Best photography spots along the West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island.


ShutterTom West Coast Trail Photography Spots
Magical Scenery ShutterTom West Coast Trail Photography Spots

Introduction West Coast Trail

The West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island is one of the most popular long-distance hikes in Canada. Almost every Canadian I have met, finished parts of it or planned to do it. So, what’s all the fuzz about this trek?

The West Coast Trail stretches 75 kilometers along the Pacific Ocean and leads through the Pacific Rim National Park. There are three points to start the trail: Gordon River, , and the middle point in Nitinaht Village. Due to the popularity of the trek, Phil and I did not find any spots to start the trail from start to finish. Hence, we decided to start from the middle point southwards, where the more arduous stretches are. Make sure to register early.

WCT Field Diary

Recently, I finished the five-part field diary and published it on ExpediTom. This diary recounts the story from preparation and every single day Philippe and I had trekked along the coast of Vancouver Island. The trek lead us from Nitinaht narrows to Campers Bay, to Camp Walbrun, Trasher’s Cove, and back to Gordon river by ferry.

For further information about the West Coast Trail and the sections we hiked, as well as gear we used check out ExpediTom.

West Coast Trail Map Nitinaht Narrows to Gordon River
West Coast Trail Map Nitinaht Narrows to Gordon River

Here’s the full map provided by Parks Canada.

Photography Spots

The Lone Tree

On the way to the starting point of the West Coast Trail, you will eventually reach a single tree growing from a dead half-submerged trunk. This sight is right next to the gravel road in a small pond. When travelling by car, this would be my first stop to make. Given we were on a bus ride from Victoria, we had no chance for this subject. I recently saw this image taken by a fellow photographer on Facebook.

However, there is another piece of drift wood that caught my eye:

"Drift Wood" or rather tree in Nitinaht village
“Drift Wood” or rather tree in Nitinaht village

Tsusiat Waterfall

Some hikers went 1 day north from the Nitinaht narrows to see the a waterfall and head back south again. We didn’t.

Outlooks

There are several outlooks marked on the map which offer scenic views provided the weather fine. However, the most rewarding sights usually are in between theses places. The rock formations combined with massive drift wood logs allow for a surreal experience. One of the largest logs I have ever seen in my life lies at the beach in Nitinaht village.

Views along the West Coast Trail while climbing ladders and crossing swing bridges
Views along the West Coast Trail while climbing ladders and crossing swing bridges

Owen’s Point

Among the highlights of the West Coast Trail was hands down Owen’s Point. I was astonished I had not seen any magnificent landscape shots as are common from the Oregon coastline. Assumingly, the location being away two days trekking, scares off most photographers with delicate gear. The vertical cliffs with its distinct colorful seaweed growing where the tide reaches makes for a magnificent sight. It is well worth being early, in order to make most of the low tide.

Owen's Point among the favorite photography spots along the West Coast Trail
Owen’s Point among the favorite photography spots along the West Coast Trail

Good Luck

Provided you are lucky with the weather, you will experience one of the clearest night skies in your life. Separated by thousands of sea miles over the Pacific, the light pollution is nil. Keep your eyes on the sky an be prepared for a short window of clear weather. I tried to do a timelapse but it was rendered impossible by fog rolling in shortly after.

Jaw-dropping Milky Way over the Pacific along the West Coast Trail
Jaw-dropping Milky Way over the Pacific along the West Coast Trail

Furthermore, given the WCT facing – you guessed it – west, it offers the opportunity to capture magnificent sunsets.

Sunset along the West Coast Trail Photography Spots
Sunset along the West Coast Trail Photography Spots

Given that the entity of the West Coast Trail is in the Pacific Rim National Park, it is forbidden to use any drone (UAV). No Aerial photography allowed

Magical scenery along the West Coast Trail with wafts of mist rolling in
Magical scenery along the West Coast Trail with wafts of mist rolling in

Countless wonderful sights along the way that make for an incredible scenery with the very common low hanging mist. It felt as if in the movie Pirates of the Caribbean.

Magical scenery along the West Coast Trail with wafts of mist rolling in like in Pirates of the Caribbean
Magical scenery along the West Coast Trail with wafts of mist rolling in like in Pirates of the Caribbean

Gear

Regarding photography gear during an extended trek, it is crucial to go as light as possible. Photography gear is no exception. We carried two Sony Alpha cameras (5100, 6500) and three lenses. First, there was the ultrawide Sony 10-18mm f4, which is great for filming handheld due to the built in Optical Steady Shot. However, it lacks the ability to shoot at low light conditions or at night. The second lens was the Tamron 18-200mm f3.5-6.3, which gives me a full frame equivalent of 27-300mm. This lens allowed me to take macro and wildlife shots, but at the same time offered great compression capabilities when used from a distance. The third lens was the Sigma 16mm f1.4 which excels all former glass by its sharpness and lowlight performance.

All in all, I was confident with this setup, yet a DJI Osmo would have given me steadier footage.

Keep in mind the wet conditions and prepare accordingly!

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