today an historic church still sits on the shoreline, it is now a Cultural Centre. One of Canada’s few remaining inhabited lighthouses stands guard on a rocky outcrop overlooking Friendly Cove and the entrance to Nootka Sound.
From Friendly Cove you cruise back to Gold River aboard the M.V. Uchuck III. The Uchuck offers weary hikers front-row seats to kick back, relax and enjoy seeing more of Vancouver Island’s Wild West Coast. Groups of kayakers, bald eagles, harbor seals and sea otters are common sights along the route. Lucky guests aboard the MV Uchuck III sometimes see grey whales, killer whales and black bears during the journey back to Gold River.
WAIVER FORM If you are planning on hiking Nootka Island and returning to Gold River aboard the MV Uchuck III you will need to fill out our Waiver Form. Since we share the same dock with Air Nootka, why not pop into the Uchuck office to fill out your waiver form before heading out. This way you won’t have to pack it with you on the trail.
MV Uchuck III Cruise from Friendly Cove back to Gold River:
Get West Adventure Cruises • 1-877-824-8253 • firstname.lastname@example.org
Strathcona Park Lodge offers Nootka Trail Guided Hiking Expedition (in August) in conjunction with Get West Adventures.