I explored Keeha Bay, just south of Bamfield on the west coast of Vancouver Island a couple weeks ago. My friend Matt and I and new friends John and Frances left Nanaimo after work on Friday evening and drove across Vancouver Island to Pachena Beach in the Pacific Rim National Park. Arriving in the darkness we set up camp and had a good fire before retiring for the night. In the morning we woke on the wide beach of Pachena, broke camp, and walked the beach to the endpoint of the West Coast Trail just south of Pachena Beach. We explored this small section of the West Coast Trail which also included some of the big ladders iconic on the trail.
The plan was to hike the short 3.5 km trail to Keeha Bay which starts just south of Bamfield. Before doing so we opted to have a good lunch in Bamfield and we found the Tides & Trails Cafe open. We had a very nice lunch at the cafe and outside we could see the rains were starting to come down. After lunch we set out to the trail head to began our hike. The rain was steady now and we covered up in our rain gear.
There is a legendary story among friends about the Keeha Bay trail. Although short, the trail is said to be one of the wettest and most rugged on the island. Some good friends of mine asked Matt for a good trail to hike on the West Coast, the Keeha Bay trail was offered, and they found themselves knee deep in mud as the 1 hour trail (in average distance per hour) ended up taking them hours into the darkness!
We hit the trail in the rain around 12 noon. It became very rugged quick, with massive puddles overtaking the trail. The trail itself is wedged between a marsh and a lake, and in parts you can see the lake coming level to the trail itself. It was wet. Massive puddles blocked our path and to make matters worst there were tons of roots and downed trees to dodge. I managed to wack myself in the head a number of times with my rain hood down on low branches. We climbed through trees, over stumps, hacked through the brush, jumped puddles, utilized log bridges – some which were not bridges at all and sank into the muck. This was a tough trail, the rain was fully coming down and I felt nearly defeated. We encountered no one on the trail, until near the beach we met a lone South African surfer with his dog marching out of the trail. We had a nice chat with the surfer, he had come to Keeha seeking a big swell that morning, not finding what he was looking for he was moving onwards. I was jealous of the surfer, dressed in a wetsuit and gum boots he was much better equipped then we were at this point.
It took three hours to hike the 3.5 km trail to Keeha Bay, a slow grind at only just over 1 km an hour. As we neared the beach the rain began to let up and we were greeted by the beautiful and isolated beach of Keeha Bay. The beach was littered with driftwood and we encountered a number of built up campsites, even one which contained a makeshift toilet. We found a sheltered campsite near the water source and set up our camp. The weather improved greatly as we made camp and we further explored the beach and sea caves nearing the southern end of the beach. As the day came to close we were treated to a classic west coast sunset.
The following day we broke our camp and explored the northern end of the beach. The weather on this day was glorious, clear, sunny and warm. On the northern beaches we encountered even more sea caves and some animal tracks we would not identify. We also encountered a Mink combing the rocks for seafood.
The hike out of Keeha Bay was not nearly as bad as the way in as the puddles had begun to dry in the sun. We shaved an hour off our time hiking out in 2 hours. Keeha Bay was a quick yet challenging trip, but well worth the effort. Keeha Beach is a sight to be seen.
Keeha Bay Hiking Trip by Michael Paskevicius is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.