7 West Coast Trail RatingThe second, or second to last campsite on the West Coast Trail is at Darling River. Located just 1.6 kilometres(1 mile) from Michigan Creek, the Darling River campsite has an alright, sandy beach and a truly wonderful waterfall. Darling Falls pour into a stunning, emerald coloured pool nestled against a short cliff. The falls only drop about three or four metres as they fill the pool at the base and flowing down to the ocean in an ever-narrowing torrent of water.

  • West Coast Trail ProCampsite is far less hectic than Michigan Creek
  • West Coast Trail ProBeach is a bit nicer than Michigan Creek
  • West Coast Trail ProDarling Falls hides in a perfect, idyllic setting
  • West Coast Trail ProSwimming at Darling Falls is wonderful & secluded
  • West Coast Trail ProDarling Falls & River is a fun obstacle course
  • West Coast Trail ProDarling Falls is missed by almost every WCT hiker
  • West Coast Trail ProDarling Falls hides in a world enclosed by the forest
  • West Coast Trail ConThe beach & ocean view are not very pretty
  • West Coast Trail ConLow tide reveals a slimy & ugly shoreline
  • West Coast Trail ConThere are not a lot of great tent sites

West Coast Trail Campsites

West Coast Trail CampsitesMichigan Creek at 12km  West Coast Trail CampsitesDarling River at 14km  West Coast Trail CampsitesOrange Juice Creek at 15km  West Coast Trail CampsitesTsocowis Creek at 16.5km  West Coast Trail CampsitesKlanawa River at 23km  West Coast Trail CampsitesTsusiat Falls at 25km  West Coast Trail CampsitesCribs Creek at 42km  West Coast Trail CampsitesCarmanah Creek at 46km  West Coast Trail CampsitesBonilla Creek at 48km  West Coast Trail CampsitesWalbran Creek at 53km  West Coast Trail CampsitesCullite Cove at 58km  West Coast Trail CampsitesCamper Bay at 62km  Thrasher Cove - West Coast Trail CampsitesThrasher Cove at 70km

The campsite at Darling River is the best along this stretch of the West Coast Trail because of its wonderful waterfall. Michigan Creek is busy often chaotic. There are many aspects of this place that are beautiful. First it is a bit up from the beach and almost everyone passes it by unnoticed! Another is the emerald colour of the water is hemmed in by the deep forest that stretches over the small valley giving you a strange sense that you are inside something.  Until you look directly up as you float on your back in the water and see a narrow band of sky through the encroaching forest. On a sunny day, the sun penetrates the thick canopy only along a gap that appears to narrow by the minute. At the Darling River campsite, you are just five hours from the Pachena trailhead. That is at a reasonably good pace and including a short tour of the Pachena Point Lighthouse on the way. There are lots of areas along the beach that you can put up a tent amongst the driftwood logs. 

The Wild and Beautiful Darling Campsite

There are not a lot of amenities off the beach, except for the usual bear proof food boxes and West Coast Trail outhouses. One amusing thing you find here is the morale of the hikers that pass by. Heading to Michigan Beach, you see people on the last full day on the trail. Tired and plodding along to the last night before the end of the trail, not even walking up Darling River for a couple minutes to see the amazing waterfall!

Darling Falls West Coast Trail

Darling River Campsite Map

WCT Map IconThe Darling River campsite is located just before the 14 kilometre mark of the West Coast Trail. There is no forest trail between Darling River and Michigan Creek at KM12, and the beach route is nice and relaxing. At Michigan Creek the beach route ends and you climb back into the forest for 12km to the trailhead at Pachena Bay. In the other direction from Darling River you have both a beach route and a forest route for the next two kilometres to Tsocowis Creek where only a forest route is possible. From high up at the viewpoint at Valencia Bluffs, you will see why there is no beach route. The steep cliffs are over 100 metres high here and rocky reefs are scattered amongst the crashing waves. This brutal stretch of coastline is where you pass the most horrific shipwreck along the entire West Coast Trail, the Valencia. The Michigan and the Uzbekistan crews and passengers all survived because reaching the shore was not too difficult. The Valencia on the other hand, wrecked on a reef just a few metres from the almost vertical cliffs. Reaching the shore proved to be brutally difficult as the huge waves flipped the lifeboats or shattered them on the rocky shore. 

Darling River Campsite Map v8

The Valencia Disaster

Rescue from the sea proved to be similarly difficult and the few attempts were cut short by rough seas and cowardly crews that left dozens of terrified people clinging to the remains of the Valencia shipwreck above water. Valencia survivors endured this nightmare for 36 hours before the ship finally broke apart and the remaining survivors plunged into the brutally cold and tumultuous sea, where they quickly drowned or were smashed against the jagged reef jutting out from the tall cliffs. Many others were dragged out to sea by the current to slowly succumb to exposure in the freezing water. Only 38 survived the Valencia shipwreck and an estimated 140 died. Had the Valencia wrecked a few hundred metres down the beach near Michigan Beach, Darling River or Orange Juice Creek, all may have survived. 

