Thanks to popular films (and the Internet in general) you’ve probably heard of the Pacific Crest Trail, the West Coast Trail, perhaps the popular Juan de Fuca Trail, but did you know about the Sunshine Coast Trail? Located along the upper Sunshine Coast, this is Canada’s longest hut-to-hut hiking trail and also the only one that’s free.
The 180-kilometre back country hiking experience stretches from Sarah Point in Desolation Sound, across Powell River, and all the way down to Saltery Bay. There are currently 14 huts along the trail that are “first-come, first-sleep”.
The Sunshine Coast Trail (“SCT”) is located within the qathet Regional District (qRD) which includes Lund and the City of Powell River in the traditional territory of the Tla’amin, shíshálh, Klahoose and K’ómoks First Nations.
History of the Trail
In 1992 a small group of people founded the Powell River Parks and Wilderness Society (“PAWS”) and started building hiking trails that linked the remaining stands of old growth forests in the region’s front country. The result today is the Sunshine Coast Trail. PAWS is a registered non-profit charitable society that you can support through donations, volunteering, the SCT Passport program, or participating in their events.
Sunshine Coast Trail Day Hikes
If you’re not up for the full 180km or even a smaller multi-day section, you can definitely hike parts of the trail in one full day or even an afternoon. I walked about 4km of it last week with Christine Hollmann of Terracentric Coastal Adventures. She and her team offer everything from zodiac and kayak tours, to guided hikes and custom experiences. Here are some of her day hike suggestions:
7.4km – We did a good section of this trail last week. Hike out and back and an easy, fairly level path. You’ll follow the creek, and cross Toquenatch Falls. The scenery is so lush, with lichen and moss dripping over every evergreen inch, with funky fungi, a salmon stream, giant maple groves, and more – and that’s just in winter!
2. Little Sliammon Lake
11.9km – Access is from Wildwood, via a paved road with 200 meters of well maintained dirt road. Moderately challenging, with access to the lake, dock, and picnic area.
3. Scout Mountain
4.7km – loop, access from same location as Sliammon Lake Trail. Moderately challenging, it’s an uphill hike, but the panoramic views are very rewarding.
4. Tony’s Point
5.6km – Access from Mowat Bay, a city Park at Powell Lake. Moderately challenging, hike out to a lovely view point over Powell Lake, and back. A popular trail for backpacking, camping, hiking, and an afternoon picnic on the point.
There are over two dozen entry points to the trail via highway and logging roads. Thanks to a mapping project PAWS did in 2015, you will find lots of highway signage to indicate entry points to help you find your way.
PAWS has the official SCT Guidebook available for purchase, and more day hike suggestions online. Christine advises that when you’re hiking on the Sunshine Coast Trail, look for the orange tabs/route markers and you can also use the Avenza App for maps. Of course you can also book her team to guide you, and you’ll learn a lot about the local flora and fauna with them as you go.
More adventures I’ve had with Christine and Terracentric Coastal Adventures: Mitlenatch Island Nature Provincial Park, Desolation Sound Boat Tour
How to Get There
To get to the area from Vancouver, you would take the Horseshoe Bay ferry to Langdale, drive up the lower Sunshine Coast and take the ferry again from Earls Cove to Saltery Bay. You could also access Powell River from Comox by ferry, if you go through Nanaimo. Want to get there in just thirty minutes? Take Harbour Air‘s brand new Downtown Vancouver to Powell River route!
Where to Stay
There are several accommodation options on the upper Sunshine Coast but if you’re looking for something comfortable with a side of affordable luxury try the suites at Beyond Bliss Spa. It’s right on Marine Ave next to some of the best restaurants and coffee spots in town, there are ocean views, soaker jet tubs, and a full kitchen. The perfect place to wind down after time on the trails.
For more things to do, stay tuned for my next dispatch from Powell River, coming soon.