Hike: Wild Side Trail (Flores Island)

Somewhere along the way this year, backpacking went from being Dana’s hobby that I (un)willingly tagged along for, to a pastime that I also look forward to tremendously.

A few weeks before Dana and I left for our whirlwind 2017 BC road trip, I stumbled across a blog post with a round-up of under-the-radar hikes/backpacks (of course I can’t find the post to link to now). The Wild Side Trail on Flores Island was listed.  Some quick googling educated me that Flores Island is accessible from Tofino by a 30-40 minute water taxi, and that the trail doesn’t require advance reservations.

Since we… enjoyed (I say with reluctance)… the West Coast Trail last summer, I figured another coastal island hike would be right up our alley. Although both trails have that in common, we vastly preferred the Wild Side Trail although the West Coast Trail is certainly a commendable adventure.

Due to a small missing toothpaste mishap at the Surf Junction Campground, Dana and I were nearly late catching the 10:30 water taxi to Ahousaht. Luckily we caught it by the skin of our teeth, and off we jetted for Flores Island.  (Although we found out after that the 10:30/4:00 water taxi times shown on the Wild Side Trail website are just a rough guideline – there are usually taxis going back and forth all day.)  We rode out with two day hikers who ended up keeping us company for the first couple of kms.

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When you reach Ahousaht, you can buy Wild Side permits at a booth right at the dock. The young man working there warned the day hikers about a wolf attack on a dog the previous day, so we were very conscious of the wolves for our stay.  To reach the trail head, you first walk about a mile through the reserve.  The map was a bit unclear, but walk through the new development and go right to where the pavement runs out, then follow the rough road to the trail head.

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We were treated to a gorgeous bluebird sky day and the kilometers went by relatively quickly, with the day hikers along to chat with. I worked up a sweat as it was a hot day out, with lots of beach walking.

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Depending on the tide, you can hike in the trees more, but Dana and I stuck to the beach as much as we could. The sand was totally different from the West Coast Trail – in a good way! – and it made for easy hiking.  We couldn’t get enough of the beautiful views.

There was one cool part of the trail, near the path for the emergency shelter, where you could cut through a cave to get to the other side. Depends on the tide – super cool though!

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We ran in to just a couple people that entire day (again, very different than the West Coast Trail), and when we set up our camp on the beach, we were the only ones on Cow Bay. We set up our camp near the creek, with the protection of some trees to block the wind off the ocean.  We did have one other party show up later in the day, but they camped on the tent pads near the bear locker, so we had the beach to ourselves!


Dana needed to fix our camp stove (handy husband that he is), but then we set off to explore the bay in our bare feet. The nearest outcrop was actually 2 km away but we had such a great time exploring and cooling off our feet in the water.

We found a few semi-warm pools of water the high tide had left behind and were excited to have a little bath, but didn’t realize there were little biting shrimp-os* lurking in the water. (*probably not actually shrimps, but we’re landlubbers) So much laughter was had as we jumped around looking for shrimps on each other.  We kept referring to them as the Lachyrmos Leeches (from Lemony Snicket’s “A Series of Unfortunate Events” books).

By the time we got back to camp, we were more than ready for dinner. After filling our grumbling bellies, we passed the rest of the evening sitting on the rocks watching the ocean and relaxing.  Such a beautiful place!


As is typical on backpacking trips, I had an annoyingly broken sleep that night, but we woke up to yet another gorgeous blue sky day with the sound of the waves crashing in the bay. It was hard to be grumpy waking up in paradise!


We had our breakfast and coffee then very slowly and reluctantly packed up camp. It was so hard to leave!  If we didn’t have a hotel booked that night in Tofino, we definitely would have stayed another night on the bay.


I think we got rolling around 10:00 but we had a very relaxed pace as we soaked up the sun and the views and perused tide pools for marine life on the way back. Some other backpackers had warned us about crossing the creek at high tide, but we went a bit upstream to where the wolves had crossed, and we were fine.  The cold water felt so refreshing with the heat of the day and our tired feet!


