Ten years in the making, British Columbia’s Vancouver Island Trail (VIT) is Canada’s newest long-distance trail. It cuts across the spine of Vancouver Island for 770km stretching from the regal city of Victoria in the south to jagged sea-stacks of Cape Scott in the north.
Along the way, trail-users can immerse themselves in every facet of the island’s ecology and culture: old-growth forests, velvety mountains, bumpy logging roads, abandoned mining camps, colossal wooden railway trestles and the territories of 49 First Nations cultures. Inspired in part by the US’s Pacific Crest Trail, the trail has been dubbed a ‘pilgrimage into the wilderness.’
Developing the VIT has been a gargantuan undertaking. Juxtaposing well-established paths along erstwhile railway lines with rugged new sections that require good navigational skills, the task of threading the route together began in 2009 with the establishment of the Vancouver Island Trail Association (VITA).
A community-run non-profit group formed by experienced Canadian climber and hiker, Gil Parker, the VITA organizes volunteer trail-building expeditions as well as tackling more prosaic tasks such as liaising with private landowners and First Nations groups to iron out land access issues. It’s been an exhaustive process.
Indeed, the initial aim of inaugurating the trail in time for Canada’s 150th anniversary in 2017 proved to be overly ambitious. A year later, significant progress was made when Isobel Glover, a 20-year-old University of Victoria student, became the first hiker to complete the trail in its entirety (albeit with a bit of bushwhacking en route) and in July 2019 the VIT’s southern terminus was officially opened at a ceremony in Victoria’s Anderson Hill Park.
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