The Valencia Disaster

 Shipwreck on the West Coast Trail1. The Valencia Shipwreck on the West Coast Trail2. The Voyage Shipwreck on the West Coast Trail3. The Boats Shipwreck on the West Coast Trail4. The McCarthy Boat Shipwreck on the West Coast Trail5. The Bunker Party Shipwreck on the West Coast Trail6. On the Valencia Shipwreck on the West Coast Trail7. The Rafts Shipwreck on the West Coast Trail8. The Turret Raft Shipwreck on the West Coast Trail9. The Rescue Ships Shipwreck on the West Coast Trail10. The Aftermath Shipwreck on the West Coast Trail11. The Survivors Shipwreck on the West Coast Trail12. The Lost 

The Darling River Campsite

WCT Campsite IconThe Darling River campsite is nicely laid out with a few clearings in the forest for tents as well as room for dozens of tents along the beach at the edge of the forest. There are food caches and the typically luxurious West Coast Trail outhouses. What sets the Darling River campsite apart from the nearby Michigan Creek, Orange Juice Creek and Tsocowis Creek campsites is the amazing Darling Falls. After hiking for hours it is an absolute paradise to dive into. The water flows from a narrow channel and pours into an emerald pool surrounded by forest. As most West Coast Trail hikers act like they are on a forced march and don't explore much, few take a moment to walk up Darling River and check it out. Because of this, you will often find this paradise pool deserted and serene.

Emerald Pool Darling Falls

Darling River to Darling Falls

The beach at the Darling River campsite is not terribly impressive. Compared with the beautiful sand beach at Pachena Bay, the beach here is a relatively thin band of nice sand at the tree line, then rocky down to the jagged reef extending into the ocean. The beach at Darling River is a bit better than at Michigan Creek which has a lot more reef and a lot less sand. 

Darling Beach West Coast Trail

From the beach you can follow Darling River as it meanders into the forest. The water is beautifully clear and the rocks in and around the river have been ground smooth by winter storms crashing in from the sea. Small and surprisingly large driftwood trees are scattered in and along the river and give an indication of how drastically the water level changes here. During periods of heavy rain, Darling River can go from serene and small to a huge and fast torrent crashing through the valley.

Darling River Toward Darling Falls

Huge driftwood logs lay across the river and this bizarre upside down tree trunk somehow managed to find its way into this improbable position. 

Deadfall in Darling River

Beautiful Darling Falls finally comes into view, crashing through a narrow channel and plunging into an emerald coloured pool.

Darling Falls in the Distance

Beautiful Darling Falls

Darling Falls has the feel of being in a movie set. Tranquil waterfall pouring into a crystal clear pool, surrounded by gorgeous rainforest and perfect rock ledges alongside the pool. A perfect, hidden swimming pool just a couple hundred metres from the ocean.

Spectacular Darling Falls

Darling Falls is a beautiful example of a chaotic tangle of driftwood and deadfall making an already beautiful place, somehow more beautiful. Swimming in a serene paradise, knowing that fierce winter storms blasted these huge trees in from the ocean. What an incredible contrast just a few months make in the weather here!

Amazing Darling Falls on the West Coast Trail

Beach Camping at Darling River

Most people camp at the edge of the beach where the forest spills over. The beach extends quite far, so there is quite a lot of room for tents to stretch down the beach. Old plastic floats washed onto the beach are hung from trees on the West Coast Trail to mark forest trail entrances and exits.

Darling Beach Camping West Coast Trail

The outhouses continue to be amazing at the West Coast Trail campsites. At Michigan Beach they looked like elaborate treehouses, here at Darling River, the treehouse look continues.

Luxurious Outhouse at the Darling River Campsite

Darling River Rainforest Trails

It is amazing how, just steps from the beach you are immersed in rainforest that surrounds you so completely that you can barely see the sky. In the picture below you can hardly make out the trail to the beach, despite it being frequently used. The silver box is a food cache box. Usually two or more can be found in the forest at most West Coast Trail campsites.

Darling Campsite Forest Trail

There are a few alternate routes to the beach and some of them stranger than others. This one emerges at a partly built driftwood shelter that is a welcome site when the rain starts to fall. 

Darling Driftwood Shelter West Coast Trail

When the rain falls, which it inevitably does on the West Coast Trail, a big tarp makes staying dry a lot easier.

