Share post:

In late June of 2021, I travelled to the Sunshine Coast to hike the Sunshine Coast Trail, a 180-kilometre back country hiking experience that stretches from the northern most point at Sarah Point in Desolation Sound to Saltery Bay. The trail features 14 unique and remote cabins along the way, making it Canada’s Longest Hut-To-Hut hiking trail. The original plan was to hike the 50 km from Sarah Point to Powell River with a group of friends from the island, but our friend Rishi, based in Powell River, suggested we might complete the trail by continuing on from Powell River to Saltery Bay in the south. So we did, competing the first leg with Mo, John and myself, and then John and I met with Rishi to continue the 130km journey to Saltery bay.

Day 1: Camping in Lund

We travelled without much trouble midweek, taking the ferry from Vancouver Island at Comox over to Powell River. We then made our way to Lund, about 30 minutes north of Powell River, to camp and begin the journey in the morning via water taxi to Sarah Point. With a little searching we found the marvelous Dinner Rock Campground where we pitched tents for the night. We travelled into Lund to dine at the Boardwalk Restaurant and had a great experience overlooking the harbor. The sunset and full moon rise from Dinner Rock was a real treat as we tucked in. In the morning we watched as a pod of Orcas travelled by dinner Rock heading north.

Day 2: Sarah Point to Manzanita Hut

We met our water taxi early the next day and travelled a short way out to Sarah Point, through the Copeland Island Marine Provincial Park. We encountered another (same?) pod of Orca whales, now making their way into Desolation Sound. The journey from Sarah Point south was largely uneventful, we explored a cove within Desolation Sound, then climbed up to Manzanita Ridge to camp. I pitched my tent in the hut this evening, to take advantage of the flat ground.

As we prepared for bed, a nighthawk congregated directly above our camp, squawking away and performing a diving pattern in which hawk makes a unique booming sound by flexing their wings while diving. The sound is made as air rushes through their wings while diving and was nothing like that I had heard before. I fell asleep as the bird continued, and woke at 3am to hear that the nighthawk was in fact still squawking and diving in the middle of the night as the waning full moon set.

Day 3: Manzanita Hut to Sliammon Lake

The following day we travelled down from Manzanita Ridge to Appleton Canyon, traversing through some beautiful forests, rivers, and waterfalls. I recall quite a few places in the canyon that I would like to explore further, perhaps on a return trip. We ended our day at Sliammon Lake, a beautiful camping spot on the banks of the lake.

Day 4: Sliammon Lake to Powell River

On day four we continued along the trail, passing several beautiful lakes as we made our way into Powell River. We went up and over Scout Mountain where we could start to see the city of Powell River below and the ocean beyond. We made our way to the Shingle Point Pub on the shore of Powell Lake for some delicious food and cold beer!

At this point we had to say goodbye to Mo and met up with Rishi, who would continue the trek with John and I in the southern section of the Sunshine Coast Trail. We did a quick car shuffle, moving our car from Lund back to Powell River. Rishi was kind enough to set up a food cache further on down the trail, so that we did not have to carry all of our food and could pick it up near Elk Lake after passing one of the more significant objectives up Tin Hat Mountain.

John and I camped in the city of Powell River for the night, slept very well! Started the day with a proper breakfast at Julie’s Airport Cafe. We picked up the trail on the other side of Powell Lake and continued our journey.

Day 5: Powell River to Confederation Hut

A nice section around the shore of Powell Lake passes through the Haywire Bay campsite and then across to Inland Lake, another pretty outstanding campsite on this smaller lake. I was amazed by the giant tadpoles that could be seen in the lake from above, sitting on the submerged logs, soaking up the rays. These were gold ball sized tadpoles, so I am guessing they will be bull frogs at some point. There were thousands of them!

Along the shores of these two beautiful lakes we went, before ascending up towards Confederation Lake. There were some lovely sections of trail through here, especially in the valley right below the lake. Once at the lake we rounded the shore to the Confederation Lake Cabin with limited space to camp but a really nice little swim spot. We are up a little higher here but the lakes are still warm and clean, and the swim felt magnificent after a day of trekking.

Having checked the forecast in Powell River, we knew we were in for some warm weather. In fact, we were about to hike into the hottest weather ever experienced in British Columbia. The days up to this point had been warm, but considering the hottest was yet to come, we decided to adjust our start time for the next part of the journey. We had to climb Tin Hat mountain on the next leg, a 1193 metre mountain, the second highest of the trail. We would rise before the sun and begin hiking just after 4am to try to avoid the midday heat. In that case, we settled in for an early night, with Rishi and John sleeping ‘cowboy style’ without tents.

Day 6: Confederation Hut to Tin Hat Mountain

We were surprisingly peppy at 4am, and set off just as the sun started coming up in the east. Down from Confederation Mountain we went, across the valley, to start our climb of Tin Hat Mountain. We knew that water was scarce at the top of the mountain, especially during these hot dry days. On the way up, we filed our bottles with as much water as we could collect, in brooks and streams coming down the mountain. We were fortunate to get some solid intel from a group coming the other way, about a water source near the top that was still flowing well. So we at least knew our last chance would be there and we filled as much as we could carry to maintain us through the night. It was heavy, but we slogged up to the top as the temperature rose.

