It was a mad rush out of the city as we winded through a Friday evening’s traffic collecting our merry band of friends. When we were trapped in the gridlock on Hwy 1 with only a half hour before the ferry to the Sunshine Coast left, the forested trail seemed to be a distant dream. However, we made it onto the ferry with almost the ramp lifting and the ship departing just after our wheels rolled on to the deck. We were off!
The Sunshine Coast Trail is lesser known than the world renown West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island but honestly, it should be just as famous. Traversing lush temperate rainforests, arbutus lined coastline, gorgeous lakes and more, the Sunshine Coast Trail travels from Sarah Point at the tip of Malaspina Peninsula at the mouth of Desolation Sound all the way over mountains and around forested lakes to Saltery Bay. This 180km trek and its canoe route counterpart is a testament to community spirit as it is completely developed by volunteers from all the trail signage, wonderful huts to negotiating with logging companies to save the forested areas around the trail. There are multiple start and exit points making for a variety of possibilities from day hikes to weekend escapes to weeklong jaunts to the full haul of the whole trail. It is completely free to hike and includes amazing cabins/huts at scenic locations for hikers. We did about an 14km roundtrip hike from Saltery Bay to Fairview Bay.
From Vancouver, it takes two ferries plus an 84km windy drive between them. We caught the 6:35 ferry from Horseshoe Bay to Langdale arriving on the Sunshine Coast at 7:15pm. However, this is the lower Sunshine Coast and the trail is on the upper portion. The next ferry from Earl’s Cove to Saltery Bay left at 9:40pm so by the time we reached the trailhead, it was pitch black and close to 11pm! There is the large Saltery Bay Provincial Campground nearby but after such a long time in the truck getting here, we were excited to get on the trail. It was a night hike with our headlamps as we shouldered our backpacks and started on the easy to follow trail. We were welcomed to the Sunshine Coast Trail by uphill grind named “The Escalator” where steep, tight switchbacks climbed through the forest for seemingly forever but was actually only about 1km. When we returned to the ocean on the other side of the hill, it was Pirate’s Cove where we could camp on the rocky headland. Pirate’s Cove is about 1/3 the distance to Fairview Bay.
The weather was overcast in the morning with mist wrapping around the mountains. We hiked a long the rocky arbutus lined coastline for awhile before joining with an old powerline access road. Alongside the road was so many berry bushes and all full of plump delicious fruit! There were thimbleberries, blueberries, salal berries and blackberries! Yum!
After a short easy walk by the powerlines, we returned back into the undulating forested hills. With the local forest fires in the region, ash had fallen and dusted the many spiderwebs lacing between the underbrush. I had no idea until now just how many cobwebs there are in the forest! I guess it’s kind of a tough time for the spiders though being so visible!
We hiked up, we hiked down, we hiked up again and then down again and repeat. There were no climbs or descents that were very steep or long in distance but we were almost never flat! The trail went right along the cliff side with beautiful views of Jervis Inlet then cut across a headland and descended into Fairview Bay.
Fairview Bay is a little slice of paradise. It, to me, is the quintessential definition of a hidden gem found off the beaten track. Set in a quiet bay full of oysters and mussels, dedicated volunteers have built a lovely cabin, outhouse, picnic tables and a fire pit. The cabin has a covered patio, enclosed hanging out area with a table, benches and lots of windows that look out into the gorgeous landscape. On top, there is a sleeping loft that fits 12 people. The only way to get to Fairview Bay is either by boat or hiking in but once you arrive, you don’t want to leave!
That was kind of our story though the rain also didn’t help motivate us to leave either. We are so happy about the rain because the forest really needs it. We live in a temperate rainforest and it is nice to have days after days of sunshine but at some point, the landscape begins to suffer. Though we were happy about the rain, we also weren’t too excited to hike in it, especially when we found such a nice place to hang out! We ate and played many fun rounds of cards in the afternoon. The rain continued non-stop through the day and night but stopped in the morning for our hike back to Saltery Bay.
We weren’t in a rush to get back so we had a leisurely morning at Fairview Bay. Bryan and Trouton dove for crabs and got four big ones! We boiled them up in salt water and ate them for breakfast. There is something amazing about seafood so fresh!
We hiked back to Saltery Bay, continuing along the overgrown road by the powerline instead of going by Pirate’s Cove. The road is a more direct route and put us in berry paradise for longer. We are not the only ones enjoying the berries as we saw some bear poop on the trail as well!
Overall, it was an amazing weekend with awesome friends. It was a great hike to get us warmed up for Nootka Island next week and we feel a lot more comfortable and confident in our hiking (and packing) abilities! It was great to find the little cabin at Fairview Bay, which was a lot nicer than expected. Our weekend here has inspired me to come back and do more hikes on the Sunshine Coast trail!
Check out more photos of the trip by checking out the gallery here!