The Nootka Island Trail, also called the Friendly Cove/Yuquot Trail, rambles between Louie Bay on the north side of Nootka Island (Louie Bay Trailhead) and Yuquot (Friendly Cove) on the south (Friendly Cove Trailhead).
Along the way, the challenging trail crosses exquisite beaches and tidal shelves, as well as leading inland to bypass rocky headlands and deep river mouths. This 22-mile (35-km) trail is gradually becoming a choice hiking destination, and is a complement to the West Coast Trail.
By comparison with the West Coast Trail, the Nootka Island Trail is poorly marked and infrequently maintained. Be prepared to bushwhack around fallen trees brought down by the frequent, savage winter storms that pound this section of coast. In order to avoid an exhausting amount of bushwhacking, consult tide charts for the most opportune times to cross beaches. Some rivers must be forded, which must be done at low tide if crossing at or near the ocean, as with rounding headlands. Be aware of the potential for rogue when on the rocks.
The best time to hike Nootka Island Trail is between May and September. Allow five days to complete the hike one way. Hikers must be completely self-contained and are advised to carry a handheld marine radio, as the sole source of help is from the lighthouse staff at Yuquot. Highlights of the trail include freshwater showers at Calvin Creek waterfall, swimming and body surfing in the Pacific Ocean, beachcombing, and exploring ancient First Nation middens. Visiting ancient First Nations sites can be very inspiring and enriching, and can foster a deeper understanding of the traditional way of life and ancient culture of the first inhabitants of this land, but please note that middens are protected archaeological sites, and disturbing archaeological sites in British Columbia is a criminal offense.
There is a large population of black bears on Nootka Island, and the chances are therefore good that hikers will encounter them along the beaches. At present, these bears do not associate hikers with food. Keep all supplies cached well out of reach of these animals. Other wildlife that may be encountered or viewed from the trail include cougars, grey wolves, black-tailed deer, Orca (killer whales), grey whales, California sea lions, harbour seals, sea otters, bald eagles, and shore birds.
The traditional territory of the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nation incorporates much of the western portion of Vancouver Island, having been inhabited by the Nuu-chah-nulth people for thousands of years. Friendly cove juts into Nootka Sound, the site of the historic meeting between Captain James Cook and the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations people on March 29 1778. History in this remote area was made again when the British signed a treaty with Spain at Friendly Cove in 1790.
There is a trail fee per person payable to the Mowachaht/Muchalaht First Nations Band to provide access to their facilities at Friendly Cove and the traverse of their three reserve sites on Nootka Island. Campsites on the Nootka Island Trail are located at First Beach, Skuna Bay, Calvin Falls, and Beano Creek.
Access to Louie Bay the Friendly Cove Trailhead is by floatplane from Gold River, Tahsis, Campbell River or Tofino, or by the sea on the MV Uchuck 111 from Gold River (Muchalat Inlet) to Yuquot (Friendly Cove). Hikers can also reach both trailheads by water taxi from Gold River or Tahsis to Yuquot in the south or Louie Lagoon or Ferrier Point in the north.