Hakai Hiking

Hiking the Hakai

Friday, July 08, 2016S.V. CAMBRIA

I think I feel the same way about hiking that some people feel about sailing: I love losing myself on a trail (not literally, of course). I love feeling the wind in my face. I love climbing hills and trees, pushing myself every step of the way. I don’t care where I’m going. I don’t care how long it takes. And I don’t care what’s at the end of the road. I just want to be on the trail. It’s a major high. A rush. And always, always the best part of my day.

West Beach under blue skies.
I’d been waiting for the moment all week. The timing had to be just right. And finally, on Wednesday, it happened: The sun began to shine. The beaches of Calvert Island are best when the sun’s out, making the white sand and turquoise waters of the Pacific look downright tropical. It truly is breathtaking and what so many people who cruise are looking for. Of course, they’d probably like the water to be warmer than 54°F so they could actually enjoy it, but that’s an entirely different subject. I’m writing about hiking and the trails on Calvert Island that lead to eleven different beaches (if you count North Beach and Wolf Beach, which I am). 

The hike starts at the largest and most easily accessible of the beaches: West Beach. The trail to West Beach is well-maintained and winds through bushes, ferns, and a forest of Sitka Spruce before opening up to the Pacific Ocean.  If you stop there, you won’t be disappointed.  West Beach is beautiful and it’s easy to spend hours walking barefoot in the sand, combing the beach for any treasures that may have washed ashore.  But, for the more adventurous, the trailhead to one of the best hikes (in my opinion) along the Inside Passage starts is at the southern end. If not the best, it’s certainly the most unique.

Without a map, it can be difficult to follow at times, but there’s one on display on the dock. I was smart enough to take a picture of it before I set off but the level of detail on the camera screen wasn’t large enough to show some of the smaller trails and beaches. But I’m getting a little ahead of myself.

The trail from West Beach parallels the shore and, in some spots, offers beautiful views out to the Pacific and Foggy Cove before splitting – the lookout to the left and 2nd Beach straight ahead. The lookout, with incredible views out to West Beach and the surrounding islands, is not to be missed, but it can be done either at the beginning or the end of the hike without backtracking.

The view from the lookout is worth the climb!
From 2nd Beach, there’s a short trail that leads to 3rd Beach. And while short, the thing to bear in mind is that the trail can be rugged at times and requires good shoes and some climbing. It can also be wet and muddy. The Hakai Institute, in partnership with BC Parks, has installed boardwalks over some of the trail but they pretty much end at 2nd Beach. 
2nd Beach.
3rd Beach.
4th Beach looking out to 5th beach (I think).
Another short trail leads from 3rd Beach to 4th Beach where there’s a trail that leads to 7th Beach. What happened to 5th and 6th Beach? Good question. One I wished I’d had the answer for on Wednesday: Apparently, there’s a short trail at the western edge of 7th Beach that takes you to 6th and another trail on 6th that will take you back to 5th. But if you’re really lucky and the tide is low, you might be able to walk directly around the southern headland on 4th to 5th.  This is where forward planning is helpful. Had I been able to study the map before I went to shore, I could have timed my arrival for the bottom of low tide and had access to all of the beaches. But I wasn’t, so I didn’t. The tide had come in enough that the trail from 7th Beach was completely closed off so I continued on in search of the rest. 

My version of a selfie on 7th beach.
The trail inland picks up again at the southern end of 7th Beach and this is where things get interesting. It takes you up and inland, above the tree line, to a bog and the trail becomes difficult to find, let alone follow. I was fortunate enough to find a series of footprints in the mud to track (along with some wolf prints), but even that wasn’t enough. There are some markers here and there and I was able to get close to 8th and 9th Beach, but wasn’t able to find the trail leading down. After several attempts, I gave up when I kept loosing my way in overgrown bush. It’s a shame, too, because 8th Beach looks beautifully dramatic.

There's 8th beach, but where's the trail?
So, if you’re looking for an opportunity to do some interesting beach hiking and are anchored in Pruth Bay, give the trails along Calvert Island a try. Whether you take the level path to West Beach, the one to North Beach, or go full-out in search of beaches 9 and 10, you won’t regret it. In fact, it may end up being a highlight of your cruising season . . . I know it will be for me.

How about you? Do you have a favourite hike? We’d love to hear about it below in the comments section or on our Facebook page.

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  1. I don't have a favorite hike, but I can see why this one rocks! Looks fabulous!

    1. It really is! One of the things I like about it is the diversity -- beaches, bogs, and rainforest all wrapped into one experience.

  2. That's VERY smart to take a picture of the map with your phone! We've done that a few times and have been grateful to be able to refer back to it. I love hiking as well, but given the heat here, it's been ages since I've wanted to go walk around outside.

    1. I do it whenever I can (take pictures) because I hike alone and don't pay as much attention as I should sometimes. I've come close to being lost a time or two. On this particular hike, I ended up in dense bush and had to search for the trail for 10 or 15 minutes -- I was sure the wolves were going to get me, lol).

  3. That does look lovely! And that makes a good anchorage even better. Those are gorgeous beaches.

    1. They really are! And it's a nice contrast from the rain forest.

  4. What a wonderful hike, Stephanie. I'd follow in your footsteps in a second. And, the weather seems to be perfect for hiking. I like looking at beaches and bays (and photographing them) more than sit on them or swim in them, so this destination sounds perfect for me! My favorite hikes are not too steep, yet lead to amazing viewpoints (a tough match, I know) and provide some wildlife watching.

    1. I think you'd really like this one then, Liesbet. It can get a little steep coming down to the beaches, but the rest is fairly level with great views out to the Pacific. If it weren't raining, I'd be out there right now!