There’s something special about Tofino hikes on the West Coast of Vancouver Island. With the epic rainforest in Pacific Rim National Park and a long coastline, there’s really no shortage of hikes and miles of trails to explore.
The breathtaking natural beauty combined with old-growth forests, golden sand beaches, and misty mountains creates a unique atmosphere in this part of British Columbia that is treasured by many Canadians and tourists alike.
For me, it’s one of those destinations I can never get bored of, no matter how many times I’ve been here.
Tofino is an ideal city escape from Vancouver and a paradise for outdoor lovers. This small town on Vancouver Island is mainly known for its surfing, van life culture, sandy beaches, and delicious food.
It can get a bit busy here, especially in the summer, so if you want to take a break from the crowds, you can explore many hiking trails in the rainforest, often leading to beautiful secluded beaches.
To enjoy Tofino and its surrounding natural beauty to the fullest, I’ve put together the list of Tofino hikes and trails for you to explore on your next Vancouver island adventure.
Pacific Rim National Park
Located between Tofino and Ucluelet, Pacific Rim National Park is home to some of the best Tofino hikes.
The Pacific Rim National Park Reserve consists of three sections: Long Beach, the Broken Group Islands, and the multi-day West Coast Trail.
The Long Beach Unit of Pacific Rim National Park Reserve is divided into Wickaninnish Beach, Combers Beach, and Long Beach. If you plan on hiking these beaches, be wary of the tides, especially at Combers Beach.
There are also several rainforest trails filled with the woody scent of moss-covered trees. Some of my favorite trails in Pacific Rim National Park are South Beach Trail, Nuu-Chah-Nulth, Schooner Cove Trail, and Combers Beach Trail.
Whether you prefer a short stroll on the beach or a more challenging trek, there are many options, so you’ll want to give yourself enough time to check them out.
Side Note: To explore Pacific Rim National Park, you’ll need to buy the Parks Canada pass.
Easy and Short Tofino Hikes
Length: 2 trails Loop A and B (1km each)
Time: 20 min. each
Starting Point: Drive on the Pacific Rim Highway and follow the sign for Rain Forest Trail until you reach a parking lot. There is a boardwalk that leads to Rainforest Trail A Loop.
The Rainforest trail has two separate hiking routes – Rainforest Loop A and B.
The name of the trail speaks for itself. Think huge cathedral-like trees, a natural carpet of ferns and soft mosses. The foliage is so thick that you can barely see the ground. All of which contribute to a zen-like atmosphere.
The trail is easy and relatively flat, making it perfect for a leisurely walk.
Keep your eyes peeled for birds as you might spot the barred owl or pileated woodpecker.
South Beach Trail
Length: 1.5 km (round trip)
Time: 20 min
Difficulty: Easy, most of the trail is on a boardwalk
Starting Point: Behind the Kwisitis Visitor Center, a 10-minute drive from the Rainforest trails in Pacific Rim National Park
The route of the South Beach Trail is the same as the Nuu chah nulth Trail for the first half kilometer.
You will pass through groves of Sitka spruce. This trail parallels the shoreline and has scenic views of Wickaninnish Bay.
After this easy short hike, your reward will be the secluded South beach and the hissing sound of crashing waves against the rocks.
Boardwalk and beach are always a winning combination for me.
Pettinger Point Trail at Pacific Sands Resort
The resort is the starting point for a private hiking trail to Pettinger Point.
Pettinger Point is a panoramic landmark with some of the most breathtaking sunsets in Tofino.
After your hike or day spent surfing, you can chill on the back patio of your private beach house, soak up ocean views, sip a glass of wine, or cozy up beside the fire pit.
If you travel with kids, you’ll be pleased to find out that the resort provides free summer kids’ camps in July and August. They have a partnership with Raincoast Education Society. It’s a great way to educate your children about nature and sustainability or spark their interest in outdoor experiences.
While your kids are busy exploring outdoors, you can take beach yoga classes and enjoy the morning rays of sunshine.
Length: 5 km (round trip)
Time: 1.15 h
Difficulty: Easy, most of the trail is on the boardwalk
Starting Point: Kwisitis Visitor Center at Wickaninnish Bay or parking lot at Florencia Bay
The Nuu-chah-nulth Trail connects Florencia Bay and Wickaninnish Bay, and you can start in either direction. Florencia Bay parking lot is usually less crowded, so it might be easier to find parking here.
What makes this trail stand out from other beach trails in the area is the cultural element. It is an interpretive trail with totems, stations, and signage where you can learn more about Nuu-chah-nulth first nation’s history and culture. One of the themes developed on the path is ‘Hishuk ish ts’awalk’, or ‘Everything is one.‘
The vast majority of the trail is on the boardwalk within the rainforest.
