Vancouver Island hikers can start preparing their gear as Parks Canada has announced the popular West Coast Trail will be reopening to visitors this summer.
Parks Canada, in collaboration with the Huu-ay-aht, Pacheedaht and Ditidaht First Nations, says the trail will be opened for overnight hiking between June 4 and September 30.
Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the government has established new regulations for 2021 in order to protect the health of remote communities, Indigenous Guardians, visitors, and Parks Canada employees.
Most importantly, advanced reservations will be required for all hikers looking to tackle the 75-kilometre trail — no spaces will be offered on standby.
Parks Canada will be accepting reservations starting April 30 at 8 a.m. PT.
Reservations for the trail can be made here or by calling 1-877-RESERVE (1-877-737-3783).
Parks Canada suggests that “spaces fill quickly, so consider setting up an account prior to April 30, 2021.” Reservations will only be available to Canadians at this time.
All three access points to the trail, including Bamfield (Pachena Trailhead), Port Renfrew (Gordon River Trailhead) and Nitinaht Village will be open.
The government organization is also asking that hikers complete a COVID-19 self-assessment before travelling to any of the access points.
“Parks Canada and local First Nations are asking visitors to limit the risk of COVID-19 transmission by paying attention to local signs and community protocols…and following the guidelines of public health experts, including travel restrictions,” reads a statement from Parks Canada.
“Hikers are also asked to learn in advance whether First Nations villages are welcoming visitors prior to arrival.”
The government entity notes that Huu-ay-aht’s village of Anacla, adjacent to the Pachena trailhead, is currently closed to outside visitors.
On the other hand, Ditidaht First Nation is ready to welcome visitors to the Nitinaht area and asks that visitors show respect to community members and one another.
In addition to the trail itself, West Coast Trail Comfort Camping at Tsuquadah, Nitinaht Motel, and the Nitinaht Visitor Centre and Store will be open this summer.
Nitinaht Windsurf Park and Caycuse Campsite will be welcoming visitors beginning May 21 with reservations opening on April 7.
Hikers hoping to travel the West Coast Trail can find details, including a preparation guide, on the Parks Canada website.