Cape Scott Trail
The Cape Scott Trail offers sandy beaches, rugged cliffs, blowholes, caves, waterfalls, bogs, rainforest, lighthouses, abandoned settlements, shipwreck relics, First Nations culture, whales, sea lions, eagles, and giant trees. Our pace allows time to adjust to the demands of the trail and to fully see and explore this magnificent coastal environment. Readings and anecdotal stories help the hiker fully appreciate the dramatic and colourful history of the events and people who were a part of this coastline. There are stories from the thousands of years of First Nations history, to the settlement attempts of Danish immigrants in 1897 and American settlers in 1910, the radar defence installations of WWII and the present day challenges of the Cape Scott Lighthouse.
Activity Level Moderate
Group Size Medium
Dates and PricesBook Now
A complete itinerary along with maps, clothing and equipment list, will be issued upon registration.
Day 0-Arrival in Nanaimo. This denotes the day(s) spent on Vancouver Island before the listed start date of the trip. We like to have a pre-trip meeting the evening before this trip to go over gear and backpack weights.
- Day 1 - L,D Pick up and travel to Port Hardy and then the trailhead
This morning we will pick you up from your accommodations in Nanaimo, and drive to Port Hardy, approx. four and a half hours, with a lunch stop along the way. We may have a short stop in Campbell River for lunch or to pick up any last-minute items. At Port Hardy, we turn off toward the west to the Cape Scott trailhead. Once we reach the trailhead, we will do a final pack adjustment and then head off for a short (with some challenges) 3km hike to our first camp in the woods at Eric Lake.
- Day 2 – B/L/D Eric Lake to Guise Bay 17km, Experiment Bight 15km or Nel's Bight 14km
Today we will complete the 14km's of trail through temperate Rainforest and out to the grassland lagoons and through the land's used by the hardy adventurers who tried to settle this land. Depending on how the group is feeling, as well as the weather and wind direction we will choose to set up camp at either Guise Bay (a more private beach with generally less campers), Experiment Bight (an "unofficial" camp with no amenities) or Nel's Bight, the largest and primary beach in the area.
- Day 3 – B/L/D Day Hike to Cape Scott Lighthouse + exploring 8-10kms
Many of the areas close by are full of First Nations and later settlement history giving us lots of options for exploring. We may decide on a full day-hike out to one of the few remaining lighthouses that has not been automated on BC's coast and/or we might visit Guise Bay or 'Yichaledaz' – "Where Canoes Run Ashore in Heavy Swell" to see some of the remains from the WWII facilities. The area around Guise Bay includes a unique land feature known as "the Neck". It is a narrow grassy sand dune that allows access to either side of the Cape Scott Peninsula. Kayakers occasionally use the area as a "portage" option if the wind is blocking there way off one side of the beach! The Neck is also the remains of one hardy settler attempt to tame this windy area. Old fence posts and a gravesite are all that remain.
- Day 4 – B/L/D Transition Day/ Layover day at Nel's Bight – 3km
Today we will either have a leisurely morning and the saunter back over to Nel's bight for camp. Having simply transitioned through this area on the way in, we will now have an opportunity to explore the largest beach in the area and pick up any news and stories from the Rangers Cabin mid-way down the beach. More time will allow for some stories read from our out of print book detailing the lives of the settlers from those who actually lived in the area! Or we will transition over to Nissen's bight 6.5km away. This hike takes us back through Hansen's lagoon and our shorter day allows us to explore this unique landscape of grasslands surrounded by the coastal rainforest which we pushed through on our long day in.
- Day 5 – B/L/D Nel's Bight to Nissen's Bight – 6.5km
The destination for the night is Nel's bight, the eastern most beach in the original Cape Scott Park. Generally, a quieter destination, it often allows for more wildlife sightings including the potential for Orca, Humpback and Grey Whales as well sea otters, seals and on land bears and coastal wolves. Or if already camped here we will do a day hike along the start of North Coast Trail section at the end of the beach. Destinations might include Laughing Loon lake or the beach on the other side of the point at Laura creek.
- Day 6 – B/L Nissen's Bight to trailhead – 15kms
Today we get an early start as we retrace our steps away from this unique Northern Island ecosystem. After a steady pace we will stop at Eric Lake, the site of our first camp, for our last wilderness meal. Three km's later we will have reached the trailhead and will start the long journey south to Nanaimo.
inclusions and exclusions at a glance
- Transportation from the point of origin and return
- Snacks/beverages on the expedition
- All meals while on the backpacking portion**
- Meal preparation
- Camping fees
- Exceptional guides for entire journey
- Cooking gear/camp stoves/water filtration
- Tents & tarps
- Emergency radio/satellite phone/major first aid supplies
- We can provide sleeping bags, sleeping pads, backpacks, poles for rent
**You will be responsible for food you may want on the travel days
- Transportation to point of origin, transfers, personal equipment, and accommodation & food other than included in the itinerary.
- Gratuities are not included. Our guides make every effort to ensure your holiday is all you expected and more. Recognition of a job well done is always appreciated; $10-20 per day per guide is recommended.
Vancouver Many of the major North American carriers fly into Vancouver or alternately, Seattle. Check with your travel agent for options. There is a bus service, Quick Shuttle , from Seattle's airport to hotels in Vancouver. These run daily and are reasonably priced. For more information, in North America, phone 1/800/665-2122 or 1/604/940-4428 – Fax 1/604/940-4429. Check the link regarding shuttles and other airport information.
Nanaimo Several bigger carriers fly into Nanaimo, usually after a change in Vancouver. Check with your travel agent for options that take you all the way to Nanaimo. Alternatively, the Horseshoe Bay ferry in West Vancouver sails to Departure Bay, Nanaimo. The Tsawwassen ferry terminal also has sailings to the Duke Point ferry terminal in Nanaimo.