Rain Camp Darling Beach West Coast Trail

Looking down the beach towards Michigan Beach from the driftwood camp at the Darling River campsite.

Driftwood Camp View of Darling Beach

Darling River Wildlife

Of all the campsites on the West Coast Trail, Darling River seems to be the most popular with bears. This one was digging in the rocks and driftwood next to Darling River on a rainy morning in May. We were at least a hundred metres away, but he kept an eye and ear on us until we left. One ear pointed at us, while his left ear angled away, listening for danger from the other direction.

Darling Beach Foraging Black Bear

Despite us being quite far down the beach, he didn't like the look of us and let us know by staring at us with a menacing look. His huge claws and surprisingly long legs were a reminder that if he wanted to he could run us down in a few seconds. We took the hint and backed away, down the beach and took one last picture of him from a long way away and through pouring rain. I love how my camera focussed on the driftwood and he was out of focus, making him even more scary looking.

Scary Bear Darling River West Coast Trail

In recent years they have actually had to temporarily close the Darling River campsite due to frequent black bear visitors. Maybe this guy is a longtime resident of Darling River and nobody is going to crowd him out.

Should you camp at Darling River?

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.

Shipwrecks Near Darling River

Shipwrecks Icon West Coast TrailThe Michigan's boiler is a visible remnant of that shipwreck near Michigan Creek, just a short 15 minute walk down the beach from Darling River. Darling River has a shipwreck of its own, laying at the bottom of the ocean where Darling River flows out. The 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 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.

Uzbekistan Shipwreck Darling River

Campsites Near Darling River (KM14)

Michigan Creek CampsiteKM12: Michigan Creek Campsite

The campsite at Michigan Creek is the first or last campsite you will encounter on the West Coast Trail. First, if you start at the Pachena trailhead(hiking south) and last if you begin at the Gordon River trailhead(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. Michigan Beach is not terribly pretty, though the Michigan shipwreck boiler is quite a sight. The campsite is busy and the next three campsites, Darling River, Orange Juice Creek and Tsocowis Creek are all nicer and quieter. Michigan Creek campsite continued here...

 

Orange Juice Creek CampsiteKM15: Orange Juice Creek Campsite

Just 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. Orange Juice Creek is the third(or third to last) campsite on the West Coast TrailMichigan Creek, Darling River, Orange Juice Creek and Tsocowis Creek are all along a fairly continuous beach that stretches for 5 kilometres. All are easily within a days hike from or to the Pachena trailhead. Orange Juice Creek campsite continued here...

 

Tsocowis Creek CampsiteKM16: Tsocowis Creek Campsite

The Tsocowis Creek campsite at 16.5km 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. Tsocowis Beach has a lot of interesting features to explore.  Shipwreck debris, stunning sandstone cliffs with a wonderful sea cave. Tsocowis Falls brings excellent, fresh water just steps from your tent. Ladders near the campsite take you up above and over Tsocowis Falls. The view from the top of the ladders and on the bridge are fantastic. Tsocowis Creek campsite continued here...

 

Best West Coast Trail Sights & Highlights

Best West Coast Trail Sights

West Coast Trail Campsites

Just a kilometre past the Darling River campsite you will come to another beach campsite at Orange Juice Creek. Orange Juice Creek is not terribly pretty and gets its name from the intensely, orange juice coloured water that crashes through a tangled morass of ...
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Thrasher Cove is the first, or last West Coast Trail campsite you will encounter. It has a lot of good aspects as well as some bad. In terms of good, the beach is very pretty and quite interesting. Not a broad and long beach, the beach at Thrasher is quite varied ...
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Camper Bay campsite at the 62km mark of the West Coast Trail is very nice, similar to Cullite Cove there are cliffs on either side and a large creek flowing through. The downside is crowding due to the difficulty of the trail making it an almost essential campsite ...
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One of the most popular and beautiful campsites along the West Coast Trail is Tsusiat Falls. Tsusiat 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 ...
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West Coast Trail A to Z

William Philip Daykin was the first lightkeeper of the Carmanah Point Lighthouse from 1891 to 1912. In books and newspapers he is either written as Phil Daykin or W.P. Daykin. He and his wife Helen Strelley Marriott Daykin had five sons, Charles Thomas Daykin, ...
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Juan de Fuca Strait is the 154km long and 16km to 32km wide stretch of ocean that separates Vancouver Island from the northwest corner of Washington State. The international boundary between Canada and the United State runs down the centre of the strait. It was named ...
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The Pachena Point 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 ...
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The West Coast Trail by Day

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The West Coast Trail was created after decades of brutal and costly shipwrecks occurred along the West Coast of Vancouver Island.  One shipwreck in particular was so horrific, tragic and unbelievable that it forced the creation of a trail along the coast, which ...
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