Could hut-to-hut hiking become a reality on the North Coast Trail?
Tourism Vancouver Island is looking to create detailed design plans for huts along the North Coast Trail, where hikers could stay throughout the 58km trail in Cape Scott Provincial Park, which typically takes four to seven days to hike.
Calum Mathews, Community & Industry Specialist from Tourism Vancouver Island, presented the idea during a delegation to the Regional District of Mount Waddington’s Board of Directors meeting on Feb. 20.
The idea is one component of five opportunities that Tourism Vancouver Island’s Hiking Tourism Task Force Committee identified to improve hiking tourism on the island.
Mathews said they’ve also submitted a grant application to the BC Rural Dividend Fund for funding to complete the projects. “Whether we are successful in this application or not, these are the five areas we would like to focus on in the coming months,” he said, adding, “We would like to create detailed designed planning for huts along the North Coast Trail in partnership with 43k Wilderness Solutions and parks.”
Huts have recently been constructed on the Sunshine Coast Trail, making it one of the only trails in Canada where it’s possible to hike hut-to-hut.“It’s a hiking product that is really distinct and is getting a lot of international intention,” said Mathews, adding, “For us that is a best practice example of how you can take a trail experience and extend the shoulder season.”
Ben McGibbon, project manager at 43k Wilderness Solutions, the company that has been operating at Cape Scott Provincial Park for 14 years now, also attended the presentation to provide background information on the trail. He said the number of users on the North Coast Trail has tripled since it first opened in 2008.
“If the trend continues, which we are expecting it to, we are looking at potentially 4,000 users at Cape Scott per year,” explained McGibbons, adding, “The nice part about the hut proposal is that it would increase capacity on the North Coast Trail by providing people with a place to stay and recreate.”
He noted the huts would allow for a more diverse group of trail users to experience what the North Island has to offer and would also allow people to use the trail in the spring, fall, and potentially the winter.
“This idea has been batted around for the last 10 years. When it was first brought up the NCT had just been built but it wasn’t a proven trail — now we are past its 10 year anniversary it looks like a more feasible option to start exploring,” said McGibbon.
Mathews added that “Learning about the North Coast Trail and seeing really positive branding and messaging about the trail generally will raise the presence of the North Island as a tourism destination.”
Mathews said he expects to receive the results from the grant application sometime next month.