Pacific Rim National Park on Vancouver Island – currently celebrating its 50th anniversary – is building a $51 million cycle path to link the two surfing towns of Tofino and Ucluelet. 

The path will be named ʔapsčiik t̓ašii (pronounced: ups-cheek ta-shee) meaning ‘going in the right direction on the trail’ in the local indigenous language. It will closely parallel the Pacific Ocean for 40km and provide access to rainforest, hiking trails, surfing beaches, First Nations sites, and the towns themselves. 

Two people walking on a beach during a sunset in Tofino, British Columbia © Andrew Ferguson / Shutterstock

Established in 1970, Pacific Rim National Park is located on the west coast of Vancouver Island where British Columbia’s temperate rainforest collides with the powerful waves of the Pacific Ocean. It’s a wild and spectacular region packed with giant trees and endowed with long, misty beaches that are ideal for cycling and – more famously – surfing. 

The two diminutive towns of Tofino and Ucluelet sit like bookends just outside the park boundary. Trendy tourist-focused Tofino, to the north, is Canada’s laidback surfing capital. Down-to-earth Ucluelet (aka Ukee), to the south, is less manicured and easier on the wallet. Both towns have short existing bike paths that connect to local surf beaches, but the long-term plan has always been to bridge the rugged coastline in between with a continuous paved trail. 

This vision became reality in February 2017 when work on the missing 28 kilometers of trail through the national park began. Developed in consultation with the Tla-o-qui-aht and Ucluelet First Nations, the meticulous and environmentally-sensitive project is being scheduled around the migratory bird nesting season. As of summer 2020, most of the trail-base has been laid cutting through the forest within sight of the region’s only road, Highway 4. Still awaiting asphalt, road crossings and signage, the path will likely be fully operational by early 2022.  The completed north end of the trail, near Tofino, is already a hive of activity where people in wetsuits cycle out to Cox Bay Beach with their surfboards attached to specially-designed bike racks.

Pacific Rim National Park. ©Adam Zihla/Shutterstock

Further south, stop-off points on the new section will include the Canso plane crash site (where you can see the wreckage of a WW2 bomber), Long Beach (which at 16km-long, lives up to its name), the Rainforest trail (full of towering trees and thick foliage), and the Kwisitis visitor centre (ideal for viewing storms, surfers and whales). 

Some of the best cycling in the area is on the broad beaches most of which are graced with hard-packed wet sand. Special beach bikes, with no gears and backward-pedal brakes, can be hired at Tofino Bike Co, 4km south of the town, near Mackenzie Beach.

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