Michigan Creek Campsite RatingThe campsite at Michigan Creek is the first or last campsite you will encounter on the West Coast Trail. First if you begin your hike at the Pachena trailhead(hiking south) and last if you begin in Port Renfrew(hiking north). The 12.1 kilometres(7.5 miles) between the Pachena trailhead and Michigan Creek is fairly easy and flat. Compared to the rest of the West Coast Trail, this section is wonderfully relaxing. At a brisk pace, you should be able to hike this section in a little over 3 hours. At a more relaxed pace, and stopping at the Pachena Lighthouse, you will take 4 or 5 hours from the trailhead.

Michigan Beach is not terribly pretty, though the Michigan shipwreck boiler is quite a sight. The campsite is busy and you should pick one of the neighbouring campsites. Darling River, Orange Juice Creek and Tsocowis Creek campsites are all better than Michigan. The Michigan Creek campsite has the nice and wonderfully unimposing amenities that you can't help being impressed with. You won't find plastic or dirty outhouses, that you tend to find at other national parks. On the West Coast Trail you find and endlessly varied style of large wooden outhouses. Solidly built and ornamented over the years with curiosities washed up on the beach. The outhouses at Michigan are raised up as most are due to tanks underneath, so the toilets themselves are on what can only be described as the second floor. They open up to a walkway that feels like a sundeck as it entices you to stop and enjoy the view, until you remind yourself that you are outside a toilet. The railing to the sundeck/walkway is partly constructed of a thick anchor chain stretching across the edge. Dozens of buoys, old ship ropes, and even an ancient life buoy adorn the railings.

The outhouses on the West Coast Trail are always a nice variation of this, but the unexpectedly impressive thing you find is the toilets themselves. Surprisingly clean and roomy, they are large inside and constructed of very nice, thick and natural looking wood beams. The toilet seats are simple and tidy, and you often find a large, open wooden bench with cedar wood shavings inside. A large ladle is there and this simple and beautifully scented trick invites you to scoop a bunch of shavings into the toilet. More often then not on the West Coast Trail, the outhouses smell like a fresh, clean forest, instead of an outhouse. Extraordinary! You will find a few clearings in the forest above the beach ideal for tents as well as room for dozens of tents along the beach. Though the beach is not terribly nice lower down, up next to the forest it is fairly nice. Soft, clean sand, plenty of driftwood all around and great areas to smooth out for a tent. When the tide goes out, the rock shelf is exposed and is a bit ugly with its green slimy cover of sea life. Certainly not inviting a swim like you will find at most other beaches along the trail. 

Campsite Clearing - Michigan Creek Campsite on the West Coast Trail

Certainly the highlight of Michigan Creek is the extraordinary remnant of the Michigan shipwreck trapped on the rocky shelf revealed by low tide. The huge boiler of the Michigan is so large that it sits ominously in a depression on the rocky shelf near where it drops off to deeper ocean. From the sandy shoreline, this rusty hulk sits about 70 metres away as large waves constantly pound it. You can easily walk out to it when the tide is low and get a close look at just a couple metres away. Getting close enough to touch it will require a short and cold plunge into the ocean with swirling water all around.

The Boiler from the Michigan Shipwreck

The Michigan shipwreck on the West Coast Trail is the first one you can see and actually touch, which is incredible since it is well over a century old. On January 21st, 1893 this 695 ton steam schooner was heading to Puget Sound from San Francisco. The strong northerly current that prevails in this part of the Pacific and would eventually cause dozens of shipwrecks, caused the Michigan to massively overrun her position. Instead of sailing into Juan de Fuca Strait, she collided with Vancouver Island in the middle of the night. The shoreline was relatively easy to escape to, and the 25 people on board managed to get ashore. Later, when the seas calmed the crew was able to retrieve a boat from the wreck and rowed to Neah Bay for assistance. A ship rescue was attempted, but was not successful. One death resulted from the attempt to hike over the old telegraph trail to Carmanah Point. A testament to how wild and difficult it was then as compared to now.

Michigan Creek Campsite Map West Coast Trail

Should you camp at Michigan Creek? No, there are better options close by. If you are heading north to the trailhead and heavy rain is expected you may want to camp at Michigan so you don't have to get across Darling River. Darling River is a much nicer place to camp because it is less popular and sits next to the remarkable Darling Falls. A beautiful little hideaway, just a short walk up Darling River. Somehow every guidebook, website and blog on the West Coast Trail misses this little paradise. Certainly the highlight of the first(or last) day on the trail!

Shipwrecks Near Michigan Beach - West Coast Trail

Shipwrecks Near Michigan BeachThe captain of the Sarah sighted the recently built Carmanah Point Lighthouse and mistook it for the Tatoosh Island Lighthouse. The Sarah struggled against the south-east wind and the ship was pushed westward. Later the crew was able to regain their eastward coarse, toward what they though was the Juan de Fuca Strait. The ocean current had moved the ship considerably far north and on the evening of the 8th November, 1891, the crew was surprised to suddenly hear distant breakers. They immediately dropped anchor, then shortly after another one. But it was too late, the Sarah ran aground on the shore of what is now kilometre 7 of the West Coast Trail. One lifeboat was freed with some of the crew, however the captain, the rest of his crew and his wife and baby remained because the second lifeboat could not be freed. Throughout the following day and night they struggled to free the boat to make their escape to safety. Two of the crew drowned in attempting to reach the shore in a makeshift raft. Finally they managed to free another lifeboat and the survivors managed to get ashore. 

