Carmanah Creek slowly flows through this wonderfully massive channel that cuts deep into the sand out to the ocean. There is a cable car crossing that connects to the forest on either side of the creek. Most West Coast Trail hikers pass the campsite here without taking a moment to look at the nice beach.   Plenty of room for plenty of tents on the wide, sand beach. 

This is one of the beaches that makes you drop your pack, sit on the warm sand and gaze out at the ocean dumbfounded for minutes at a time. The West Coast Trail is something special! There is no shortage of great spots on the beach to put up your tent. You can even put up your tent along the river on the lovely sandy bank.

Everybody camps at the unimpressive Cribs Creek campsite just 4 kilometres away, leaving Carmanah Creek a serene little hideaway. This is one of the campsites where you will want to stay for days, so you might want to include that in your itinerary! The beach is large and very pretty. There are plenty of spots for tents. Sunset here are wonderful. Lots of driftwood for beach fires. You will love jumping in the creek on a hot day and braving a dip in the ocean here is very enticing. Added to this, the fact that few other hikers camp here make it one of the best campsites on the West Coast Trail.

Carmanah Creek Campsite on the West Coast Trail

There are the usual West Coast Trail campsite amenities at Carmanah Creek, including outhouses, food boxes and some clearings in the forest for tents. The beach is ideal for camping, and on a sunny day, you will find yourself wandering down the lovely beach towards the Carmanah Lighthouse. Chez Monique's is along the beach between the lighthouse and Carmanah Creek. There you will find a restaurant along the beach with burgers and drinks. Seems a bit strange to encounter a restaurant in the middle of the West Coast Trail, but it has been here for years and will likely remain. For some, Chez Monique's is a highlight of the trail, for others it is an annoying bit of civilisation in the midst of the wild beauty of the west coast of Vancouver Island. 

Carmanah Creek Campsite on the West Coast Trail

Shipwrecks Near Carmanah Creek - West Coast Trail

Shipwrecks Near the Carmanah Creek Campsite on the West Coast TrailAt the 37 kilometre mark on the West Coast Trail you will pass the Santa Rita, a 100 year old shipwreck hidden under the waves. The Santa Rita was a steel steam schooner, built in San Francisco in 1913. On February 15th, 1923 at 520am, this 235 foot long, 1600 ton ship collided head on with the the small island reef just a few hundred metres from the beach. The Santa Rita was sailing in from San Pedro, California, in ballast for a port in the Puget Sound. In stormy weather and blindly navigating in poor visibility, the Carmanah light was mistaken for the Cape Flattery Lighthouse on Tatoosh Island. The Carmanah Lighthouse is along the West Coast Trail and the Cape Flattery Lighthouse is across the Juan de Fuca Strait in the United States! The crew turned into what they thought was the Juan de Fuca Strait and keeping the Cape Flattery Lighthouse on their right. Unfortunately they were about 20 kilometres north of what they thought, and were in fact keeping the Carmanah Lighthouse to their right and sailing directly at Vancouver Island. At 520am on February 15th, 1923 the Santa Rita collided head on into a small offshore reef just a few hundred metres from the West Coast Trail. The large ship, must have been sailing at quite a speed owing to the crew's reckoning that they were entering the Juan de Fuca Strait. The sudden impact must have been horrific, loud, and completely unwarned. In the next few hours the entire crew of 30 escaped the wreck via breeches buoy. A breeches buoy is a rope based rescue system where a line runs from the ship to the shore and survivors ride in a flotation ring and leg harness.

Shipwrecks Near the Carmanah Creek Campsite on the West Coast TrailYou will pass the Dare shipwreck at the 39 kilometre mark of the West Coast Trail. The Graveyard of the Pacific claimed this 3 masted, 269 ton schooner on December 23rd, 1890. The Dare sailed out of San Francisco in ballast for Tacoma to take on a load of lumber.  In the middle of the winter, stormy season along this coast, the Dare was caught in a typically brutal storm. The crew fought the high winds and tumultuous seas driving them towards the unforgiving shore of Vancouver Island. The Dare was smashed on the rock shore just three kilometres west of Carmanah Point. The crew, unhurt from the impact of the ship was able to get ashore relatively easily. Luckily for the crew they were soon met by Indians who resided just down the beach. The good folks that ferry West Coast Trail hikers across Nitinaht Narrows are descendants of the rescuers of the crew of the Dare. They were transported to Victoria by canoe by the natives. Their ship was left smashed on the rocks and what could be salvaged or looted was taken away. Today there are no visible remnants of the Dare shipwreck except one marvellous reminder of this brutal coastline, the ship's anchor. The ship crashed onto the rocks quite a distance from the present location of the anchor. However with no other shipwreck contenders in the area, the anchor West Coast Trail hikers stumble pas here is almost certainly the anchor from the Dare. You will see it just past the 38 kilometre mark of the trail laying on the rocks in plain view. Dare Point begins just as you pass the anchor(if hiking from the Pachena trailhead). Further along you will come to Dare Beach, a nice, though narrow patch of beach in an area almost entirely rocky, unforgiving coastline.

