10 Tips for Hiking the Juan de Fuca Trail

Here's how to prep for a stunning hike that is truly worth the sweat

Here’s how to prep for a stunning hike that is truly worth the sweat

Beautiful British Columbia is home to many incredible hiking trails, providing ample opportunities to get out into nature, take in scenic landscapes, and release some endorphins. One of the most renowned hikes in the province is the Juan de Fuca Trail, and if you are looking for an adventure that puts physical and mental strength to the test, this one will reward you in spades.

Hiking the Juan de Fuca is not a walk in the park. The diverse terrain is challenging to navigate, with ups and downs, mud pits, creeks and boulders. You may need to summon energy you didn’t know you had as you carry the weight of your sleeping, eating and living supplies on your back. Your journey may face torrential rain, scorching sunshine, hunger, exhaustion, injury and even some uncomfortably close wildlife. There’s no telling what might happen out in the wilderness… but isn’t that the beauty of it?

With each challenge you overcome, you will feel stronger, prouder and more empowered than ever before. You may make new friends, bond with your hiking buddies, see beautiful animals, andat the very leastbe treated to an intense workout, incredible views, and off-the-grid serenity.

The Juan de Fuca Trail is absolutely worth the effort and you will reap the rewards, but setting yourself up for an enriching experience means being as prepared as possible. So adjust your backpack straps, drink plenty of water, and put on your game face, because you are in for an epic adventure.

Here are 10 tips for hiking the Juan de Fuca Trail…

1. Take a hiking buddy

When hiking, it’s best to have a companion for back-up in case of an emergency. On a multi-day hike like the Juan de Fuca Trail, choose your company wisely! Your hiking buddies don’t have to be your best friends, and you may just be looking to go on a solo soul-searching journey where you can find solace in your mind. But if you are hiking with others, it would be ideal if they can enhance your experience with certain perks, like having a positive attitude, being pleasant to chat to, and able to pull their weight around camp. At the very least, make sure they don’t hinder your experience. The trail comes with no shortage of challenges, and you want to make sure your experience isn’t negatively impacted by anyone else.

2. Prep beforehand

Don’t leave your preparation to the last minute; British Columbians love to explore our backyard, andduring a pandemicoutdoor adventure-related food and supplies run thin at major retailers like MEC, Atmosphere or Cabela’s. Stock up on necessities ahead of time!

3. Plan your route

The Juan de Fuca Trail can be reached via shuttle from downtown Victoria, or by driving and parking at your designated finish line, and then taking the shuttle to your starting point. If this is the option you choose, keep in mind not to leave valuables in the car as there is a risk of break-ins. And book your camping spot ahead of time!

Juan de Fuca hikers typically spread their adventure across three to five days (depending on fitness level/ambition/bravery). The 47-kilometre trail runs between China Beach to Botanical Beach, with traffic flowing in both directions. For hikers who choose to break up the route, there are entry points at China Beach, Sombrio Beach, Parkinson Creek and Botanical Beach.

4. Pack strategically

The key with packing is to be as lightweight and compact as possible. A general travel tip is to pack what you think you should bring, and then cut it in half, and this advice is extra advisable for backcountry trails. Pack only what you need and as lightly as possible, right down to your toothpaste, sunscreen and socks.

5. What you’ll need to camp

Your backpack is your lifeline, so make sure you are comfortable wearing it. It should sit with about 80 percent of weight on your hips, with the straps almost hovering above your shoulders. This will make a huge difference in your comfort level. Ask a store employee to show you or watch a YouTube video to ensure you’re wearing your backpack correctly.

Pack a tent, sleeping pad, sleeping tent and a pillow (stuffing clothes into a pillowcase will do). Pack fire supplies such as a lighter or fire starters (laundry lint is a magic ingredient). Bring dry bags and garbage bags so you leave no trace, as the Juan de Fuca Trail has a strict pack-it-in, pack-it-out policy.

6. Bring the right food

Snacks, snacks, and more snacks! (Who doesn’t love snacks?) Food is fuel and anytime you are feeling low in energy, snacks will help you recharge. Bring dehydrated fruit, protein or granola bars, chocolate, pepperoni sticks, any type of treats that will give you energy while also being compact and lightweight. Instant oatmeal makes a great breakfast, and there are plenty of dehydrated meal options sold at outdoor retailers that your tastebuds may interpret as a gourmet dinner.

Recommended supplies include a cooking pot and propane tank, a bowl and a “sporkife” (spoon, fork and knife, because a “spork” is just not sufficient). For drinking, get a water filter or tablets to fill up at the creeks, and keep a large bottle flowing into your body throughout the day. Water bladders are great for storing larger amounts of water and providing ease of drinking while you’re on the trail.

7. What to wear

For your clothing, you’ll want to be prepared for any weather conditions. Have you met British Columbia? Pack items that are comfortable and breathable, with waterproof items as well as layers for temperature variations, from a lightweight tank top to a warm fleece. Many hikers like to bring poles for support and gaiters for the mud. Comfortable, broken-in hiking boots are a must, and it’s nice to have alternate footwear for after your hike to allow your feet to breathe, such as waterproof sandals for wading in the creek. Bathing suits are optional for some refreshing downtime!

8. Prep for safety and comfort

As you are cut off from civilization on the trail, you must be prepared for any incident that might occur. Pack sunscreen, mosquito repellent, a first aid kit, plenty of band-aids or moleskin for your inevitable blisters, wet wipes (ain’t no showers in the wild) and toilet paper. Each campsite has an outhouse with toilet paper, but it’s always better to be prepared.

Bring bear spray, and keep it easily accessed while hiking. Make sure you know how to use it. Ask for guidance at the store when you purchase, and/or watch YouTube videos.

9. Don’t forget additional leisure

Depending on your hiking speed and how much time you allot yourself on the trail, it’s nice to enjoy some downtime. A lightweight microfibre towel will be ideal for lounging or drying off if you fancy a dip. Consider bringing a lightweight book, downloading music or podcasts on your phone, and bringing a portable charger so you can take photos and use your phone as needed.

10. Final tips

Start each day’s hike in the morning—the temperature will be cooler, you’ll have more of the day to relax once you reach your next site, and sites fill up so you’ll have a better shot at snagging a prime camping spot.

There are tide tables along the way which are beneficial as parts of the trail get cut off with fluctuating tides. You can likely also ask your fellow friendly hikers for advice.

Most importantly… don’t forget to stop and smell the evergreens. Take in the beautiful old-growth forest around you, soak in the time away from technology, look out into the ocean for marine life or along the trail for animals on land.

Take time to appreciate the beautiful scenery, and what you’re doing for yourself. You’re taking on a challenge that not a lot of people have the strength to do. You’re delivering immense benefits for your mind, body and soul, and you should be very proud of yourself!