Nanaimo The following hotels are recommended accommodations and are pick up locations.
Naniamo Pick up & Hotels
Pick up: Departure Bay, Duke Point Ferry Terminal, or the following Accommodations:
Days Inn Harbour View Nanaimo
Address: 809 Island Hwy South, Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada, V9R 5K1
Phone (250) 754-8171
Best Western Dorchester Hotel
Address: 70 Church, Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada, V9R 5H4
Phone: (250) 754-6835
Painted Turtle Guesthouse
Address: 121 Bastion Street, Nanaimo, British Columbia CANADA, V9R 3A2
Toll Free: 1-866-309-4432
Phone: (250) 753-4432
This is a rugged hike for some portions. The best boots for this kind of backpacking are solid-able to take rough talus slopes, water proof, and with a full, stiff shank for ankle support. If you get new boots, it is important to break them in before your trip to ensure that they are comfortable and to minimize the risk of blisters. It is also a good idea to bring a pair of comfortable sandals or water shoes for wearing around camp and for crossing streams or other bodies of water.
For a multiday backpacking trip in varied terrain, you will want a backpack with a capacity of at least 65-85 liters, depending on the size of your gear and the type of trip you are taking.
Some key features to look for in a backpack for this type of trip include:
Comfort: Look for a backpack with a comfortable and well-padded hip belt and shoulder straps, as well as a good ventilation system to prevent your back from getting too hot and sweaty.
Durability: Choose a backpack made from strong and durable materials, such as ripstop nylon, to withstand the rigors of the trail.
Weather resistance: Consider a backpack with a waterproof or water-resistant cover or built-in rain cover to protect your gear from the elements.
Load-carrying ability: Look for a backpack with a sturdy frame and good load-carrying capacity to support the weight of your gear.
Organization: Choose a backpack with plenty of pockets, compartments, and attachment points to help you keep your gear organized and easily accessible.
Size: Make sure the backpack fits you well and is the right size for your body and your gear.
It is also a good idea to try on a few different backpacks and load them with weight to get a feel for how they carry before making your final decision.
Hiking poles can be a helpful tool for a rugged backpacking trip, as they can provide additional support and stability on rough or uneven terrain. They can also help to reduce the impact on your joints and muscles by distributing some of the load to your upper body.
However, whether or not to use hiking poles is ultimately a personal decision, and it may depend on factors such as your physical abilities, the terrain you will be hiking on, and your personal preference. Some people find that hiking poles help them to maintain balance and reduce fatigue, while others prefer to hike without them.
If you do decide to use hiking poles, it is important to choose a pair that is comfortable, lightweight, and adjustable to your height. It is also a good idea to practice using them before your trip to get a feel for how they work and to ensure that you are using them correctly.
Tips, or gratuities, are not mandatory. However, please consider what service is actually being given to you. While you might think that the company should just pay the guides better, it is not so simple. We do work in a competitive market, and pay rates are a function of the trip prices. If we could double prices, we would pay guides significantly better. At Sea to Sky, we have some of the better pay rates in the industry, and we are always pushing our competitors to increase pay rates for guides, but there is only so much we can do. Guides are seasonal workers. They shift off of their summer season to winter activities, or fill in with retail work, which is usually little more than minimum wage, often to periods of no work between seasonal jobs. It is a hard job, and wearing on the body.
The guides carry most of the group gear, so they have heavier loads than you have, all for you, because they would not be carrying much of the extras on a personal trip. Your guides are teaching you, helping you through challenges, cooking for you and serving you your meals, providing a safety envelope for you, and if you have a really good guide, they are filling you up with a deeper experience of being in the place you are visiting by telling you about the flora, fauna and history of the place.
So, how much should you tip your guides?
If you ate every meal out in a day, at a good, but low-cost restaurant, you would probably tip between $10 and $15 per day. If you were travelling and visiting a city and ate all your meals out, this is about how much you would tip for the day, low end. I would submit that the guides are feeding you all three meals in a day, AND serving you in so many more ways. That makes $10-$15 a day a minimum consideration, really. 10% to 15% of a trip price has been another rule of thumb that has been used. If your trip price is $2000, then $200 to $300 split between the guides is reasonable, and falls within that standard. Like most humans, guides are motivated when they are recognized and valued.
Your circumstances matter. If you are a student and clearly struggled to put together the cost of the trip, or have other circumstances that limit your ability to tip, guides understand and honour your appreciation, no matter what the size. However, if you have a large income or high net worth and means, a small tip might be a slap in the face. If you have means and you clearly and vocally appreciated the guides and all they did, and then leave a $50 tip after a 7 to 9 day trip, that amount would probably be insulting. If you have a fairly large income or net worth, you likely spend it on higher end restaurants, and maybe higher cost wine, drinks or desserts. You might even give a $50 tip for a dinner meal out-for ONE meal, so just consider your ability to tip and the level of service you received over the whole trip.
The largest tip any of our guides has received from one person is $1,500.00 for a 9-day trip. This was highly unusual, and was because we went way out of the way to replace her boots in the middle of the trail because her boots were falling apart, and was on top of paying for the boots and the transport out to the trail. That was extraordinary service, and an extraordinary tip. On average, guides usually receive about $75 to $125 from each guest for each guide.
At Sea to Sky, we also split the tips between the lead and assistant guides, and proportionally with any drivers. We have a strong culture of teamwork and both the lead and assistant guides play essential roles for you, so we ensure both share equally in the tips for the trip. Tips are not shared or taken by owners and managers not on your trip, unless you send it separately and specify it is for service before or after a trip.