- Incredibly unique coastal National Park
- Easy access to beaches and trails
- Dog friendly beaches and trails
Situated on Canada’s rugged west coast, Pacific Rim National Park is located near the town of Tofino, the park offers wild windswept beaches littered with driftwood, coastal rainforest trails and a lush bog trail that leads you through a magical bonsai forest.
Pacific Rim National Park is located on the west coast of Vancouver Island in the province of British Columbia. From the mainland you catch a BC Ferries boat from Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo, the crossing is around 2 hours. From there, the 3 hour drive west is very scenic, on a twisty mountain road. Stop at Cathedral Grove Park just before the City of Port Alberni to see some old growth giants. Port Alberni is a great place to stop for groceries and fuel. The road to Tofino was built relatively recently, in 1959.
We visited Pacific Rim National Park (PRNP) and Tofino during storm watching season, February 2017. There is a lot to see and do in the park. We loved the four destinations we visited and would highly recommend them all, especially the Shorepine Bog Trail, which is a true hidden gem.
The largest and longest beach in PRNP, Long Beach is 16 km’s of wild, rugged, vast, soft sand beaches. The trails in this region were started in the early 1900s when the area was known as the ‘Graveyard of the Pacific’ due to all the shipwrecks. The official Park’s Canada definition of Long Beach includes: Schooner Cove, Long Beach, Wickaninnish Beach and Combers Beach, some of these beaches are separated by rocky outcrops at high tide. The longest stretch of unbroken beach is 6.5 km. Long Beach is a wonderful place to watch surfers.
If you like to watch and listen to the Pacific Ocean’s massive wave’s crash Incinerator Rock is a great place to visit. Located on the north end of Long Beach these large rocks were traditionally used by First Nations as lookouts. In WWII the Canadian Army kept an incinerator here that was used to burn trash, hence how the area got its name, not because ships were ‘incinerated’ against the rocks during storms, as one might think. This is a popular surfing area and a great place to watch the action.
Each of the beaches in PRNP offers visitors something a little different. Located at the southern end of Long Beach, Wickaninnish Beach is easily accessed via a short trail from the parking area. Take your time exploring this beach, the further north you travel the more wild it feels. There is also a good information centre located nearby.
Valencia Bay is right next to Wickaninish Beach and there is a 2.5 km trail that connects the two beaches. In early 1900s the SS Valancia, a small US passenger steamer, struck a reef off the west coast of Canada. The death toll was between 117-181 souls, with only 37 surviving, all men. It was the worst maritime disaster in the history of the ’Graveyard of the Pacific’. Reached via Willowbrae Road, this 5 km long south facing beach is the perfect place to watch the sun rise or set.
Shorepine Bog Trail
It’s easy to miss Shorepine Bog Trail, but this short easy walk is well worth a visit! People visit PRNP for the beaches… why waste time hiking a bog? We only stopped here because it had started to rain, but there was still an hour of light left, so we thought why not? We’re so glad we did! Not only did we find a true hidden treasure, we also had the whole place to ourselves! It’s so amazing to have the pleasure of enjoying new places on your own. It’s much easier to really appreciate a destination when there are no distractions. One of the many benefits of traveling in the off-season.
The Shorepine Bog trail consists of an easy and short, but thoroughly entertaining, 800 metre boardwalk loop. The 20-30 minute walk transports you to one of the most incredibly unique ecosystems on earth. A bog is an ecosystem that drains poorly. This area receives 3+ meters, or almost 10 feet, of rain annually! Walking the Shorepine Bog trail is like entering a surreal fantasy garden of beautiful lush ‘bonsai’ trees.
The Shore Pine is the only tree you will see here, although they look like no other trees you’ve ever seen. These trees grow in unusual, gnarled, stunted shapes due to the acidic bog soil and the lack of nutrients and minerals. The moss in this bog is over 400 years old and can be as thick as 2 meters or 6.5 feet. All the fauna are remarkably vibrant shades of green.
There is enough to see and do in PRNP to keep you busy – but don’t miss the beaches and trails around Tofino.
Top 3 Tips
- Be prepared for all weather, the climate on the coast is variable and can change in an instant.
- Check your surroundings on the beaches. The beaches are so vast it’s easy to get disoriented. Parking areas on Long Beach are numbered. Also, watch out for wildlife such as wolves and bears.
- Keep an eye on the waves. Rogue waves are a real threat!
I loved all our adventures here. It was my first time seeing such huge beaches. The soft compact sand felt good under my paws. There were so many interesting smells and new things to hold in my mouth like salty seashells and seaweed. The waves were fun to watch and I really loved all the walks we went on in the rainforest. The weather was perfect, not too wet or damp, and not too hot. I could get bored here!