Trails

  • Photo credit
    Tonquin Beach boardwalk, Kevin Midgley
  • Photo credit
    Hiking Lone Cone, Jeremy Koreski Photography
  • Photo credit
    Blaze Moffat
  • Photo credit
    Lighthouse Trail, K Murcheson

Follow the trail to happiness in Tofino.

In and around Tofino, come face to face with some giants (of the tree variety) and walk or climb your way through Clayoquot Sound’s diverse ecosystem to some spectacular views on these trails.

Big Tree Trail (Meares Island)

This trail was conceived in 1984 as a protest against logging on Meares Island by Tofino photographer Adrian Dorst and friends.  Here, they discovered some very big - and very old - trees, ranging from 1,000 to 1,500 years of age.  The star of this trail, the Hanging Garden Tree, was once considered the largest tree of its kind in Canada, with a circumference of 18.3 metres (60 feet).
 
Hop on a boat or in a kayak from a local charter company, and cruise Tofino’s calm inside waters, up Lemmens Inlet to Meares Island.  Meares Island is a Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Park, and your $3-5 Tribal Park Pass may be automatically collected by your tour company.
 
The Big Tree Trail In a Nutshell:
  • Distance:  3 kilometres (1.86 mile) round-trip
  • Difficulty:  Moderate.  Expect some mud as the boardwalk ends.
  • You'll Love:  Being among the most giant and ancient trees in North America.  Of note are the Hanging Garden Tree and Poster Tree, both Western redcedars.

Lone Cone (Meares Island)

Contrary to local lore, Lone Cone is not an old volcano, though it certainly does look like one. A prominent landmark in Clayoquot Sound, its looming presence dominates Tofino Harbour. From its summit, Lone Cone provides an impressive 360 degree panorama. All of Clayoquot Sound lies at your feet, and no other view of the area can compare.  
 
A trail leads up the south side of the cone. This trail is extremely steep and unrelenting to its 730 metre (2,395 feet) peak, making it one of the most challenging and rewarding trails in Clayoquot Sound.
 
The trailhead is accessed through private property and can be difficult to find. In order to hike this trail, it’s best to hire a guide or call the Tla-o-qui-aht Band Office 250.725.3233 for details about permission and how to locate the trailhead.
 
Lone Cone In a Nutshell:
  • Distance:  Around 1 mostly vertical kilometre (.62 mile) in each direction.
  • Difficulty:  Difficult (but as we said, rewarding!)
  • You'll Love:  The amazing, top-of-world views of Clayoquot Sound and its islands, and boasting that you climbed Lone Cone.

Tonquin Trail (Tofino) 

This is Tofino’s newest trail, winding through ancient rainforest and along the open ocean shoreline.  Once the 2 kilometre (1.24 mile) trail is completed, it will connect Tonquin Beach to MacKenzie Beach.  

Start at one of trailheads, either on Tonquin Beach (look for the cedar stairs on the left side of the beach) or by the Tofino Community Hall, just past the Bike Skills Park.

Some viewpoints are adorned with wooden benches crafted by Tofino’s own Robinson Cook, an invitation to take a deep breath - and a break.  Don't miss the viewing platform which cantilevers out of the rocks for some life-affirming views.
 
Tonquin Trail In a Nutshell:
  • Distance:  2 kilometres (1.24 mile) once completed.
  • Location:  From the Post Office, travel south on First Street, past the hospital and a small park. Turn left on Arnet Street, up to a parking lot adjacent to the Tofino Community Centre and Bike Skills Park.
  • Difficulty:  Easy.  Does involve some steps to and from Tonquin Beach.
  • You'll Love:  The feel of having these views to yourself, and of walking this wild trail, right in town!
  • Visit the Lighthouse Trail website!

Tonquin Beach (Tofino)

Tonquin Beach is an accessible hiking beach located within the District of Tofino, outside of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. It is named after the Tonquin, the 19th century American trading vessel which sank here after historic altercations between the crew and local First Nations people.  The wreck has not yet been discovered, but we now have a peaceful beach to carry this historic name.

The parking lot at the trailhead is less than 1 kilometre from the Post Office, an easy and pleasant walk. To get there, head for the end of Tonquin Park Road, and from there follow a winding boardwalk through the forest for about 7 minutes. You’ll be walking through a nature preserve set aside by the District of Tofino. After descending about 75 steps, you will be at the beach. Although it is not very large, this beach feels secluded and has the advantage of getting full sun.

