The History of the Wild Pacific Trail

When people first come to the rugged west coast of Vancouver Island, its natural beauty often blows them away. Gazing out to the Pacific over sheer, rocky cliffs, the thick and towering forests and taking in the rugged beauty of the sweeping coastline as waves pound the rocks below can easily steal your breath. With such challenging terrain, the last thought on anyone’s mind would be, “Hey, let’s build a trail here.” Until Oyster Jim came along.

Photo by: © Natulive Canada

After moving to Ucluelet in 1979 as an oyster farmer from Colorado, it wasn’t long before Mr. Martin started dreaming about a walking trail that hugged the coastline of his stunning new home. From his first inquiry about the possibility in 1980, to two council meetings (1988 and1996) and finally the go-ahead, the man’s enthusiasm was both contagious and triumphant. It took 16 years of persistence. Moving quickly after the proposal was accepted, the Wild Pacific Trail Society was formed and the now-infamous Lighthouse Loop was built. That was in 1999. Then came the Big Beach extension, parking lots, the Brown’s Beach connecter trail, the Terrace Beach Interpretive Trail extension, the scenic Artist Loop sections and their viewing decks. The most recent additions, completed in 2016, were 10 new viewpoints on the Lighthouse Loop and the Crow’s Nest on the Artist Loops. In short, production and creation of the trail has been nonstop – as has Oyster Jim. By hand, he built numerous kilometers of trails and has endlessly worked their maintenance. As if creating the incredible free public trail weren’t an aweing achievement alone, the fact that it crosses through federal, provincial, district, park, private and First Nations land speaks to its utter importance to the community. The ongoing vision is for the trail to one day reach Half Moon Bay, where it would then connect to the already existing trails in the Pacific Rim National Park, through to Long Beach.

Photo by: Laurissa Cebryk

Today, it’s unsurprising that walking the Wild Pacific Trail has been ranked as the #1 thing to do in Ucluelet. However, its natural beauty, meticulous upkeep, sweeping views and accessibility have also found it ranked #5 for top things to do in all of British Columbia. It finally put Ucluelet on the map as a tourist destination. Perhaps the most significant achievement of the trail, though, is that it has been crafted with minimal impact on its rainforest home. Not only have all the pathways been artfully sculpted into the coasts’ natural curves, features and environment, each has been done following strict green trail building practices. Pathways are carefully surveyed and laid in ways to minimize the impact on the forest. All natural features are retained, wind-swept trees and vegetation are showcased and pullouts allow for visiting the stunning trees without disturbing their roots. Looking off the trail and into the forest, it is easy to tell that the dense undergrowth beyond has remained untouched. On the other side, the ocean view is next to none. Even cushions are built into the pathway to ensure foot traffic abuse leaves the forest floor undisturbed. The work of art both respects and shows off the coastal rainforest as a fundamental aspect of Ucluelet. Not only that, but the trail itself has become an indispensable part of life for the citizens of the charming coastal community. Many locals visit sections every day to run, take a breather, or catch the sunset. From the hatchling idea in 1980 to the present, the Wild Pacific Trail has become an undeniably priceless gift, adding countless value to an already west coast hidden gem.

Photo by: Carol Billings

For places to stay near the Wild Pacific Trail, check out
For more famous trails on Vancouver Island, visit Discover Vancouver Island’s top hikes page here.
Contributed by: Laurissa Cebryk