Hiking the Sunshine Coast Trail

A great 50km section in mixed weather 🌧☀️

Sunrise from Walt Hill

I did this hike in mid/end of August as a replacement for the West Coast Trail that is closed this season due to Covid-19. We ended up just being two people as the rest of the crew bailed. Probably due to the suboptimal weather report, promising heavy rain most of the time we were going be on the trail.

Trail stats

  • We did a 50km section from Fiddlehead (N 49°59'47", W 124°25'14") to Lang Bay (N 49°47'47", W 124°19'39"), going north –> south.
  • We did it over four days, with the first and last day only being half days.
  • Cumulative elevation gain/loss is approximately 2000m/1960m.

The Sunshine Coast is absolutely beautiful, but is also somewhat difficult to get to. From Vancouver you have to take two ferries, each taking 50min and drive for an additional few hours, depending on where you start. The transport have to be taken into account when planing a trip as you will need an extra half day at each end of the hike.

The trail itself is very easy to follow, there are more than enough trail markers and the trail is in most places wide and without large rocks or roots.

Our original plan was to get the first ferry out of Horseshoe Bay on the morning we wanted to start the hike. But trying to book 1.5 weeks before was apparently too late! Instead we took a late ferry the day before and stayed overnight at friends in Robert’s Creek. We got up very early as we were aiming for the 8:30am ferry from Earls Cove and had to drive an hour. Getting the early ferry also meant that we had some time to kill before we were picked up by the Sunshine Coast shuttle at 12pm. We parked the car at the endpoint of our hike and shuttled to the startpoint, so we didn’t have to navigate the active logging roads. It turned out to be a very good decision! The logging trucks were not stopping for anyone and the only reason the shuttle could safely navigate the logging roads was by tuning into the radio frequency used by the truckers calling their mile marker. The driver told us that the police had to drag one of their cars out of the bushes a couple of days prior. The only way to avoid being smashed by the unstoppable logging trucks is to put the car into the ditch!

We were dropped off at our starting point just after 1pm. The trail started to climb right away, up towards to summit of Tin Hat Mt. It is pretty steep, but not to bad if you are just going up on a day hike. With 20kg on our backs, it was quite a challenge! We reached the summit 3h after we started and felt lucky that the clouds did not cover the views. After some snacks and a short rest we got going again. Or goal was to reach the campground at Lewis Lake (N 49°57'17", W 124°20'48").

The view from the summit of Tin Hat Mt.
The view from the summit of Tin Hat Mt.

Looking at the map it seemed like it should have been fairly easy to reach the campground within a couple of hours, but the trail were constantly detouring due to active or old logging areas. We reached the campsite just before 7pm. We were quite hungry and pretty tired at this point. It had started raining a little bit, so we set up camp as the first thing. We knew it was going to rain a lot later and did not want our gear getting wet on the first day. After a nice dip in the lake and some dinner, we went to bed.

The elevation profile of our first day.
The elevation profile of our first day.

We snoozed a bit and got up a little after 8am. It had rained a lot during the night, but it was only raining a bit now. After breakfast, we packed up the tent and our gear. We were headed for Elk Lake (N 49°53'56", W 124°22'20") and the cabin we knew would be there. The weather report from the day before called for 30mm of rain during the day. As it was not coming down hard in the morning, we pushed for the cabin at good speed trying to reach it before the rain started for real. We got half way before the sky opened and it started bucketing! By 2pm we had reached the cabin. No one was there so we used all the available space to dry our stuff. More people eventually showed up, all looking even wetter than us.

We decided to get an early start as we knew everyone in the cabin was aiming for the same overnight spot as we were. We got up before 7am and hit the trail around 8:30am. We only had 12km to the cabin on Walt Hill and we were determined not to let anyone catch up. If we were lucky we could dry some of the stuff that was still wet before the rest of our company from the day before reached the hut. We got to the hut before noon, but there were already three boys there. They were taking a break and had spend the night. We got most of our wet stuff from the day before, plus our wet gear from the hike up, hung up and had some lunch. The rest of the crew from the night before slowly trickled in over the next few hours. We were quite the number in the cabin that night, but everyone was keen on making space for people arriving after them.

There was still some space left for more people after we put out our sleeping gear.
There was still some space left for more people after we put out our sleeping gear.

The weather cleared up during the evening and we got a few glimpses of the valley below us that night. We wanted to catch the ferry out of Saltery Bay at 11:45am, so we got up at 6am the next morning. After a quick breakfast we enjoyed the amazing view from the top of Walt Hill, before starting our decent. We were on the last 11km and it was all down hill or flat back to the car. We stopped to refill our water bottles in a stream a couple of kilometers down the path and then did not stop again before we reached the car. It turned out we had made good time and so we reached the ferry terminal with an hour to spare.

We had booked the ferry back to Horseshoe Bay at 8:30pm, so we had plenty of time to kill. We stopped for lunch just past Earls Cove, before heading to Brickers for some well deserved and delicious cider.