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West Coast Trail will reopen to Canadian hikers this summer

The 75-kilometre trail will open from June 4 to Sept. 30
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Reservations for the West Coast Trail will open at 8 a.m. on April 30 and are required for all visitors, as no spaces will offered on stand-by. Only Canadians can access the trail this summer. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

The West Coast Trail, which closed last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, will reopen to overnight Canadian visitors this summer, much to the delight of businesses that rely on tourists drawn to the 75-kilometre trek each year.

Parks Canada, along with the Huu-ay-aht, Pacheedaht and Ditidaht First Nations, announced Friday that the trail will open from June 4 to Sept. 30.

All three access points — Bamfield (Pachena Trailhead), Port Renfrew (Gordon River Trailhead) and Nitinaht Village — will be available.

Reservations will open at 8 a.m. on April 30 and are required for all visitors, as no spaces will be offered on stand-by. Only Canadians can access the trail this summer.

Karl Ablack, vice-president of the Port Renfrew Chamber of Commerce, called the announcement “fabulous” news for his community.

“It’s gonna be a really big thing for the tourism sector,” he said. “Obviously, that’s a significant driver of revenue into Port Renfrew.

“The number of tourists that come each year to do the trail, I mean they stop in Port Renfrew and they visit the restaurants and utilize the accommodations on either the way in or the way out. So everybody — the general store, the gas station — everybody benefits from having the trail open.”

Parks Canada and the First Nations are asking ­people to prevent the spread of ­COVID-19 by paying attention to signs, obeying community protocols, ­completing ­self-assessments before embarking on the trek and ­following the guidelines of public-health experts.

As well, hikers should find out in advance whether First Nations villages are welcoming visitors, the agency said.

Paul Sieber, a councillor with the Ditidaht First Nation and its natural resource manager, said community members are cautious, but happy to see the trail reopen. “I think like everywhere, everybody’s getting tired of being shut in and they want to return to some kind of normal,” he said.

Sieber said the nation will be able to gradually reopen its small businesses now.

West Coast Trail Comfort Camping at Tsuquadah, Nitinaht Motel, and the Nitinaht Visitor Centre and Store will be open, Parks Canada said.

Reservations open April 7 for the Nitinaht Windsurf Park and Caycuse Campsite, which will begin welcoming visitors May 21. No walk-ins are permitted.

The Huu-ay-aht village of Anacla, near the Pachena Trailhead, is currently closed to outside visitors, but the First Nation is figuring out how to safely open Pachena Bay campground for the season, Parks Canada said

Pacheedaht First Nation will offer services near the ­Gordon River Trailhead, ­including extended-stay parking, ­river-crossing transportation, oceanfront camping with hot showers and laundry, shopping at the San Juan Market, and mountaintop lodging at Soule Creek, the agency said.

Experienced hikers can book space on the West Coast Trail at reservation.pc.gc.ca or by calling 1-877-RESERVE (1-877-737-3783).

lkines@timescolonist.com