West Coast Trail and Nitinat Triangle

#13
Sierra Club BC 50 Places Project

The West Coast Trail is one of the world’s top hiking trails, located within the ḥaḥuułi (territories) of the Huu-ay-aht, Ditidaht and Pacheedaht First Nations. Part of Pacific Rim National Park, the trail is famous around the globe for its spectacular old-growth forests, beaches, waterfalls and salmon rivers. In the early 1900s, it was a life-saving trail used by survivors of shipwrecks on the treacherous West Coast.

Near the trail, the Nitinat Triangle is one of BC’s best wilderness canoeing areas, popular for multi-day journeys between a series of pristine lakes surrounded by thousand-year-old cedars known as Hobiton, Tsusiat and Squalicum. 

Nuu-chah-nulth peoples have occupied this area since time immemorial, with cultures deeply interlinked with the cedar, salmon, sea lions, whales and other ocean creatures. Today, the Nuu-chah-nulth principles of Iisaak (respect) and Hishuk ish ts’awalk (everything is one) guide the management and operations of the park. Nine distinct Nations work with Parks Canada to cooperatively manage the park, incorporating the use of Nuu-chah-nulth knowledge and language.

As the traditional guardians of the lands and waters, the three Nations work to restore and protect the area. Since 1995, their West Coast Trail Guardians have cared for the trails and land, sharing stories and knowledge with visiting hikers and ensuring respectful use of their territories.

When Pacific Rim National Park Reserve was established in 1970, the West Coast Trail and Nitinat Triangle were left out. Sierra Club BC members in Victoria and Vancouver including Ric Careless and Ken Farquharson campaigned strongly for their inclusion in the park, with a buffer from logging areas. They brought in groups of students to survey the area, identify appropriate campsites, and clear access trails. The group helped filmmakers produce a documentary about the area that was aired nationally on CBC. Sierra Club BC members sent information packages to all Members of Parliament and published a trail guide to the West Coast Trail and Nitinat Lakes to encourage visitors, which became a local bestseller.

At a ceremony in Tofino to inaugurate the new park attended by many dignitaries, the Sierra Club Victoria Group organized a rally with banners that said “Save the Nitinat Triangle.” Once the ceremony was over, Careless spoke directly to Jean Chretien and Princess Anne, encouraging them to include the Nitinat area in the park.

Through a highly organized and publicized campaign, the Sierra Club group was successful in securing Chretien’s promise of protection for the Nitinat Triangle in 1972. The West Coast Trail was added to Pacific Rim National Park in 1973. Both areas are now permanently protected as part of Pacific Rim National Park Reserve.

50 Places, 50 Stories

Sierra Club BC’s 50 Places Project celebrates stories of conservation across BC. As Sierra Club BC marks 50 years of conservation work, we raise our hands to the longstanding Indigenous stewards of 50 special places in BC. 

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