Schooner Cove Trail (Closed for Improvements)
Length: 1km (one way)
Time: 20-30 min
Starting Point: Schooner Cove parking lot
Schooner Cove is a particularly picturesque place and one of the most popular Tofino hikes.
The trail is surrounded by vibrant green moss and ferns that leads through an enchanting rainforest. It is one of the shorter trails in Pacific Rim National Park, but it is still a lovely little boardwalk hike.
The hike ends at a pristine sandy beach. You can continue to walk south along the ocean towards Long beach, which stretches for many miles.
The Willowbrae & Halfmoon Bay Trail
Length: 3.7 km (round trip)
Time: 1 h
Starting point: Willowbrae Trail Car Park
The hike to Half Moon Bay is an enjoyable trek through the forest along a wooden boardwalk.
If you keep walking, you’ll hit the fork that splits into Halfmoon Bay and Willowbrae. Both trails descend to the beach with what may seem like endless stairs.
I always enjoy hiking this trail because it is so tranquil and less crowded. The walk becomes the most scenic once you start approaching the beach.
To return back, you’ll need to retrace your steps and climb back up over 100 stairs.
Length: 3 km (round trip)
Time: 20-30 min
Starting Point: Tofino Community Center parking lot
This trail covers three beautiful beaches: Third, Middle, and Tonquin beach. It’s an easy walk on a gravel path surrounded by tall trees and shrubs. Once you approach the beach, wooden stairs lead down to it.
It’s a great way to access the Pacific ocean if you stay in downtown Tofino. The waters at Tonquin beach are ideal for swimming because they’re sheltered as long as you don’t mind swimming in cold water.
If you plan your walk for later in the evening, you can enjoy one of the most amazing sunsets around Tofino.
Combers Beach Trail
Length: 1 km (round trip)
Time: 20-30 min
Difficulty: Easy, most of the trail is on a boardwalk
Starting Point: Combers Beach parking lot
Combers beach is a section of Long beach with a unique feel. The trail is short but has a steep descent to the beach.
The sand resembles a desert stretching out hundreds of kilometers at a low tide.
The beach is less busy, making it a nice escape from the crowds and a pleasant, serene beach walk.
Keep an eye open for sea lions. They like to hang out at Sea Lion rock. The rocks are a bit far, so you might need binoculars or zoom in on your camera to see them.
Many people love this area, especially for storm watching. Combers beach is also popular with surfers.
Shorepine Bog Trail
Length: 0.8 km loop
Time: 10 min
Starting Point: Drive south along Pacific Rim Highway, watch for the sign to Wickaninnish Bay and turn right on Wick Road, where you’ll find a parking lot and starting point to a trail.
If you’re in the mood for something a little different, the Shorepine Bog trail leads through a forest of small Shore Pines with irregular shapes rather than big trees. This unique vegetation is unlike anywhere else on Vancouver island giving it a distinct vibe.
The trail stretches along a boardwalk, and it’s pretty open and sunny compared to other misty rainforest trails or windy beaches.
The moss here can be 1 to 2 meters thick and 400 years old.
The trail is flat, so walking is easy for any hikers. However, some boards are broken, so watch your step.
The Bog Trail is in the same area as Wakaninnish Beach and Florencia Bay, so you could combine all three when you’re in the area.
Wild Pacific Trail (Ucluelet)
Length: This trail has two main sections: Lighthouse Loop ( 2.6 km loop) plus Terrace Beach Trail (0.5 km), and Brown’s Beach to Rocky Bluffs (2.6 km) plus Ancient Cedars Trail (1 km loop)
Time: Varies depending on which section you take. 2.6 km Lighthouse loop can be completed in 45 min. Brown’s Beach to Rocky Bluffs takes around 30 mins plus optional 15 mins Ancient Cedars Trail Extension.
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Starting Point: There are several access points along the trail. To get to Rocky Bluffs, you can start from Brown’s Beach parking lot or Big Beach Park south of Black Rock Resort. For the Lighthouse Loop trail, you can start from the gravel parking lot midway on Coast Guard Road.
The Wild Pacific Trail is one of the most popular trails near Tofino, and for a good reason. It offers stunning ocean views along the coast and hills island.
Trail Lighthouse Loop
I recommend starting with the Lighthouse Loop trail from the gravel parking lot midway on Coast Guard Road. Make your way to Lighthouse and continue walking until you complete the full circle. The trail is well-marked, so you can’t get lost.
The Lighthouse loop section is relatively flat and easy to walk, making it an excellent hike for all ages and fitness levels.
If you can’t get enough of the coastal views, you can extend your walk with the Terrace Beach Trail, Interpretive Bog Loop, or Spring Cove mudflats trail along the Lighthouse loop.
