Canso Plane Crash Hike In Tofino

Last Updated on August 21, 2021

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The Tofino Plane Crash Hike

The Tofino Plane Crash Hike takes you to the site of a Royal Canadian Air Force Canso 11007 airplane. The plane crashed shortly after takeoff in Tofino on February 12, 1945, months before the end of WWII. It had taken off at 11 pm to return to Coal Harbour on northern Vancouver Island when the port engine lost power. The plane was falling at 300 meters a minute when it crashed.

During WWII in 1941, there was an airfield placed in Tofino, BC after the Pearl Harbour incident. Radar Hill was also constructed at the same time. This was all set up to keep a Japanese invasion at bay.

Where Is Tofino?

Tofino is a town on the west coast of Vancouver Island in the Canadian province of British Columbia. Tofino is popular for its well-known gorgeous beaches, surfing, hiking, and anything to do with nature and the great outdoors. You will also find Hot Springs Cove and whale watching opportunities. Tofino is situated in the traditional territory of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations.

Everyone On Board Survived

Pilot Ron Scholes had great quick thinking. He decided to stall the plane to slow its descent, sparing the lives of everyone on board.

Alerting the Tofino airfield over the radio was not possible because of the fiery wreck. The crew used parachutes to create tents while they waited for rescue. They were able to set off a flare a distance from the wreck when they heard a plane taking off.

Eleven hours later they were found and rescued. The army detonated explosives, leaving a 6-meter crater (today a little pond) you will see on your way to the wreckage. The army also retrieved all of the electronics and guns from the plane.

Trail Snapshot

Distance: 5km (roundtrip)

Elevation: 35m

Difficulty: Moderate (due to trail-finding)

Route Type: Out and back

An Unmarked Trail

Keep in mind that this is not an official hiking trail, though it is now within Pacific Rim National Park. The trail is only maintained by Parks Canada to ensure safety for those using the trail. Maintaining the trail means that they will be called out for fewer rescue operations. As always, arrive prepared with your essentials.

Parking & How To Find The Trailhead

The best way to find the trail is by parking at Radar Hill, right after you turn off the Pacific Rim Highway. Do not drive to the top of the hill, but park in the first gravel area you enter after leaving the highway.

Previously, it was a lot more complicated to find the trailhead. Luckily, there has been a lot of construction over the years, including the creation of a path along the highway. Until recently, you had to count telephone poles and look for a drawing of an airplane on one to be able to find the trail as you wandered along the side of the highway.

Today, the walk is a little easier. After parking your vehicle, start walking back out towards the highway. You will see a paved trail to your right. Follow that trail along the highway until you see an unmarked path to your right into a forest. The unmarked path is the start of the trail.

You’ll eventually see an unmarked trail on your right side.

If you are unsure of your sense of direction, have the trail map open on your phone with AllTrails.

Tofino Plane Crash Trail Details

It will take you over many tree routes, over some planks, past an abandoned building, and through some mud in the marshy bog. Wear shoes you do not care about because you can expect to find mud year-round, even during the summer months. Darcy and I remained relatively un-muddy, but our kids definitely found their way into the mud.

The start of the trail is an easy and wide trail through the forest. The rail will gradually start to climb. After about 1km you will reach the creepy graffiti-covered abandoned building. It looks sketchy, so we suggest just taking a look inside, but not entering. You will notice the trail continues around the right side of the building.

The trail continues alongside the abandoned building — there’s no reason to climb through it. This photo is looking back towards the front of the building, so the trail is actually on your right.

The trail will start to descend quickly, though still not difficult. At the bottom, you will start passing through the bog. You will find mud, even during the summer months. During the spring you will want to prepare for knee-high mud. However, in the summer running shoes that you do not care about will do just fine.

You will come across a small circular pond. The pond is the crater that was created when the army detonated the bombs from the crashed plane, instead of trying to transport them out. As you keep wandering down the trail you will start to see the tail of the plane.

There is a short climb that will take you around the wreckage to see it from different viewpoints.  The plane is well covered in graffiti, and the tagging adds to the atmosphere.

The wreckage also sits in the exact spot it crash-landed, while carrying 1,000 pounds of explosives! 

The trail is well-marked with colored trail markers.

The mosquitoes were horrible during our hike, so come armed with bug repellant!

PLEASE respect and listen to this notice. Do not add to the deterioration — help keep the plane in the best shape possible for others to be able to enjoy the trail too!

Do Not Climb The Plane

The plane still remains remarkably intact after the damage caused back in 1945, and the years of the forest swallowing it up.

You will see a sign just after the abandoned house from Parks Canada that is a reminder to not climb on or in the plane. The more people that feel the need to climb over it, the faster it will deteriorate and fewer people will be able to enjoy the trail. We were the only group out of several that passed through during our visit that did NOT climb on or in the plane. Be respectful so that others may enjoy the hiking trail too.

A Great History Lesson

The Tofino Plane Crash hike is a fun and unique trail. It is a piece of history that we enjoyed seeing and it really piqued our interest to learn as much as we could about it.

Being able to see it first-hand makes learning about it more fun. This is why we urge you to do your part. Leave no trace and do not climb in or on the plane.

 

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