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Juan De Fuca Trail vs West Coast Trail | Which one should you take?

Hiking the juan de fuca marine trail versus the west coast trail british columbia canadaJuan de Fuca Trail vs West Coast Trail

About the Juan de Fuca Trail:

The Juan de Fuca Trail is a 47 km hike along the west coast of Vancouver Island in beautiful British Columbia, Canada. Its northern point lies at Botanical Beach at Port Renfrew and its southern point lies at China Beach near the community of Jordan River and very close to the beautiful Mystic Beach.

The Juan de Fuca Marine Trail lies south of the famous West Coast Trail, but does not directly connect to it.

You can start at either the north-end or the south-end of the trail. We chose to start at the northern point near Port Renfrew and and head south to make it a shorter drive for our ride home arrangements.

Hiking the Juan de Fuca Trail offers beautiful west-coast scenery, amazing hiking (that is moderately to difficult) , and wildlife viewing in their natural habitat. It is an isolated area, which offers multi-day hiking and some day hike options. It was created through the Commonweath Nature Legacy as a reminder of the 1994 Commonwealth Games held in Victoria.

You can find out more information about the Juan de Fuca Trail on BC Parks website here.

Also on the West Coast of Vancouver Island is Tofino, Long Beach, Ucluelet and Pacific Rim National Park. If you wart more information on staying in the Tofino area, here is our Tofino Camping post.


Juan de Fuca Trail vs West Coast Trail

“And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul.” — John Muir

Do you hike to forget the day to day? I sure do. I love this quote above. If you want to read more like it, check out these camping captions and  hiking quotes. 

5 Reasons why we chose the lesser-known Juan de Fuca Marine Trail:

Beautiful Forest and Ocean Scenery throughout the trail

Beautiful Forest and Ocean Scenery throughout the trail
  1. The Juan de Fuca trail is MUCH cheaper than the West Coast Trail. The Fees are $5.00 per night based on self-registration (as of 2016 and is subject to change. Check the BC Parks site for current information). To pay, you simply deposit your cash in an envelope and put it into a lock box at the trailhead. A 5 day hike on the Juan de Fuca trail will costs you $25.00. However, the West Coast trail costs $127.50 per person for a 5-7 day hike, plus $24.50 to make a reservation to guarantee your start date (there are limits on the number of hikers who can start per day)
Day One: Still Smiling

Day One: Still Smiling
  1. The Juan de Fuca trail is available to hike anytime (in season). The West Coast Trail suggests making a reservation to ensure your start date due to daily limits at the trail heads. Upon arrival, the West Coast Trail has an orientation that is required before you enter the trail.
the Trail travels along the beaches, sometimes river rock, sometimes boulders, sometimes sand.

the Trail travels along the beaches, sometimes river rock, sometimes boulders, sometimes sand.
  1. While not recommended, dogs are permitted on the Juan de Fuca trail. On the West Coast Trail they are not allowed (one exception has been made for a visually impaired hiker). We love hiking with our dogs (and YES they [easyazon_link keywords=”dog backpack” locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”cadiouwa-20″]pack[/easyazon_link] their own food and water) and the Juan de Fuca trail hike allowed us to bring them along!

    the Suspension Bridge on the Trail

    the Suspension Bridge on the Trail

The Dogs did not like the suspension bridge
  1. The Juan de Fuca trail offers similar breathtaking scenery of the West Coast of Vancouver Island but has less hikers. On our 4 day hike we passed by one to two groups per day (who were heading in the opposite direction) and 3 out of the 4 nights there were no other hikers at the campsites. Before you hike, grab yourself the best backpacking tent for your party and split up the gear between you. Will save you each a few pounds on your back!
The Beach with the "Fog Zone" in the distance.

The Beach with the “Fog Zone” in the distance.
  1. Juan de Fuca trail offers a shorter hike at 47km, compared to the 75km West Coast Trail. We chose a 4 day hike versus a 5-7 day on the West Coast Trail. The 47 Km hike still offers an amazing backcountry experience, plenty of tough terrain and some amazing beaches to experience.

Tips for Hiking the Juan de Fuca Trail:

Hiking conditions are always changing and it is recommended to check the conditions at the trail head information shelters. Please visit the BC Parks website by clicking here for more information about the trail.

Checking out the Beach in the early morning

Checking out the Beach in the early morning

Be prepared for slippery conditions, muddy trails, wooden boardwalks, boulders, rocky shorlines, damaged structures, steep slopes and rapidly changing weather conditions. The Juan de Fuca trail lies in the “Fog Zone” and while it may be a sunny, and hot day on other parts of the island, the temperature is much cooler on the trail.

