Northern Vancouver Island considering 'hut-to-hut' system for rugged North Coast Trail

A challenging, but scenic trail in a remote part of Vancouver Island could soon be linked with huts enabling more people to visit the area.

The North Coast Trail is 43 kilometres long, runs from Shushartie Bay — north of Port Hardy — to Cape Scott, and is part of Cape Scott Provincial Park.

The trail was constructed between 2008 and 2010, says Pat English, economic development manager with Regional District of Mount Waddington.

'Gaining attention'

"It's fairly new, but it's been gaining a lot of attention," English told Gregor Craigie, host of On the Island

While the trail is becoming more popular each year, it is not an easy one to take on. Those hiking the rugged trek need to be prepared for five to seven days on the trail and exposure to the often stormy conditions on the North Island.

In order to open the trail up to a wider range of hikers, English says the district is considering a range of shelter options, including yurts and multi-unit accommodations. 

"They would provide hikers with a dry, clean place where they can shelter from the elements and spend a much more enjoyable time," he said. 

To determine the best hut-to-hut system for the trail, the regional district, located on the Queen Charlotte Strait coast of northern Vancouver Island, is asking for public input for an online survey that asks what kinds of amenities and facilities people want.

'Expand the experience'

English acknowledges that some hikers may be opposed to the hut-to-hut system. 

"We have heard the hut-to-hut system would detract from the wilderness experience. And that's something we have to look at very closely."

He says the system has been well developed in Europe, parts of the Eastern U.S., New Zealand and most recently on B.C.'s Sunshine Coast.

"There's always purists who quite rightly enjoy the wilderness experience. But we would like to be able to expand the experience to other users as well."

English says the district is consulting with First Nations over the hut additions. The survey period ends on October 13. After, the regional district will host an open house community meeting on the North Island about the findings.