We rolled up to the Tin Hat Cabin just before 2pm. We all found a slice of shade and pretty much hid out for the remainder of the day. It was very hot at this point, I would guess high 30c with little wind. I mused that this was probably better than sweating it out in the city, but longed for a little spot to swim. Tin Hat Cabin is pretty picturesque especially with the views of the lakes and ocean beyond.

As the day went on, things cooled down, and we managed to enjoy some food in the early evening. Even though we were up at 4am, the chance of sleeping with the sun out, for me at least, was slim. After dinner we made our way to the summit of the mountain, just 50 metres up from the cabin to catch the magnificent 365 degree views of the ocean, inland mountains, lakes, and valleys. It was pretty spectacular as the sun set, casting the shadow of Tin Hat Mountain towards the east. I have only experienced this once before in Cape Town from Lions Head Mountain, it is a pretty awe inspiring sight.

Day 7: Tin Hat Mountain to Coyote Lake

Another early start to depart from Tin Hat mountain with another hot day forecast ahead. Dropping down into the valley, we travelled along lovely sections of trail, as well as a little logging road. Here we picked up our cache of food, me realizing that I now had even more to carry. I had not been eating very much along this trip due to the heat, I just did not have the same appetite. I was, however, drinking lots of water at every chance I could.

We had a bit of scarce moment with water as we approached Elk Lake. We were running low on supplies and started hoping another source would be around the corner, no dice. I was down to my last mouthful as we started up towards Elk Lake and I could feel the pasties forming in my mouth. This can be a dangerous situation especially with the outside temperature as hot as they were, a heavy pack, and the amount of elevation we needed to gain. Fortunately, we heard a brook as we came closer to Elk Lake, and found a very abundant supply of water coming from a creek flowing out of Elk Lake. Here we drank and enjoyed the cool water in the shade.

Arriving midday at Elk Lake we all decided a swim was in order, and dipped into the cool waters. We dried, almost instantaneously in the heat, had a quick bite and continued the journey.

Coyote Lake was our resting spot for the night. This was a smaller lake and was absolutely full of life. As soon as I approached, I spotted a salamander in the water soaking up the sun rays. He walked through the water and swam down under the makeshift dock. I then spotted what looked like a giant beetle, also in the water and swimming along. Despite the creepy crawlies, it was hot and we took another swim here before setting up camp. The water was warm in this small lake, it reminded me of a primordial soup, and I wondered what other types of life existed here. In the evening the lake really came to life with insects and frogs singing a chorus into the night.

Day 8: Coyote Lake to Lois Lake

Along we went, passing over Walt Hill with the intention of getting to a campsite along Lois lake. This was an exciting day, as Rishi’s partner Laura was going to meet us at the campsite and treat us to pizza and beer! After many long hot days of trekking we were all really excited for this treat, so we moved along swiftly towards our goal. At the bottom of Lois Lake is the dam, part of the power generation facility. We traversed through the lower section of the dam, up to top, and around the shores of the lake to find camp.

This spot provided yet another epic swimming location and I spend the late afternoon in the water. As we regrouped at camp, every car we heard in the distance sounded like Laura’s as we anticipated her arrival. The culmination of her arrival, pizza boxes opening, and beers being cracked, led to no free hands available for photos. I deeply regret not getting a photo or our pizza party. It was outstanding, with major gratitude to Laura for treating us.

Day 9: Lois Lake to Fairview Bay

At this point in the journey, the extreme heat had started to wane and we were dealing with much more reasonable daytime temperatures for hiking. We continued along the shore of Lois Lake before heading up towards Mount Troubridge. There was a long and gentle incline up to the tallest point along the Sunshine Coast Trail. I was surprised at the gains we were were making in such short time, but it might have been the refueling on the previous day that helped us along. There were some lovely lakes just before the summit and several cabins to see at the lake and then up at the summit of Troubridge. I was a little disappointed with the views from this highest point, and because we were not spending the night up here, we had limited time to explore. Down we went, towards Rainy Day Lake with a goal of Fairview Bay. We moved through some outstanding trail on the east side of Troubridge as we descended down to sea level.

Once at Fairview Bay we set up camp for the night. I must say, it was nice to be near the ocean again. Although called the Sunshine ‘Coast‘ Trail, there is very little coastal hiking. I can’t really complain since the trail offered so much in terms of lakes, rivers, and forest. However, this was the first oceanside campsite we had seen since Desolation Sound (not counting our one night in Powell River). Lots of traffic came into camp on this day, as many hikers begin the trail from the south and do the southern sections.

Day 10: Fairview Bay to Saltery Bay

After a good nights rest we woke to complete the final short section of trail that goes from Fairview Bay to Saltery Bay. This was a coastal trail and meandered up and down the headlands before ending at the Saltery Bay Ferry Terminal. We were fortunate again to have Laura meet us here and shuttle us back to Powell River.

With that our 180 km journey was complete. I have never set out to walk that far along a single trail, but I enjoyed every minute of it.

Augerpoint Traverse
Flower Ridge to Della Falls

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.