Darling River Campsite - West Coast TrailDay 1 on the West Coast Trail hiking south from the Pachena trailhead is a fairly relaxing first day. Your first beach, Pachena Beach is a lovely, wide, sandy arch that stretches to a thick wall of forest on either end. As you look past the beautiful beach and size up the thick wilderness that hides the start of the trail, you can't help but be struck by the vast jungle rainforest. The trees are so thick that they spill over the ocean and you can't see even a few metres beyond the abrupt, rocky coastline.

What is most striking about the view from the beach is the utter lack of humanity. No signs, no people, nothing. You can imagine this view as it would have been a thousand years ago. Or just a century ago when the Graveyard of the Pacific was earning its ominous name. If you look out from Pachena Beach, not far past the entrance of the bay you will be looking over the shipwreck sites of the Alaskan and the Soquel. Hidden from view under the waves, you won't get to see and touch your first West Coast Trail shipwreck until you get to Michigan Creek at 12k. Here you will find the massive boiler of the Michigan that wrecked here in 1893.

Starting the West Coast Trail from Pachena Beach you will notice the trail markers start from here and you will soon spot the 1 kilometre marker. They continue until the 75 kilometre marker just before the trailhead exit at Gordon River. Hiking to the 14 kilometre mark at Darling River is a good distance for your first day on the trail. Having a nice place to camp is a very important part of the West Coast Trail. As you will likely be camping at 5, 6 or 7 different campsites out of a possible 13 campsites along the trail, picking the best ones make your adventure much more memorable.

West Coast Trail Day 1 Map

You come to your first ladder right away as you begin ascending up and away from the beach. You catch the occasional nice glimpse of Pachena Bay as you hike along pretty flat terrain. The destructive power of the winters here is evident in areas along the trail where trees have smashed down on the trail. Trees bent and broken over the trail. If the fallen trees don't block the trail too much, it will be left. Something you see very often in the form of enormous trees arching over the trail, forcing you to duck under. It is a nice thing that these are left as each one becomes a marvel. You can't help but replay in your head the moment the tree came crashing down.

Deadfall on the West Coast Trail Day 1

Shipwrecks 5k-8k - West Coast Trail Day 1

Alaskan Shipwreck on Day 1 of the West Coast TrailJust outside the mouth of Pachena Bay near the 5 kilometre mark, you will pass the first two shipwrecks on the West Coast Trail. Unfortunately you will have to use your imagination as there are no visible(above water) remnants of the Alaskan shipwreck of 1923, or the Soquel shipwreck of 1902. The Alaskan was a small, wooden hulled steamship of 150 tons built in Oregon in 1886. She was owned by a Vancouver freight company and was on route to Kildonan in Barkley Sound with 100 tons cargo. The Alaskan was last seen from Pachena Point apparently unable to round Cape Beale due to high winds she evidently had turned back. Distress flares were reportedly spotted in the evening from witnesses. No one witnessed its destruction of the Alaskan, and it is believed to have foundered just after 7pm on January 2nd, 1923, killing the entire crew of 11. Three bodies washed ashore with considerable debris on the beaches west of Pachena Point. You will pass the presumed location of the Alaskan shipwreck at about the 4k mark on the West Coast Trail, however there is no visible indication of the wreck for hikers to see.

Soquel Shipwreck on Day 1 of the West Coast TrailThe Soquel shipwreck, which lies just past Seabird Rocks, was a much larger ship than the Alaskan at 698 tons. She was a four masted schooner built in San Francisco, California in 1902. The Soquel was sailing with ballast from Callao, Peru, heading for Port Townsend (near Seattle), when bad weather and high seas carried her far off course. The crew of 12 battled the storm as it continued to worsen, toppling two of the ship's four masts. The captains wife and daughter were killed by falling spars when the masts came crashing down on them. Throughout the night they struggled to reach a safe place to escape the storm. At some point during the the night she ran aground. The next morning, on January 22nd, 1909, the Soquel was spotted, aground on Seabird Rocks. The recently organized Bamfield lifesaving crew began a rescue operation. They battled the huge waves with their steamer, however unable to get close enough to perform a rescue. A few hours later, a second steamer arrived on the scene and together they managed to save five of the crew. Darkness prevented further rescue and the seven remaining crew had to wait out the night on the wrecked ship. The next morning calmer seas enable the rescue the remaining survivors as well as the bodies of the captain's wife and child. You will pass the presumed location of the Soquel shipwreck at about the 5 kilometre mark on the West Coast Trail, however there is no visible indication of the wreck for hikers to see.

Sarah Shipwreck on Day 1 of the West Coast TrailThe 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. They were rescued by one of the many indigenous tribes residing on Vancouver Island. It seems safe to assume that it was the Huu-ay-aht First Nations which resided there, as they do now, at Pachena Bay. The Huu-ay-aht brought the shipwreck survivors to a trader's post where they found passage to Victoria on a local schooner. 16 of the crew of 18 and the captain's wife and baby survived the Sarah shipwreck.

Shipwrecks on Day 1 of the West Coast TrailBuilt 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.