After a hike, you can drive down the wide path at the intersection of Matterson and Marine Drive and have a picnic at the Big Beach picnic area.
Five minutes south of Big Beach on the picnic area path, you can find an ancient shipwreck that got swept by a strong Pacific storm. There are interactive signs about the history of the place, making it a fantastic adventure, especially if you travel with kids.
To get to Rocky Bluffs, you can start from Brown’s Beach parking lot or Big Beach Park south of Black Rock Resort.
The Rocky Bluff trail is more rugged than the Lighthouse loop. But your little extra work will pay off with many scenic views and lookouts of the coastline.
You shouldn’t miss out on the short but sweet Ancient Cedar Trail along the way and visit old-growth giant Western red cedars. It’s only an extra 15 mins extension or less than a 1km walk but definitely worth your time.
Indigenous people believe the red cedars to be trees of life.
Looking up to the crowns of these ancient cedars will make you feel really small and in awe.
Red cedars are British Columbia’s most giant coastal forest trees. One of the cedars here measures more than 12m around its base!
Adventurous Tofino Hikes
Cox Bay Lookout
Length: 2.6 km
Time: 45 min
Difficulty: Moderately challenging
Starting Point: Cox Bay Beach
Cox Bay lookout is an unmarked, muddy trail with many overgrown tree roots and branches. The challenging and unmarked terrain makes it a bit tricky to navigate the path without GPS.
There are a few steep sections, so I’d recommend wearing high-ankle hiking boots that are easy to wash.
Although this hike is a bit rough, the views of Chesterman beach and the ocean beyond are worth the extra effort or even worth losing a hiking shoe in the mud on your way to the top!
Canso Plane Crash Site
Length: 4 km return
Starting point: Park at Radar Hill, Canso Plane Crash Site Trailhead, located just off Highway 19 near Qualicum Beach Airport
Start your walk at Radar Hill paid parking area, walk down the concrete cycling path, and turn right on the gravel path.
If you follow the path, you’ll come across a cool but also a bit spooky abandoned bunker with graffiti. The trail is marked after the building, and it takes you to the site of a plane crash that happened back in 1945.
The plane was carrying a load of explosives, and it is said that the people could hear the explosion all the way from Tofino. Surprisingly, all crew members on board the plane survived the crash.
The plane is still in decent condition considering the crash happened almost 100 years ago.
The trail is very muddy and poorly maintained, so there might be some hazards along the way. Be careful with walking over the tree roots and branches as they can get quite slippery, especially after the rain.
If you travel with kids, feel free to bring them along as the hike has only a small elevation gain plus they’re gonna love the plane.
Tofino Hikes Accessible By Boat
Hot Springs Cove Trail
Length: 1.5 km (one way)
Time: Depends on the length of your entire tour
Starting point: Boat ride from Tofino or seaplane
Cove hot springs are one of those secret gems you shouldn’t miss out on your trip to Tofino.
The hot springs are a 1.5 h boat ride away.
Most of the hiking is in the cedar forest of Maquinna Marine Provincial Park, with the occasional glimpse of the sea as you get closer to the hot springs.
The hike takes about 30 minutes and perhaps slightly longer on your way back since the elevation gain is against you. There are about 750 stairs each way.
The hot springs begin in the forest and descend in a cascading waterfall that flows into small rocky pools.
The Nuu-chah-nulth called these springs’ Mak-shekla-chuck‘, which can be loosely translated as ‘smoking waters.’
A few companies provide tours to hot springs, often combined with whale watching, depending on the time of the year.
The tour can take six hours, and it’s a bit pricey (approximately CA$200 per adult), but it makes for a delightful day trip.
The only downside is that it’s a group tour, so you’ll have to share the hot springs experience with other people.
Wild Side Trail Hike
Length: 11km (one way)
Difficulty: Easy, mostly flat
Starting Point: First Nations village of Ahousaht on Flores Island, located in Clayoquot Sound near Tofino.
Wild Side Trail is on Flores Island, and it’s been home to the Ahousaht people for thousands of years.
To access the trail, you must take a water taxi from Tofino to Ahousaht on Flores Island. All boats leave from the 1st street dock in Tofino scheduled twice daily at 10:30 am and 4:00 pm.
You can also arrange a boat ride outside of the regularly scheduled times. Just go down to the 1st street dock and ask if anyone is planning to go to Ahousaht.
Return trip from Ahousaht is possible daily at 8:30 am and 1 pm. It costs CA$20/person each way and takes about 35 minutes.
There is also a $15 per person daily permit fee for accessing the trail. You can pay at the trail office or online via Paypal.
You can also spend a night at one of the camps in the area – Sand Dunes, Cow Bay, or Kutcous River campground.
It’s a coastal trail that passes through sandy beaches and lush rainforests.