We decided to spend an hour on the beach there and I even ventured in for a swim. It was so, so cold!  The fine powdery sand felt so nice though and the sun definitely had heat to it.


Eventually Dana herded us onwards down the beach. The forest exits off the beach were not always obvious though, plus we were enjoying the beach so much, that we did some rock scrambling and wading around rocks (with the tide in) so we could stay on the beach.


I never wanted the day to end. We had so much fun!

When we got back to Ahousaht, catching a water taxi back was no issue and I even made friends with a reserve dog. I thought he might come home with me, but I don’t know how Penny would feel about that…

In summary, we loved the Wild Side Trail and can’t recommend it highly enough. Plan for two nights at least!  If you’re considering the West Coast Trail, try the Wild Side first just to see what a kinder, gentler version would be like.  The West Coast Trail is gritty and hard, and because of its length, it can beat you down mentally and physically.  The Wild Side is its shorter, more light-hearted cousin (and no ladders!).

Hike: Lower Elk Lake Backcountry Campground

I considered titling this post “Hike: Mystery Destination” and leaving the actual name out, as this hike is too good to be true.

On Saturday bright and early, we drove out to the Elk Pass parking lot out in Kananaskis, which is in the vicinity of the Upper Kananaskis Lakes parking lot. On the way out, we saw a grizzly feeding in the ditch!  Haley, Dana, and I were all packed for an overnight trip, but Megan and Wade came along just for the hike in to Elk Lake.


The first kilometer is a pretty good climb on an access road, which got our heart rates up. After that, it’s a reasonably easy 10 km hike through pretty scenery into the backcountry campsite.  Lots of board walks and roots along the path, which reminded Dana and I of the West Coast Trail (WCT). We saw a fair bit of bear scat along the way, but no actual bears thankfully.


Elk Lake campsites can’t be reserved – they are first come, first served – hence our early start time. We were pleasantly surprised to find a very quiet campground, with only a couple of neighbours who arrived later in the day.  The lake itself is absolutely stunning!


Meg and Wade stayed for lunch and some pictures, then headed back to their car. A 20 kilometer hike that day for them!  Not too shabby for Meg, who famously isn’t very fond of hiking.

After we got our camp set up and our food stowed away in the bear lockers, then Haley, Dana, and I set off to explore in the direction of the Upper Elk Lake. We took the under-contruction pathway which was in various shades of development.


When we reached the shoreline, we noticed a fisherman set up on the opposite shore of the lake, so crossed a log over the river, scrambled a bit along the mountainside, and had a little visit with him.


To get back to the campsite, we took the overgrown old pathway back. There were lots of huge logs to crawl over, and part of the path was overtaken by a flooded section.  Of course, instead of admitting defeat and heading back, we scampered across some fallen logs and then carried on our merry way.  Haley was only momentarily petrified.


Our little hiking adventure added 6 or 7 kms on to the day’s total, but we felt light as air without our packs on.

We prepared and ate our freeze-dried dinners, then played a few card games to pass the time. It rained on and off, but not too bad until close to 10.


Then we tidied up camp and headed to bed.  It was pretty cold when we got into bed – we could see our breath – so I slept with a toque and long-sleeve on.  Poor Haley nearly froze, so she had a rough sleep.

Somehow, Dana and I slept until 8:30. Dana tried his best to start a morning campfire, but everything was too wet.  We all felt better though with some warm oatmeal and coffee/tea/hot chocolate in our bellies.


Our hike out was pretty uneventful. The hike out is pretty uphill initially so it helped us all get warmed up.  With the mud and tree roots, again we were reminded of the WCT!  A bit of a cold breeze was blowing as we got closer to the car, so we made good time as we speedily hiked out.

I carried about 25 lbs in my pack and it felt pretty good, other than something in my pack bruised my back pretty badly. Going to figure out how to avoid that issue, because I don’t need anything to complain about next week on the WCT!


I can’t say enough good things about Lower Elk Lake and the campground’s facilities. The backpack trip was a ton of fun!  I know we will go back soon!