If you have never heard of gaiters, I highly suggest you buy them. Your dry feet will thank me later! They are perfect gifts for hikers! And work in those hiking boots! I will not post my blistered feet to show you what happens if you do not!

When Hiking the Juan de Fuca Trail, make sure you get a good backpack. Check out for some options!

the Fog Zone - it was amazing to watch it roll in and out

the Fog Zone – it was amazing to watch it roll in and out

What you pack in, pack it out. When we did the trail there was a fire ban on the entire coast of British Columbia. Even the “Fog Zone” which is often excluded due to its damp conditions. All of our garbage stayed with us until the end of the trip. We are all responsible for keeping the beauty of these places.

The dogs packed their own food and water, they took advantage of our "rest-breaks" too!

The dogs packed their own food and water, they took advantage of our “rest-breaks” too!

If you are newer to hiking, pack your bags and then repack! Scrutinize every item and make sure you need to pack it, after the first day you may wish you packed lighter! Consider ultra-lite hiking gear rather than typical camping equipment.

For the reason I mentioned above, I highly recommend you consider dehydrated food! It’s light and tastes amazing after a day’s hike (it may not be amazing cooking it at home for dinner, but when you have been traipsing through mud, sandy beaches, over rocks and up and down switchbacks, a nice HOT meal is exactly what we needed!). The bonus is that all you need is some boiling water and you have dinner!

Beautiful Scenery that so few get to witness

Beautiful Scenery that so few get to witness

We took an advil or two before bed every night, our muscles didn’t feel too sore at nighttime but they sure were sore in the morning!

Pack [easyazon_link identifier=”B004UOTUXK” locale=”US” tag=”cadiouwa-20″ cart=”y”]second skin[/easyazon_link] for blisters! It is by far the best blister relief I have ever come across and it is WORTH EVERY PENNY!


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Juan de Fuca Trail vs West Coast Trail

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  1. B Pyne says:

    Thank you for your info! West coast trail was on my bucket list, but Juan defuca sounds much more do-able at age 61!

  2. I’m moving to Vancouver Island in a few weeks and will definitely pin this for reference. Everyone seems to go on about the West Coast Trail but this one seems to have many advantages. I hope it’s still as quiet now as it was for you before you wrote this post 😉 Adorable dog!

    • awesome! Vancouver is a great place to love! Expensive, but great! If you do plan on the WCT, it opens for bookings in early 2017. the Joan de Fuca trail is still a quiet trail compared to the WCT! I Highly recommend it!

  3. […] of strength. If you don’t want to do any of those things, don’t do the West Coast Trail. Do the Juan de Fuca, a shorter, less strenuous trail with similar scenery and far better access. Or any other hike […]

  4. What a beautiful hike. A bit too far with my little kids but love the idea of it some time in the future.

  5. What a fun trip, and I can’t believe how inexpensive! My dog is totally the same way about see through stairs and bridges. I feel his pain. LOL

  6. Stacey Valle says:

    I have to say that your hiking adventure reminds me of the novel/film, Wild! I just saw that movie, so I had to say that, haha. I only had done a day hike, but I never done more than just a day hike! It’s something that I don’t mind doing soon 🙂

    Would you go back to Juan De Fuca Trail ?

  7. Jenna says:

    Looks like such a fun hike! And so gorgeous, too! Would love to do this. Thanks for the tips!

  8. They both sound fabulous, but I think you made the right choice. I wish I had the Reese-Witherspoon-in-Wild guts to do a long hike, but I’m not there yet. I did, however, cycle around the lakes in Whistler, BC, today. Spectacular.

  9. noel says:

    What beautiful trail, I would to do that one day, it’s been too long since I’ve visited in British Columbia, it’s so green.

  10. Lesley says:

    Wow! What a difference in price between the two trails.

  11. Sue Reddel says:

    Great tips on how to decide which hiking trail the Juan De Fuca Trail or the West Coast Trail. I give you ladies a lot of credit. I’ll live vicariously through you on this trip. The dogs have to carry their own supplies? Hope they enjoyed it as much as you did.

  12. Carol Colborn says:

    Good comparison! How about facilities in the campsites? Is West Coast trail better?

  13. Your dog really looked as if he/she was into the hiking! And I loved the panniers. Glad they survived the bridge!

  14. Oooh good advice on the advil! I hike a lot but have never thought to do this (?!). I try not to take medicine if I can help it but some hiking routes really do kick my butt ><

  15. Wow – what a beautiful trail!! Looks like you enjoyed the hike! So happy to find your blog – anxious to read more. Love connecting with other families who love to travel!!

  16. Anne Klien ( MeAnne) says:

    That’s a beautiful trail and finding a falls along the way is so gorgeous.