Sea Lion Haul Out Rock at 9k - West Coast Trail Day 1

At about the 9 kilometre mark on the West Coast Trail you will come to your first marvellous view of wildlife. Sea Lion Haul Out Rock is a gathering place for Steller sea lions. Every year in May, reproductively mature sea lions return to this rookery. A rookery is a clearly defined breeding ground for colony forming sea birds and marine mammals. Dominant males stake out territories on the rookery and a few days later adult females arrive, usually pregnant from the previous season. Shortly after arriving, the females give birth and start mating again within a couple weeks. Females go foraging for food after nursing for a week, however reproductive males usually remain on the rookery, usually without entering the water until August! August is when the colony disperses back to the ocean, returning again the following spring.

Sea Lion Haul Out Rock on the West Coast Trail

Pachena Lighthouse at 10k - West Coast Trail Day 1

Pachena Lighthouse on the West Coast TrailThe Pachena Lighthouse is an interesting bit of west coast history that you can visit. You can only see the grounds outside and not in the lighthouse itself. The view down from the 100 foot cliffs surrounding the lighthouse are beautiful and a vivid look at how powerful the crashing waves are. Pachena Point is the menacing point of land out to the left if you are standing next to the lighthouse. Pachena Point was originally named Beghadoss Point after the Becherdass-Ambiadass shipwreck that occurred here on July 27th, 1879. The name Beghadoss was the original name of the Becherdass-Ambiadass. When the lighthouse was completed in 1907 the name of the point and lighthouse were changed to Pachena Point and Pachena Lighthouse. The name is thought to come from the word pacheenah. A word that the Indigenous hunters along the coast used for seafoam. It is also reported that Pachena was easier for Canadians to pronounce than Beghadoss. It is a stark reminder to how treacherous the Graveyard of the Pacific is here, that despite the newly constructed lighthouse, shipwrecks continued to occur in the area. The Soquel wrecked near here in 1909, the Varsity in 1940 and the Uzbekistan in 1943!

Pachena Lighthouse on the West Coast Trail

Michigan Beach Campsite at 12k - West Coast Trail Day 1

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. 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 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.

Michigan Beach 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.

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!

Michigan Shipwreck at 12k - West Coast Trail Day 1

The Michigan Shipwreck on Day 1 of the West Coast TrailFurther 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.

Michigan Beach on the West Coast Trail

Darling River Campsite at 14k - West Coast Trail Day 1

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

Should you camp at the Darling River campsite? Definitely. Darling Falls and Darling River make this mediocre West Coast Trail beach and campsite exceptional. Darling Falls is one of those rare waterfalls that you find in movies where our heroes stumble upon after getting lost. It is a hidden, emerald coloured world that entices you to throw off your clothes and dive into. Washing off the the sweat and grime of the day.

Darling River Campsite Map - West Coast Trail

Uzbekistan Shipwreck at 14k - West Coast Trail Day 1

Shipwrecks on Day 1 of the West Coast TrailThe Uzbekistan was a steel steamship of 2569 tons. Built in 1937 in France and became a shipwreck on April 1st, 1943. A Russian ship, the Uzbekistan was part of the lend-lease program during World War II, where the US shipped war materials to Russia. She left Portland for Seattle to pick up a load of war materials destined for Vladivostok. On April 1st 1943 the Uzbekistan encountered stormy weather and bad visibility, mistaking the light at Swiftsure Bank for that of Umatilla Reef. She steered toward what was thought to be the Juan de Fuca Strait. Because of the strong northerly current, she was far north of her supposed location. At 11pm the Uzbekistan collided with the the rocky shelf just down from today's Darling River. The entire crew made it to shore safely and made camp. They then managed to hike their way to Bamfield and were eventually picked up by a Royal Canadian Navy ship. Today, if you are lucky you can spot the Uzbekistan's boilers and parts of her propulsion machinery at very low tide at the edge of the reef. You will more easily spot pieces of steel scattered around the mouth of Darling River.

  Hiking Route West Coast TrailDay 1 Pachena to Darling Hiking Route West Coast TrailDay 2 Darling to Tsusiat Hiking Route West Coast TrailDay 3 Tsusiat to Carmanah Hiking Route West Coast TrailDay 4 Carmanah to Walbran

Hiking Route West Coast TrailDay 5 Walbran to Cullite Hiking Route West Coast TrailDay 6 Cullite to Camper Hiking Route West Coast TrailDay 7 Camper to Thrasher

 Michigan Creek at 12k Darling River at 14k Orange Juice Creek at 15k Tsocowis Creek at 16.5k Klanawa River at 23k

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

Walbran Creek at 53k Cullite Cove at 58k Camper Bay at 62k Thrasher Cove at 70k

Shipwreck on the West Coast TrailPrologue Shipwreck on the West Coast Trail1: The West Coast Trail Shipwreck on the West Coast Trail2: When to Hike & Fees Shipwreck on the West Coast Trail3: Trailheads Shipwreck on the West Coast Trail4: Getting There

Shipwreck on the West Coast Trail5: Considerations Shipwreck on the West Coast Trail6: Campsites Shipwreck on the West Coast Trail7: Shipwrecks Shipwreck on the West Coast Trail8: Routes