Located on the Western side of Flores Island, the Wildside Trail offers guests the opportunity to travel along an 11 km escape into the remote and pristine wilderness of the ʕaḥuusʔatḥ haḥuułii. A unique showcase of our history and culture, the trail follows a route that has been used for hundreds of years by the Ahousaht people for spiritual purposes, the gathering of medicinal plants and seasonal foods, as well as the collection of wood and bark for cultural uses. Walking the Wildside Trail, guests pass through many historically rich and significant areas, each indicated along the way by signs created by Stanley Sam Sr and painted by his son, Hutch Sam.
Culturally Modified Trees
Otherwise known as First Beach, K’iihxnit has to do with our teachings regarding a spiritual octopus. Our history relays that if you ever were to find an octopus on land breaking yew wood branches, you were to rub the octopus all over your body, which would in turn give you great strength. Once, on this beach, a man found an octopus doing exactly this, and followed his teachings. He became so strong that he could break a branch of yew wood with his bare hands.
White Sands Beach & Tl’atl’athinkwuu7is
White Sands Beach derives its name from the harvesting practices of our ancestors, who, over millennia, harvested an assortment of shellfish. They would discard the shells in place and take the meat to dry on the rocks before taking it home. Over thousands of years, those shells disintegrated and became the white sands that we see today.
Hundreds of years ago, a man walked this beach picking razor clams when he happened upon two serpents sliding down the sand hills and onto the beach before disappearing into the water. He walked up to where the serpents came out of the forest and rubbed himself with the scales that the serpents had left behind, before continuing to walk along the trail where they had been and coming across the place where the serpents would have been laying at rest.
Once, a man found his nephew, a young Shaman named Susum’a7as, praying, and took him into his home to train him in how to ask for powers from the Naas, the creator. They built a chiiahssim (a praying platform), constructed out of cedar boards with stones around it. The uncle tied the young Shaman up on the platform and painted a dye on each of his ears. If he felt a pull on his left ear, it would be a bad sign; if he felt a pull on his right, it would be a good sign. For eight days and nights Susum’a7as prayed without answer. One day, when the sun was going down, he felt a pull on his right ear and heard a rattle. A little man wearing a cedar-bark headband named Macmax?uxwind appeared from the bluff. Approaching the young shaman, he sang a spiritual song, untied him and then immediately departed. Susum’a7as pursued the mysterious figure, who walked – like an apparition – through the trees and boulders. At the very end of Kwaatswiis, the little man went into the water, throwing his little rattle behind him. Susum’a7as grabbed the rattle and turned around to walk back through the woods, finding now that he, too, could walk through the trees and boulders, just as Macmax?uxwin had done.
This is a significant site relating to the Ahousaht-Otsosaht War of the early 1800s (wherein the Ahousaht nation fought against the neighbouring Otsosaht to secure territories and resources – such as salmon-bearing rivers – that they needed to survive). The name Katkwuuwis literally refers to a beheading, as this was where war prisoners at the time would have been executed. Otherwise, Katkwuuwis was a summer village, where seal and halibut were fished. When whalers were successful on a hunt, they would return here to this beach with their catch.
Like Katkwuuwis, Wo’aishi carries a significance that relates to the Ahousaht-Otsosaht war. At the time, the Ahousahts were trying trying to cross this river at the west side of Katkwuuwis Point, where the Otsosaht had stationed an infamous sharpshooter named Tilhuumalhni to stop them. Every time that somebody would attempt to cross the river, they would be shot. Thus, the Ahousahts strategized a coordinated attack on the sharp shooter. Three men were called to cross the river at the same time: the Keltsmaht war chief, Tl’ihisim, a man named Wiitlaakinish, and a man named 7aya7atkl’. The three men crossed the river, zig-zagging on the beach so as not to be hit. They reached one of the houses across the river and noticed that there was a knee sticking out from behind a board in the wall of the house (this was Tilhuumalhni). 7aya7atkl shot the sharp-shooter, and the Otsosahts retreated. The late Ahousaht Elder Stanley Sam Sr. locates Wo’aishi as “the greatest battle ground for the Ahousaht and Otsosaht.”
Hundreds of years ago, a red-headed girl sat atop the rocks here on a windy day. The wind howled and gusted so violently that all of her hair was blown off and spread around the rocks, turning them into the red rocks that we see today.
