Last Updated on August 21, 2021
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Where Is Ucluelet?
Ucluelet on the west coast of Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada is a PNW paradise situated on the edge of the Wild Pacific Ocean. A place of breathtaking and rugged beauty along a wild and rocky coastline, many unknowingly drive by the turn to Ucluelet without a second glance. Instead, they make the turn in the opposite direction towards the popular beach destination of Tofino. Ucluelet means “people of the safe harbor” in the indigenous Nuu-chah-nulth (Nootka) language.
The last couple of times we have visited Tofino, we have stayed in Ucluelet. It is a short 40km drive into Tofino, that passes another great trail to a plane wreck, and is a great option to be able to experience the best of both destinations. You may also be able to find considerably cheaper accommodation in Ucluelet that will help you to stretch your budget to stay for a longer trip. Ucluelet also has a small-town vibe and is much quieter.
The Wild Pacific Trail
The Wild Pacific Trail is a seven-phase trail system skirting the rugged cliffs and shoreline of the west coast of Vancouver Island. It overlooks Barkley Sound and the Broken Group Islands to the east and the open Pacific Ocean to the south and west. You’ll be spoiled with spectacular rugged shoreline panoramas. The Wild Pacific Trail Lighthouse Loop is one small section of the larger Wild Pacific Trail.
Wild Pacific Trail Lighthouse Loop
The Lighthouse Loop Trail features a stop at an active lighthouse, along with spectacular views of massive rock formations along the Pacific Ocean coastline. The trail is an easy trail, well maintained and there were plenty of benches if you wanted to stop and take in the stunning views of the rocky west coast shore. You will even find some areas with stairs that go down to a couple of secluded beaches.
We passed very few people on the trail during peak season as well (during both of our visits), really allowing us the peace, to really be able to connect with nature and be rejuvenated as we listened to the water crashing as we walked the trail. The trail would be fantastic in any weather as it provides a dense rainforest canopy that acts as a natural umbrella, making a visit any time of year a rewarding one. The ancient cedars and the sealine rugged and wild with beaches of driftwood and cliffs of jagged rock are sure to impress.
Make sure you allow extra time to enjoy the views from the wonderful amount of benches along the trail. The benches are perfectly placed at incredible viewpoints. Enjoy the viewpoints, but stay on the trail. The rocks are not safe. On our last visit, we found a lot more “do not enter” signage along the trail at access points that were previously used to get down to the rocky areas.
Lighthouse Loop Trail Details
Distance: 2.6-kilometer loop trail
Elevation: Minimal at 56m
Time required: 30-60 minutes
Lighthouse Loop Extension
The Bog Interpretive Loop, Spring Cove mudflats (opened in 2021), or two small beaches are all enjoyable extension ideas to the loop.
Related Story – Here’s What We Did On Our Trip To Vancouver Island
The Amphitrite Lighthouse
As you may guess from the trail name, the Lighthouse Loop’s feature aside from the spectacular scenery is an active lighthouse. The original Amphitrite Lighthouse was built in 1906, following the tragic shipwreck of the Pass of Melfort in 1905. Tragically, 36 people lost their lives when the ship encountered a storm in Ucluelet. In 1914, the wooden lighthouse was destroyed by the powerful storm waves.
When it came to building the new lighthouse, the weather conditions were extreme. Men had to endure hard 14-hour workdays of pulling 450-pound loads of materials from the lifeboat dock in Spring Cove through an area of soft boggy mud. After three months, the lighthouse you see today was complete and strong enough to withstand the power of the seas and hurricane-force storms.
The lighthouse was named after a former British Royal Navy ship, which was named after Poseidon’s wife, known as the goddess of the sea, Amphitrite.
Take A Tour
Join an interpretive walk tour with the Wild Pacific Trail Society, a volunteer-run organization. During these one-hour program options, you will learn about topics that range from natural to cultural history. Check the Wild Pacific Trail website for more information.
Note: Due to Covid, these interpretive walks have been canceled. Check out their website to find out how to join a walk once they resume. For now, there are several educational videos you can watch here if you are itching to learn something new.
How To Get To Ucluelet
When traveling to Ucluelet, it is more direct to take the ferry from the Horseshoe Bay ferry terminal to Nanaimo. Another option is to take a ferry to Victoria. We have done this trip both ways. While it depends on what sights you want to see along the way if your ultimate goal is Ucluelet and Tofino, the ferry to Nanaimo is a better choice. Once you are off of the ferry and on island time, it is a simple three-hour drive. You wll drive along the Tofino-Ucluelet Highway, which continues into the Pacific Rim Highway, after spending an hour and a half crossing the Strait of Georgia on the ferry.
Know Before You Go
- Prepare for rain: Even during the summer months, this region of Vancouver Island is cooler and gets more rain than you would assume. Even though it is a short hike, you will want to bring an extra layer.
- Multi-weather beauty: Do not dismiss this hike on an overcast day. The rugged beauty shines though regardless of the weather.
- Storm watching: Storm watching is popular among those who have found the gem of Ucluelet. The ocean is usually more intense from October to April. However, never underestimate the power of the ocean as unexpected waves can happen any time of year. During powerful storms, the trail can close for safety reasons, whether trees falling, or waves reaching viewpoints along the trail. If you are experiencing the trail for the first time, however, know that visitors typically cross their fingers for (safer) stormy weather.
- Sunrise or Sunset: Starting or ending the day with a sunset over the open ocean along the Lighthouse Loop trail is a dream.
- Stay on the trail: Venturing on the rocks can become deadly.
- Leave a trip plan with someone you trust that includes where you are and when you expect to return.
- Whale spotting is best during spring migration when there are 20,000 animals passing through. It is also common to see sea lions, seals, otters, and occasionally orca whales.
- Wildlife: Encounters with bears, cougars, or wolves are rare, but these animals are in the area. Know what to do if you have an encounter. There has not been any record of humans being injured by wildlife on the trail. However, off-leash dogs have been.
- Dogs are welcome on the trail but must be kept on a leash.
- This is a family-friendly trail. The trail is stroller and wheelchair accessible.
- Plan ahead: Book your trip early so you are not disappointed when you try to book accommodations and it is difficult to find availability.
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