FREQUENTLY asked questions
Vancouver Island Trail (VIT) is the longest trail on Vancouver Island at approximately 800 kms. It is a living trail that changes course over time based on weather conditions, water levels and human made factors. It is a continuous trail that passes through the traditional territories of many Indigenous Peoples from the Songhees in the south to the Tlatlasikwala in the north
The seven sections of the Trail vary a lot; only a few are suited to all levels of fitness and expertise. Some sections of the trail are steep or rough requiring scrambling over rocks or logs, while other sections are smooth and flat. The day hikes tend to be closer to settlements. Section hikes take 5-10 days and a complete thru-hike takes 1-2 months.
That will depend on which section of the Trail you are traversing. Close to the ocean, you may see orcas, whales, seals and sea lions. Depending on the time of year, salmon run in the rivers. Eagles and ravens are abundant throughout Vancouver Island. Cougars, elk and bears are common but cougars rarely seen. And of course, ticks are everywhere so check yourself regularly.
Franklin River can be waded at low water levels. At other time it is possible to drive to the south bank over a rough road. For more details please refer to the ‘Section-by-Section’ description on this website. Several other rivers, including the Nitinat, Quinsam and Keogh, and many smaller streams must also be forded at lower flows. Wet areas are mostly avoided, however inland sections of the North Coast Trail are usually muddy.
If heading northbound you should start at Anderson Hill no earlier than the middle of June to increase the likelihood that you miss snowpack north of Alberni. If hiking southbound, a start on the North Coast Trail section in late August to mid September works well. But keep in mind that day-length really shortens in September limiting the available hiking hours in a day.
Each section can be hiked in about a week which makes scheduling and re-supply easier. The ability to see the various sections at their best is a definite plus for section hikes. Hiking sections 2, 5 & 6 in spring to early summer avoids the heat and dust and showcases the the blooms of lower elevation vegetation. Leave the subalpine sections to mid summer when snow is completely gone and higher vegetation is in bloom. Hike the late summer to early fall for the northern coastal beaches.
Operating hours for forest companies vary. It is best to assume logging and heavy equipment traffic on the road at any time. Obey all signage and posted speed limits. VHF radios are strongly recommended so that you are aware of oncoming traffic. Know how and when to use your radio. Frequencies are usually but not always available from signage at the main entry points or gates to the logging roads. Loaded trucks have the right of way at all times. When aware of oncoming vehicles use the pull outs or otherwise move clear well in advance of the oncoming traffic. Check the following websites for more information: Mosaic Forest Management-Access and/or Western Forest Products – Access.
The freedom to enjoy Vancouver Island Trail comes with the responsibility to be informed, prepared and alert to your surroundings. Safety awareness is one of the best lines of defense and your brain is your best weapon. Some basic facts:
- The wilderness is not 100% safe
- You are responsible for your own safety
- To minimize risk be knowledgeable, equipped and be prepared
- Travel within your skill level and know the risks
- Share your plans and check in regularily
- Carry current trail maps and know how to use them
- Use a satellite based personal locator devise such as Garmin, Spot, Zoleo etc.
- Have training in wilderness first aid
- Stay alert and pay attention to your surroundings
- Use extra caution if hiking alone; better still, hike in a group
- Be mentally prepared for the risks you may encounter, even in a group