The immensely beautiful and panoramic Cow Bay – located at the very end of the trail – acquired its name and significance more recently. The Settler Edward Fitzpatrick arrived in our haḥuułii in 1915 with a bull, two cows, two horses and some chickens. There being no dock in Maaqtusiis at the time, he had the larger animals swim to shore while he shuttled the rest across in a canoe. Thus, the name Cow Bay was granted to this beach.
The Ahousaht Wildside Trail is located on Flores Island and is accessed through the village of Ahousaht, which can be reached from Tofino in three ways. By boat, the trip is approximately 30 minutes. There are two scheduled water taxis that run from Tofino to Ahoushat at 10:15 am and 4:30 pm. Otherwise, you can arrange transportation on the Ahous Hakuum, which departs from our office and the Ahous Fuel Stop on Flores daily.
Before visiting the Wildside Trail, there are a number of things that are important to take into consideration and plan for accordingly:
The ʕaḥuusʔatḥ haḥuułii is home to a diverse and rich array of wildlife, and thus it is important to recognize and respect that, as a guest, you are entering into a space where black bears, wolves, and cougars reside. Always carry bear spray, stick together, ensure that you know what to do in the event of an encounter, and – if you are camping – use the metal food / storage caches (or make your own bear cache using a long rope and a waterproof sack, hung on a tree limb at least 8 feet above the ground).
Dogs are not permitted on the Wildside trail due to the high number of wolf sightings and the need to reduce domestic-wild animal interactions.
Ocean & Tides
The Wildside Trail comprises many beaches and coastal areas – as is the case when travelling along any coastal region, it is crucial to be cautious and aware of the ocean and tide. Plan for two high tides and two low tides every day, and arrange your shoreline activities according to the tides. Be mindful that the ocean is very cold and currents in some areas can be strong.
Visitors interested in exploring the entirety of the trail in a single day are more than welcomed to do so, and have two options available: walk the trail one-way and arrange for a chartered pickup at the end of the 11 km trek, or hike to the end of the trail and back (22 km). For a one-way trip, plan to give yourself approximately 4-5 hours to complete the trek at a leisurely pace, including rest stops. Going both ways, plan for around 8-10 hours. Groups or individuals planning to hike both ways in a day should be mindful of their pacing to ensure that they give themselves enough time to complete the trail before dark. Regardless of approach, make sure to bring a backpack with food and plenty of water, layers (warm clothes, rain gear, and so on), and other hiking essentials (a compass or GPS, sun protection, first aid kit, headlamp or flashlight, fire starter, multi tool, emergency shelter and whistle). There are two places where guests can collect drinking water – Katkwuuwis River and the creek just outside of Cow Bay. As is the case when collecting drinking water from any natural source, it is important that you bring and use an appropriate filtering device – such as purification tabs or a filtering pump.
The Wildside Trail offers three designated camping areas complete with platforms, outhouses and food caches. While it is recommended that visitors use these facilities, you are more than welcome to camp anywhere along the trail given that food is stored appropriately in a cache. Make sure to pack enough food for the length you plan to stay, and please ensure that you bring the essentials listed above.
One of the best ways to experience the trail and surrounding coastline is via kayak, which allows visitors to explore both land and sea. Kayaking groups can launch in Tofino at the harbour and paddle to Whitesand Cove (N49 15.543 W126 04.122) or Cow Bay (N49 15.534 W126 08.085). This is a route intended for advanced paddlers and is not suitable for beginners. Note also that swell heights are dictated by what occurs hundreds of miles off-shore and are not predictable by recent, local weather projections. Take a marine-band radio with you to check swell heights and predicted conditions.
Visitors planning a trip to hike the trail are required to obtain a permit, which can be arranged at the Ahous Fuel Stop, and is a straightforward process. We require that you or your group provide a trip itinerary, specify party size, and pay the access fee ($15 / per person / per day). This fee goes directly towards compensating trail staff and for the upkeep necessary to maintain the extensive boardwalk, ensuring that the trail is safe and surveyed regularly.
The ʕaḥuusʔatḥ Ḥaw̓iiḥ, musčim and BC Parks are excited to welcome guests back to the Ahousaht Wildside Trail after a period of extended closure due to COVID-19 Travel Restrictions. As of July 1st, 2022, we encourage and welcome visitors to come and experience some of the most beautiful, pristine beaches and old growth forests within our territories.
To ensure the safety of our Ahousaht community members, visitors accessing the trail (which requires passing through the village of Maaqutusiis) are highly encouraged to carry proof of vaccination, wear a mask indoors and maintain physical distancing.