Nine days into our 10-day, 178-kilometre journey on the Sunshine Coast Trail, I ran out of toilet paper. But there was no way I could hold it until the next outhouse at Rainy Day Lake, so a corner of the Powell River recreation map was sacrificed for the cause.
While the SCT isn’t as difficult as the North Coast Trail on Vancouver Island, which took me six days to backpack in August, it offers its own special set of challenges. Traversing B.C.’s Upper Sunshine Coast from Sarah Point on Desolation Sound to Saltery Bay on Jervis Inlet, the SCT offers no beach hiking, climbs up and over a few mountains, and covers three times as much distance as the NCT.
It’s largely a forest trail—one that visits old-growth groves, clear-cuts, and everything in between. Eleven huts provide shelter along the way, so hikers can plan to spend all but two nights under their roofs. Hotels in the city of Powell River, which is a good place to resupply, often profit from one of the remaining nights, while the other typically involves tent camping near Lois Lake.
Completed around 2000 and continually being improved, the SCT exists thanks to the tireless volunteers at the Powell River Parks and Wilderness Society. PRPAWS founder and president Eagle Walz wrote the guidebook for the SCT, which is part of the National Hiking Trail. According to the book, the cumulative elevation gain of the SCT is comparable to the height of Mount Kilimanjaro (5,895 metres), the highest mountain in Africa.
Lund Water Taxi provided transportation from Lund, northwest of Powell River, to the trailhead at Sarah Point. Travelling north to south, we camped at Plummer Creek; slept in a motel in Powell River (and enjoyed an excellent dinner at Costa del Sol restaurant); stayed in the huts at Anthony Island, Fiddlehead Landing, Tin Hat Mountain, Elk Lake, and Walt Hill; tented at Stanley Creek (where a new hut is planned); and spent our final night in the Rainy Day Lake hut. Most of the huts are open-air affairs, but a few are winterized and feature pellet stoves for heat.
Although our thru-hike lasted 10 days—the original plan was 11 days, but August’s big windstorm delayed our water taxi—I recommend 12 days of hiking plus one travel day on the front. If a more leisurely pace is preferable, you could take as long as 14 days. The south end of the SCT lies a short walk from the Saltery Bay ferry terminal.
We found the best views on Manzanita Bluffs, Scout Mountain, Tin Hat Mountain, and Walt Hill. At 1,305 metres above sea level, Mount Troubridge is the highest point on the SCT, but its treed summit was foggy during our visit.
All in all, hiking the SCT from end to end was an experience I will never forget. Here’s 10 memorable sights from the SCT.