The trail runs entirely through the traditional territory of the Ahousaht First Nation. There are several interpretive signs along the way highlighting culturally significant places.
There is also an old cabin at around the 6km mark (if you go a long way across the metal bridge, it’s at the 7.5km mark). The wooden house is available to use for free.
If you do stay for a night outside the official campsite, make sure to bring with you enough water and food.
Telegraph Trail at Vargas Island
Length: 3.6km (one way)
Starting Point: Tofino water taxi to Vargas Island
Vargas island is a popular kayaking and wilderness camping destination. If you get lucky, you might even spot gray whales!
You can take a short 15 min boat taxi ride on demand from Tofino to Vargas island for CA$40 (round trip). They can also drop you off directly at Ahous Bay, though it is a bit more expensive (CA$55 round trip).
Alternatively, you can simply canoe towards the island if you feel adventurous. The waters are calm, and you don’t lose sight of the land the entire way, so it’s relatively easy to navigate.
The Telegraph Trail crosses the island from east to west, but it might be tricky to find it as it’s not very well maintained.
The trail is approximately a 3km walk full of lush plant life. Unfortunately, it’s pretty muddy, and you’ll be walking on logs across swampy uneven terrain.
Once you reach Ahous Bay, you can wild camp on a beautiful beach.
Ensure to bring lots of water as Ahous Bay has very little drinkable water.
Big Tree Trail
Length: 2.4 km (round trip)
Starting Point: Water taxi to Meares Island, 10 min boat ride from Tofino
To access the Big Tree Trail on Meares island, you need to hop on the 10 min boat ride. The boat ride itself already makes it a fun adventure.
You can book a water taxi on demand for CA$35, plus a CA$5 trail fee payable to the Tlaoquiaht First Nation.
This protected tribal area is home to the local Tla-o-qui-aht Nation and some of the oldest giant Western Red Cedar trees estimated to be over a thousand years old!
The Big Tree trail takes you on a journey on a handmade boardwalk. The boardwalk can be a bit uneven and slippery, but nothing crazy. It’s a manageable walk for any hiking level.
One of the trail’s highlights is Hanging Garden Tree, from where you can return or continue further to complete the entire loop.
This tree measures around 18 m at its base, which used to be considered the largest tree in Canada.
Once you pass the Hanging Garden Tree, the trail becomes pretty muddy and less maintained, with many trees to climb over and under, so wearing waterproof boots might be a good idea.
Side Note: Another popular hike on Meares Island (Lone Cone Trail) is currently closed until further notice.
I hope you’ll get a chance to explore some of these fantastic Tofino hikes and trails during your Vancouver Island trip. Which ones are your favorite? Let me know in the comments below.
If you want to do some other fun activities besides Tofino hiking, check Best Things to Do in Tofino.
Can you hike in Tofino?
Hiking through Pacific Rim Park Reserve is a great way to enjoy the scenic views, lush rainforests, and Pacific Ocean coastline. Hiking trails near Tofino are relatively short and easy; several hikes can be completed in one day or in less than an hour.
Can you sleep in your car in Tofino?
You can’t sleep in your car in downtown Tofino. You can get fined for overnight parking.
Are there mosquitos in Tofino?
While mosquitos are uncommon here, black flies are around for approximately three weeks in June. You can also come across some wasps in the summer.
Can you swim in the ocean in Tofino?
Waters in the Pacific ocean are pretty cold (8 degrees Celsius – around 46 degrees Fahrenheit). Once the body gets used to cold temperatures, swimming is possible. However, the beaches on Pacific Rim often have long, shallow entry and rip tides. There are some popular surfing beaches, but surfers wear wet suits.
What is the nicest beach in Tofino?
There are many nice beaches in Tofino, including:
- Cox Bay Beach
- Long Beach
- Chesterman Beach
- Mackenzie Beach
- Florencia Bay Beach
- Wickaninnish Beach
- Tonquin Beach
- Combers Beach
Can you wildcamp in Tofino?
There aren’t many options for wildcamping in Tofino, but you’ll be able to find some wilderness camping further outside Tofino. When wildcamping, be mindful of local wild animals such as black bears and leave no trace behind. In Tofino, you can find many campsites, whether you’re looking to pitch your tent at the oceanfront, park your van, or a family-friendly campground with great amenities.
Can you have a campfire in Tofino?
Campfires are allowed on private land (private homes, vacation rentals, resorts) as long as a fire ban is not in effect.
Casandra Karpiak is a travel writer and the co-owner of Savoteur. A Toronto native with Danish roots currently residing in British Columbia, her travel writing has been seen on The Associated Press wire, MSN, CBS, NBC, Entrepreneur, 24/7 Wall St, Times Daily, and many more.
You can follow her travel adventures on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.