Shipwrecks Near the Carmanah Creek Campsite on the West Coast TrailAt about 47 kilometres along the West Coast Trail you will pass the final resting place of the Lizzie Marshall. On February 7th, 1884, this 434 ton American ship headed out of San Francisco to an unspecified port in British Columbia. Two weeks later she approached Cape Flattery cloaked in a thick fog. Added to that, the wind died and the Lizzie Marshall drifted with the current. Her sails drenched and barely touched by the breeze, she wallowed along for hours until breakers were heard and Bonilla Point lay right in front of them. The crew dropped two anchors and prayed they would hold them off the perilously close rock shelf. The captain launched a lifeboat to row to Neah Bay, 15 miles away, in the hopes of finding a boat to haul them out of danger. Soon the fog cleared and a southwest gale blew in. Straining against the anchors, the Lizzie Marshall held for a while. However on the morning of February 22nd, the anchors began to drag. In a fit of desperation the crew cut the masts and rigging and dumped them overboard. The idea was to reduce the effect of the wind by lowering the ships profile. This had little effect and the wind continued to increase in strength. The anchor chains were straining against the intense weight of the ship and finally snapped. The Lizzie Marshall was swept broadside into the reef with the stern jammed in between a large gap in the rocks. The crew managed to claw their way across the reef to the shore safely. A short time later one of the crew attempted to get back to the ship to retrieve some of his belongings. He drowned in the attempt. Local native arrived on the scene and began scavenging the wreck as the crew watched from the shore. As they scavenged, their boat was smashed against the rocks, leaving them stranded as well. Eventually a tug arrived on the scene to rescue the crew and natives.

Shipwrecks Near the Carmanah Creek Campsite on the West Coast TrailThe Puritan was a 4 masted schooner of 614 tons sailing inbound from San Francisco in ballast. She was heading for Port Gamble in Washington to pick up a load of lumber when the crew failed to account for the strong current in the Juan de Fuca Strait. Owing to the thick fog and heavy seas, the Puritan stumbled blindly into the rocks of Bonilla Point. The crew of 10 made the same mistake that hundreds of crews before them made. They didn't reckon their course with the notorious, strong current of the Juan de Fuca StraitThe current pushed them far northwest of their perceived position. Unable to see due to the thick fog, stormy weather and darkness of night the Puritan was pushed into the rocky Bonilla Point. The record shows that she was wrecked at 5am on November 13, 1896. The crew decided to wait for daybreak to figure out their escape. When the morning finally came, a lone Indian found them and battling the surf, managed to run a rope from the ship to the shore. The crew used the life-line to escape the crumbling ship. The Puritan, continuously bashed by the sea until on the following day she was laying her masts in the surf, and quickly began breaking up. The crew made their way to the Carmanah lighthouse and later ferried to Victoria. For his heroic efforts, the Indian was reportedly rewarded. Today hiking the West Coast Trail, you will find some of the ship's remains on the outer reef.

Shipwrecks Near the Carmanah Creek Campsite on the West Coast TrailThe Wempe Brothers was a 4 masted schooner just 70 tons heavier than the Puritan, that wrecked here a century ago. The Wempe Brothers was sailing in from San Pedro, California in ballast. She was heading for Puget Sound to pick up lumber when she was claimed by the Graveyard of the Pacific. The crew of 10 experienced very stormy weather as she neared the Cape Flattery lighthouse and entrance to Juan de Fuca Strait. Light winds and thick fog carried them towards the strait, however the fast current pulled them irresistibly north towards the coast of Vancouver Island. The Wempe Brothers was carried so close to the Carmanah Point that the lighthouse lights were reported to be reflected on the ships sails and hull. The crew had no idea they were so far out of their intended position and the sudden appearance of a lighthouse must have been terrifying. The wind was dead calm so sailing to safety was not an option. The crew managed to drop two anchors in a desperate effort to halt the ship before colliding with the shore. It was too late, however, as the Wempe Brothers was carried onto the beach at 5am on October 28th, 1903.

Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailSanta Rita at 37k Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailDare at 39k Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailLizzie Marshall at 47k Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailPuritan at 48.5k Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailWempe Brothers at 49.4k

More West Coast Trail Campsites 

Tsusiat Falls Campsite Rating - West Coast TrailOne of the most popular and beautiful campsites along the West Coast TrailTsusiat Falls is one of the main highlights on the trail with its dramatically wide and beautifully picturesque appearance. You will find Tsusiat Falls at the base of an extraordinary array of ladders extending hundreds of metres up into the trees. Tsusiat Falls pours over an abrupt and wide cliff onto the sandy beach. The force of the water has dug out quite a large pool that flows in an ever changing channel through the sand to the ocean. It is quite common to see whales passing in the distance from the beach at Tsusiat. The beach is raised up a few metres from the ocean and affords you a better vantage point over the ocean than you get elsewhere. Tsusiat Falls campsite is wide and extends as far as you want to go down the beach. As everyone has seen pictures of it, everyone aims for it to spend the night. If you don't mind crowds then you'll love it. If you don't like crowds, you may have trouble finding a serene corner to camp. If you really want to find serenity, you might try camping at the far end of the beach where you will find quite a large sea cave. If you love waking up to whales in the distance and the beautiful roar of waterfalls nearby, then you will find that at Tsusiat. The campsite is well designed for crowds though as the hundreds of driftwood logs on the beach have fashioned partitioned areas randomly, where some sort of organized privacy exists. 

Tsusiat Falls on the West Coast Trail

Cribs Creek Campsite Rating - West Coast TrailCribs Creek at 42k is a cute, clean, and surprisingly emerald coloured creek that flows through the beach campsites. That's about the only nice part about the campsite. The beach is not great, it smells of ageing seaweed, the sandy beach has patches of grass and bushes that give it a messy feel. Unlike many other beaches on the West Coast Trail where you have long sandy beaches carved out by the ocean in giant arcs. At Cribs Creek, you find an irregular and not very attractive beach setting. Still, a nice atmosphere can be created. A lively campfire and a West Coast Trail sunset turns this mediocre beach into decent place to get some rest. Certainly the biggest drawback to Cribs Creek is how busy it always is. Owing to its great distance to the next campsite to the north, Tsusiat Falls, everyone seems to camp here. And they camp here after quite a long day of hiking. Unlike Tsusiat Falls campers, who tend to marvel at the ocean view or stunning waterfalls, at Cribs Creek you find campers busy and focussed on camping and cooking. Skipping Cribs Creek as a campsite is recommended.

Cribs Creek Campsite - West Coast Trail

Bonilla Creek Campsite Rating - West Coast TrailThe Bonilla Creek campsite at 48k is easy to miss, as it looks very unassuming from the beach as most hikers unknowingly pass by. Bonilla Falls, however is nestled against a small cliff at the edge of a suddenly deep forest. And the forest hides a nice little world, somewhat sheltered from the elements. An outhouse sits up at the far end, and several tent clearings stretch to the beach where you find a wonderful hammock cobbled together over the years out of old fishing nets and ropes. A bit surreal in such a remote feeling place, but it is so elaborate that it makes you look around for permanent residents! You won't find any permanent human residents, however, you will encounter some wildlife as there always seems to be a bear or two walking the shoreline between Bonilla Point and Carmanah Creek in the early morning hours. The campsite at Bonilla Creek has some beautiful characteristics. First the cute, Bonilla Falls have a perfect little pool to swim in and wash off the days hiking grime. Second, the campsite is quite good with lots of varied places to put up a tent as well as some driftwood structures out on the beach. Third, the sunsets are sensational here. Bright orange, with the narrow islands in the distance topped by improbable looking trees. Added to that, you have a relatively quiet campsite compared to other West Coast Trail campsites.

Bonilla Falls on the West Coast Trail

Tsusiat Falls at 25k Cribs Creek at 42k Carmanah Creek at 46k Bonilla Creek at 48k

 

West Coast Trail Campsites

The Pachena Bay Campground is the closest campsite to the Pachena trailhead, not on the West Coast ...
Read More
The campsite at Michigan Creek is the first or last campsite you will encounter on the West ...
Read more
Just a kilometre past the Darling River campsite you will come to another beach campsite at Orange ...
Read more
The Tsocowis Creek campsite at 16.5k has a decent beach with an excellent water source. Most hikers ...
Read more
The campsite at Klanawa River is quite nice beacause of its lovely, swimmable river, expansive ...
Read more
Carmanah Creek slowly flows through this wonderfully massive channel that cuts deep into the ...
Read more
Walbran Creek at 53k is home to possibly the best, and most unappreciated campsites on the West ...
Read more
The Pacheedaht Campground is a beautiful, and often bustling campground, quite close to the ...
Read more