Shipwrecks Near Michigan BeachBuilt in 1864 the 1376 ton, 3 masted ship, Becherdass-Ambiadass was wrecked on the rocky shore only a half mile from Pachena Point. This British ship was returning from Shanghai to Moodyville (now North Vancouver) when Cape Beale was sighted. As she neared Vancouver Island early morning fog blinded her and under full sail collided with the abruptly rocky shore near the 8k mark of the West Coast Trail. Amazingly no one was seriously hurt, but the ship was wrecked. The crew used the lifeboats to save themselves. The next day a local boat carried both the crew and their belongings to Victoria. In the following weeks the ship disintegrated on the rocks. There are no remnants of wreckage from the Becherdass-Ambiadass shipwreck to see. The wreck sits under the waves not far from where the Black River meets the ocean at the 8 kilometre mark of the West Coast Trail.

Shipwrecks Near Michigan BeachFurther along the West Coast Trail at the 12k mark you will come to the Michigan. The Michigan shipwreck on the West Coast Trail is the first one you can see and actually touch, which is incredible since it is well over a century old. On January 21st, 1893 this 695 ton steam schooner was heading to Puget Sound from San Francisco. The strong northerly current that prevails in this part of the Pacific and would eventually cause dozens of shipwrecks, caused the Michigan to massively overrun her position. Instead of sailing into the Juan de Fuca Strait, she collided with Vancouver Island in the middle of the night. The 25 people on board managed to get ashore after daylight.  The the seas calmed the crew was able to retrieve a boat from the wreck and was able to get to Neah Bay for assistance. A ship rescue was attempted, but was not successful. One death resulted from the attempt to hike over the old telegraph trail to Carmanah Point. A testament to how difficult it was then as compared to how relatively easy the now relatively easy West Coast Trail.

 Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailSarah at 7k Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailBecherdass-Ambiadass at 8k Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailMichigan at 12k Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailUzbekistan at 13.8k Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailVarsity at 17.6k

More West Coast Trail Campsites

Darling River Campsite Rating - West Coast TrailJust 2 kilometres past the popular and chaotic Michigan Creek campsite you will come to the Darling River crossing. Depending on the rainfall of previous days, you may walk through the river just a couple centimetres deep or thigh deep. When it is deep and fast moving may find it difficult to get across without slipping or getting knocked over by the current. Without significant rain, you will barely get your shoes wet crossing. After you cross, you will have arrived at the Darling River campsite. Mostly nestled along the treeline, the Darling River campsite is relatively quiet compared to Michigan Creek. The significant draw to Darling River is not the campsite, but rather the idyllic waterfalls that can be found just a few hundred metres up the river. Swimming at Darling Falls is always chilly, but the serenity of this little hideaway makes you forget the water temperature and drink in the emerald green water and rainforest surrounding you.

Darling Falls Campsite near Tsocowis Creek on the West Coast Trail

Orange Juice Creek Campsite Rating - West Coast TrailJust a kilometre past the Darling River campsite you will come to another beach campsite at Orange Juice CreekOrange Juice Creek is not terribly pretty and gets its name from the intensely, orange juice coloured water that crashes through a tangled morass of driftwood logs. If you aren't keen on swimming and/or washing at Darling Falls, Orange Juice Creek is a good alternative. Much quieter than Michigan Creek and a bit quieter than Darling River, you will find a more relaxed surrounding at the campsite at Orange Juice Creek. Another less obvious aspect of Orange Juice Creek that makes it worth camping at is the small, but very livable sea cave. Some find it charming, others find it spooky. At the very least it is worth a look. A small fire in the middle, surrounded by driftwood logs for seats, in horribly, wet weather, this cave is paradise!

Orange Juice Creek on the West Coast Trail

Tsocowis Creek Campsite Rating - West Coast TrailThe Tsocowis Creek campsite at 16.5k has a decent beach with an excellent water source. Most hikers pass through the beach here on their way to Michigan if heading north or Tsusiat Falls if hiking south. The beach at Tsocowis is fairly decent and there is plenty of room for tents along the beach amongst the driftwood logs. You have the same amenities here as other West Coast Trail campsites such as deluxe outhouses and animal proof food storage boxes. Tsocowis is home to one of the West Coast Trail guard cabin's. In 1940 the survivors of the Varsity shipwreck survived by crawling their way to the shelf below what is now called Valencia Bluffs. They now found themselves on a steep shelf that they could not climb. Out of the wreckage they managed to survive exposure and construct a ladder up the cliff and found the trail that hikers now call the West Coast Trail. The three survivors made their way to Tsocowis Creek and found the Tsocowis cabin occupied by lineman who fortunately was there. The three were later picked up from Tsocowis Beach. Today the shipwreck's huge metal winch rusts in a crevice at the foot of Valencia Bluffs.

Tsocowis Beach Campsite - West Coast Trail

Michigan Creek at 12k Darling River at 14k Orange Juice Creek at 15k Tsocowis Creek at 16.5k

 

West Coast Trail Campsites

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