When the boardwalk on the Tonquin Trail is wet – and this is true of all boardwalks – the planks can become very slippery, especially in the early morning or during and after rain showers. So watch your step carefully.

After arriving on the beach, look out to Wickaninnish Island (straight out and a bit to your left) and Felice Island (off to your right, also called Round Island). If your timing is right, you will experience the region’s best view of the summer sunset.  Walk to the left side of the beach, and climb the staircase to walk the Lighthouse Trail.

For more information about the wreck of the Tonquin, purchase a copy of Tonquin: The Ghostship of Clayoquot Sound, a booklet written by David W. Griffiths, a local marine archaeologist. The booklet is available at Tofino Sea Kayaking, 320 Main Street.
 
Tonquin Beach In a Nutshell:
  • Distance:  A few hundred metres, then return.
  • Location:  From the Post Office, travel south on First Street, past the hospital, some forest and a small park. Turn right on Arnet Street, then left up Tonquin Park Road to a small parking lot on the left at the end of the road.
  • Difficulty:  Easy, short steep ascent on concrete path, then all boardwalk. One descent of about 75 stairs
  • You’ll love:  Being on a secluded beach with soft, white sand and some coves.  Oh, and the breathtaking sunsets.

Wildside Heritage Trail (Flores Island)

For centuries, the Ahousaht people used sections of this trail to reach the wild beaches on the west side of Flores Island, a 40 minute boat ride northwest of Tofino. In 1995, under the guidance of the Ahousaht elders, a 16 kilometre (9.94 mile) trail was completed to expand the economic opportunities in Ahousaht traditional territory. In 2009, BC Parks and other partners worked with the Ahousaht First Nation to continue the trail repairs and to develop a more robust ecotourism strategy for Ahousaht and Flores Island.

The Wildside Heritage Trail winds its way through ancient Sitka spruce forests and visits two of the most spectacular beaches in Clayoquot Sound: Whitesands Beach and Cow Bay. This is a long trail, so bring a backpack with provisions and be prepared for some mud and spontaneous weather changes. Most hikers choose to camp for a night or two on Cow Bay, the final beach on the trail.

Excellent interpretive signs along the entire trail point out culturally modified trees, historical landmarks and valuable insights to the indigenous culture.

If you are camping at Cow Bay, you may want to explore the trail up Mount Flores, the highest point on Flores Island. The beginning of the trail is located at the northern end of Cow Bay. The first kilometre of the Mount Flores trail is well marked, but fallen trees and thick brush begin to obscure the trail after this.  Only attempt the Mount Flores hike if you are an experienced navigator, preferably with a GPS. Do not attempt this hike late in the day.
 
Wildside Heritage Trail In a Nutshell:
  • Distance:  11 kilometres (6.83 miles) one-way, then return.
  • Hiking Time:  5 hours one way. Recommended as an overnight wilderness camping trip. Hiking the trail in one day is possible, requiring an early morning seaplane ride to Marktosis and a chartered boat or seaplane ride home.
  • Difficulty:  Moderate. There is little elevation gain, but the wilderness setting demands some hiking experience and agility. The final trail up Mount Flores is recommended only for fit, experienced hikers with a GPS.
  • You’ll Love:  The wild beaches, First Nations cultural insight, and the experience of visiting a place that is truly the path less chosen.

Location and Transportation:

To access this trail, you need to take a 40 minute boat ride or a 10 minute seaplane flight from Tofino to Marktosis, the Ahousaht village on Flores Island. The scheduled water taxi, Ahousaht Pride, departs Tofino at 10:30 am and 4:00 pm from First Street Dock and costs $20 one way (cash only). Return departures leave Marktosis at 8:30 am and 1:00 pm.

There is a $20 fee per person (cash only) for accessing the trail, payable at the Ahousaht Band Office in Marktosis.

The Band Office is located just south of the arrival dock in a two-story red wooden building. The staff at the Band Office will point you to the trailhead, down the road (south) that led you to the Band Office, staying left at the fork. Nuu-chah-nulth guides are occasionally available to guide hikers. Call the Ahousaht Band Office 250-670-9531 for guide arrangements and any other questions about the Wildside Heritage Trail and Marktosis tourism information.


The Long Beach Unit of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve is home to several walking trails that should not be missed.  See them here.

Please note that the trails profiled by Tourism Tofino above are sanctioned. 

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