I bit back a squeal of excitement upon seeing the “End of Boardwalk” sign. Sure, I’m not in the backwoods of an exotic country, but hiking in rainforest-like conditions of my home country was not all that far behind. Especially considering this was Canada and especially when the “End of Boardwalk” sign was the start of an off-road wander. I love those.
Meares Island is one of many islands that lie in the water off of Tofino. The whole area is known as the Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Back in 1984, Meares Island was in danger of being slated for logging but the Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Council gained an injunction against it, declaring the whole island a tribal park. Today, the island remains safe from logging. And if there is any justice in this world, it will stay that way.
If you’re in Tofino, I highly recommend you put aside half a day for this spectacular island. Getting to it requires that a water taxi be hired for the 15 minute ride out to the island. The driver will drop you off right by the trail head. If you’re only doing the boardwalk portion, the walk is only about 3km long. Factoring in gawking time and photography, this walk will take about 1 hour. We mostly had the boardwalk to ourselves except for a rather rambunctious ESL group who were quickly swallowed up by the forest.
The boardwalk portion of the hike is relatively easy. Good shoes are recommended since there will be some and moss on the boardwalk. I wouldn’t really suggest hiking Meares Island during inclement weather. The trees here are massive and very old. They range from 1000 to 1500 years old and some have a circumference of 60 feet wide! The thick canopy provides more than enough shelter from the sun. The sheer lushness of the environment will make you feel utterly alive (unless you have bad allergies, I guess).
The end of the boardwalk is helpfully indicated by a little sign, the one that made me so happy. It is here that you turn around and go back in the same direction you came if you told your water taxi driver to pick you up in 2 hours. If you arranged for a pick-up in 3.5 or more hours, you will have enough time to go to the other pick up point. So carry on!
From this point onwards, you’ll be walking on forest trail – please stay on it, for the health of the forest. Though one is not necessary, you may want to bring a map. A cell phone is important so that you can call for help if you get lost or reach your water taxi driver if you’re taking longer than expected.
Walking this portion of the trail is not difficult but do have good shoes in case of mud and water. The forest continues to be incredibly thick and verdant, the fresh air is fantastic, and the silence is phenomenal. It really does look and feel like a rainforest here, so unexpected for the northern part of the world. This is definitely a unique and well recommended experience.
Water taxis cost about $30 CDN plus $5 trail fee charged by the Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Council for trail and island maintenance. You may be able to negotiate your water taxi driver to include the trail fee in the $30.