The West Coast Trail is a 75 km (47 mi) long backpacking trail following the southwestern edge of Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada. It was built in 1907 to facilitate the rescue of survivors of shipwrecks along the coast, part of the treacherous Graveyard of the Pacific. It is now part of Pacific Rim National Park and is often rated as one of the World’s top hiking trails.
The West Coast Trail is open from May 1 until September 30. It is accessible to hikers outside of this period but Parks Canada does not guarantee the accessibility of services (such as search and rescue) in the off season. It was originally known as the Dominion Lifesaving Trail (sometimes misidentified as the "West Coast Lifesaving Trail").
The region now covered by the West Coast Trail passes through the traditional territory of the Pacheedaht, Ditidaht and Huu-ay-aht people, Nuu-chah-nulth peoples, who have inhabited the area for over 4000 years. Native trails, used for trade and travel, existed in the area prior to European contact, and the current trail passes through numerous Indian Reserves. In the 1970s a lack of regulation resulted in hikers trespassing on culturally important and environmentally sensitive First Nations archaeological sites, such as villages and refuges on Reserve lands. As a result of this trespass on the traditional territory and cultural property of First Nations living in the area, hikers are now required to remain on the trail when passing through any Reserve areas.
European use of the trail area was originally for the construction and maintenance of a telegraph line between Victoria and Cape Beale. Because of the high number of shipwrecks along this stretch of coast in the late 1800s (see Graveyard of the Pacific), the Pachena Point Lighthouse and the Dominion Lifesaving Trail were constructed.