- Distance: 47km from China Beach to Botanical Beach
- Difficulty: Varies. From China Beach to Bear Beach is moderate. From Bear Beach to China Beach is fairly difficult, with about 11 or 12 large, steep climbs of 100m or so before descending down to another river or creek. From Chin Beach to Sombrio is also difficult, but the climbs tend to be shorter with only one large climb after Loss Creek. From Sombrio to Botanical Beach is moderate, but with more muddy sections, which have good boardwalks the closer you get to Botanical Beach.
- Hiking Time: 3-5 days. We did the entire 47 Kms in 3 days. If I were to do it again I would take 4 days to do it more comfortably. I would say the best game plan would be:
- Day 1 – China Beach to Bear Beach (9kms)
- Day 2 – Bear Beach to Chin Beach (12kms)
- Day 3 – Chin Beach to Little Kuitshe or Parkinson Creek (12-16kms)
- Day 4 – Little Kuitshe or Parkinson Creek to Botanical Beach (10-14kms)
- Fees: $5 per person per night camping fee (includes parking) paid at either China Beach Trailhead or Botanical Beach Trailhead.
- How to get there: Take Highway 14 Northwest from Sooke towards Port Renfrew. The China Beach Trailhead is clearly marked on the highway shortly after Jordan River. The Botanical Beach Trailhead is at the end of the highway after you drive through Port Renfrew.
Leaving a vehicle at both trailheads is preferable, but you could also park at one trailhead and hitchhike back to your car after you finish.
You can hike the trail in either direction. However, If you want to get out there on a Friday night to start hiking on Saturday, hiking from the China Beach end offers the advantage of staying at the China Beach Campground, which is about a 1 minute drive from the trailhead.
Best time of year to go would be spring/summer/fall. In late May there were still tons of very muddy sections, so bring appropriate footwear. Remember that this is an exposed coastline that sees lots of rain, so you should be prepared for whatever the weather may do.
Camping on the beach is the best, but the designated campsites are well maintained and some have bear caches. Campfires are allowed barring any seasonal campfire bans.
There are hundreds of creeks and rivers along the way to refill your drinking water. However, the water isn’t often very clear. We filtered all of our drinking water on this trip.
The Juan de Fuca trail winds across an amazing 47km stretch of Vancouver Island’s western coastline. Crossing its giant suspension bridges, seeing waterfalls into the ocean and some enormous old growth, and camping along its beautiful beaches provides you with a great way to truly experience this rugged coast of ours.
I did this hike on May long weekend 2009 with a group of 6 friends. We had great weather, with sun and cloud the whole time and no rain! We left a car at the Botanical Beach trailhead and camped at the China Beach trailhead on Friday night. An early morning run to the grocery store in Jordan River was needed as some of us forgot our food, but we still managed to hit the trail by about 8:30am. The first couple of kms are pretty easy through the forest, and the trail leads to Mystic Beach. This probably turned out to be my favorite beach of the entire trip. It had the best sand, a waterfall falling directly onto the beach, a fun ropeswing, and a few small sea caves along the shore. I don’t recommend spinning really fast while upside down on the ropeswing as it is possible to fly off and land directly on a rock like my buddy did. Luckily he was fine and our trip didn’t have to be cut short due to injury…
The section of trail between Mystic beach and Bear beach is not too difficult, and alternates between short stretches through the forest and following the coastline. Bear beach is quite nice, and at 9km into the trail would be a good place to set up camp if you are doing the hike over 4 days. We only had 3 days to complete the hike, so bear beach ended up being where we had lunch. Bear beach is fairly rocky, and can only be crossed at tides lower than 3m at the far end.
The 12 km section of trail between Bear beach and Chin beach was by far the most difficult part of the trip. I think it was especially so for us as we had already hiked 9km that day (still do-able, though). There are probably about 11 or 12 large ridges (100m or so high) that you must climb up, only to descend back down to another ocean-level creek or river. Some sections are pretty steep and can be muddy. Right before you get to Chin beach there is an emergency shelter.
We were pretty happy when we finally arrived at Chin, and quickly set up camp on the beach and cooked dinner. It was a fun atmosphere, as there were many other people camping on the beach and at dusk the shoreline was dotted with campfires and full of guitar/harmonica/drums etc.
We deservingly slept in on Sunday and had a lazy start to the day, exploring more of Chin beach and cooking breakfast. We started hiking at around noon, hoping to make it to Little Kuitshe Creek by the evening. A little ways into the hike you come to a gigantic suspension bridge over Loss Creek. There are several suspension bridges along the trail but this one is by far the most impressive. After Loss creek there is a fairly large climb, which then follows a ridge and descends down to Sombrio Point. The point is a rocky outcrop with a nice view towards Sombrio beach ad was a good place to stop for lunch. The next portion of the hike was along Sombrio beach, which was mayhem on this particular long weekend. The entire stretch of beach was loaded with people drinking, tanning, throwing footballs, etc. We were all so jealous of every single person with a beer in their hand lying on the beach. Come to think of it this may have been the most diffiucult part of the hike…
After Sombrio the trail is less difficult, but quite a bit more muddy. Our boots all got pretty gross before arriving at Little Kuitshe Creek, only to find that all of the campsites in the forest were full. We were in no mood to hike the extra 4kms to Parkinson’s Creek, so we decided to see what the shore was like. The pocket of beach was small, and probably no a good place to camp, but luckily the tides were on our side this weekend and we were able to camp right on the beach. This worked out quite nicely because camping on the beach is much nicer than camping in the woods anyways!
Our third day of hiking was probably the easiest. The closer you get to the end of the trail the more level the terrain gets. Since the tide was low, we decided to follow the shoreline for a while instead of the trail. The stretch of shoreline was really nice, but quite rocky and only cross-able at low tide. We weren’t quite sure whether or not we would meet back up with the trail (keep an eye out for orange buoys hanging from trees). We ended up hiking the shoreline from shortly after Parkinson’s creek all the way to Payzant creek.
After Payzant creek there are a lot more sections of boardwalk, and arrived at our destination of Botanical beach! After 3 days and 47 kms of trail, it was a good feeling of accomplishment to finally reach the end. We all went to work Monday morning exhausted, in no way feeling like we had a 3 day “break”. But looking back on it, I don’t think any of us would have rather done anything else for the long weekend.