Getting to / from the SCT

It’s always a challenge trying to get to the trailhead, especially when the hike is a through hike and does not loop back to the same spot.

When first looking at the SCT we were a little concerned that getting to the trailhead would be difficult.  We weren’t sure what kind of transit is available in the Sunshine Coast..  It turns out getting there can be pretty simple.

There are three major options: driving, taking the bus or flying.

We don’t own a car, so driving would involve us renting something (car rental, Modo, etc), driving to the trail head then hiking to the end of the trail. Then finding some transportation back to the trailhead.  That isn’t very cost effective since we’d have to rent the car for the entire trip, but it would just sit at the trailhead the entire time.

We also looked at flying to Powell River, but it was also fairly expensive and still required some travel from Powell River to the trailhead as well.  This seems to be a bit of a recurring theme. Getting to/ from the trailhead is always the biggest challenge when you are travelling without your own car.

The other option was to take a charter bus.  The charter bus goes between Vancouver (stopping at the airport as well as several other stops in the city) and Powell River.  The bus makes several stops along the way, including Saltery Bay.  This bus will also take you from the Sunshine Coast back to Vancouver.  A one way trip between Vancouver and Powell River can cost only $79 per person.  This is the option we decided to go with.

Itinerary – Getting There

Day 1:

Take the charter bus from Vancouver to Powell River.  At the time of writing, the schedule indicates that the bus picks up in Vancouver at around 2:30pm (exact time depends on the stop). The charter bus accepts cash as you get on it, and requires you to flag it down as it drives by. Although the schedule indicates the intersection that the bus can pick you up at, there are no dedicated stops (no signs) so you need to keep your eye out for a white bus (similar in model to the Translink community busses) and be sure to get its attention. I called the company that operates the charter bus and I was told that if I call the day before they could notify the driver that there will be someone waiting, but we would still need to be sure to flag the bus down.  After actually taking the bus to Powell River we found out by the bus driver that the best bet is to take the bus at a terminal station (ie: the airport) because you have a better chance of flagging down the bus as well as getting a seat.

The bus then takes you to the ferry (a good chance to pick up any forgotten snacks!) and eventually drops you off in the city centre of Powell River.

Powell River has a bunch of restaurants in around the city centre, so this is a good opportunity to grab a bite before heading on.   Keep in mind the arrival time, as some of these restaurants may not be open very late.  The current bus schedule indicates arrival at around 8:00pm.

After possibly grabbing a bite to eat, you can then call a taxi to drive you to Lund.  This trip should cost approximately $65.  I called ahead and was advised that you don’t need to call the taxi company ahead of time unless you are going from Lund to Powell River (or I suppose, if you expect the taxi company to be exceptionally busy that day).

Alternatively, if your timing works out you can take public transit from Powell River to Lund on the Number 14 – Lund Connector route.  Unfortunately, as good as this route is, it doesn’t run as late as we arrived in Powell River so this bus wasn’t an option for us unless we stayed the night in Powell River and started the hike late the next day.  We prefer an early start, so we made our way to Lund that evening.

At Lund there are some options to stay the night depending on your preferences. There are plenty of Bed and Breakfasts in the area.  If you prefer to just set up a tent and camp (as we usually do; this is often very convenient when arriving late and starting early the next day) then there is also a very convenient camping site that is open during the summer.  This camp site is walking distance to the water taxi.  Since our trip was during the off-season and this camping site was not open yet we decided to stay in the Historic Lund Hotel.  This is also walking distance to the water taxi.

Day 2:

After catching a night’s rest, wake up early (or late if you prefer) and walk down to the water to catch a water taxi to Sarah Point.  You need to call in advance to book the taxi.

The water taxi will take you directly to Sarah Point for you to start your hike.

 

Itinerary – Getting Back

This is similar, but in reverse.

Day 1

The charter bus also picks you up at Salter Bay.  You can finish the hike at Saltery Bay and camp at the camp site at Salter Bay.  The next day you can flag down the Charter Bus or even walk to the Ferry, walk on, and join the Charter Bus on the Ferry. During our trip there was an announcement on the Ferry and the Bus Driver made tickets available on the Ferry.

Take the bus all the way back to Vancouver.

Alternatively, you can bus back to Powell River instead if you have a car left there or if you are planning on flying back.

Conclusions

I was very pleased with how easy it was to get to the trail head.  I suggest adding a bit more travel time than we did so you can enjoy the community a bit more before the hike. The surrounding area is beautiful and the people were very helpful and welcoming.

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Sunshine Coast Trail Maps

One of the biggest challenges in planning our Sunshine Coast Trail hike has been finding suitable maps. Ideally I would like a set of maps that covers the entire trail at 1:25,000-50,000 scale, topography, terrain and most importantly – includes the trail on the map.

The US is better than Canada in this way – the USGS maps are great, including topo information and trails. Canada unfortunately doesn’t seem to have any maps that offer this level of detail. NR Canada and GeoBC both offer excellent maps that include topo data and road information, but they do not include hiking trails.

The Sunshine Coast Trail website only includes a large overall map of the trail and then refers you to purchase a book for more detailed maps. The maps in the book are unfortunately not ideal – the maps are all different scales and not in colour which limits their usefulness. (Overall the book is not useful, I’ll address that in another post.)

Ideally a good alternative in my mind would be to use CalTopo to generate a map with either the NR Canada or GeoBC map and GPS tracks of the trail over top. Unfortunately no one appears to have recorded GPS tracks of the trail and posted them online.

Solution

OpenStreetMap has the majority of the trail on their maps and the cycle map layer includes topo data. Google Maps also has some of the trail on their maps, so I will use that to supplement portions that are missing on OpenStreetMap.

So the plan is to use CalTopo to generate a map with OpenStreetMap and Google Maps and GPS waypoints taken from the book over top. Adding the GPS waypoints is rather tedious though so it is still a work in progress. When it is complete I will post the final maps here – hopefully they will be useful to someone else as well.

Why the SCT?

When you think about it, the decision to hike the trails you do can be a personal question with no right answer.  It’s easy to judge a trail or a person hiking it based on some criteria that maybe doesn’t matter to someone other than you.

It’s a bit of a meta experience, but while hiking I sometimes like to think about what I actually am getting out of hiking. What do I like? Why did I choose this trail? Where do I want to go next? In ten years, what kind of trips will we be taking?

For now, we have some pretty mixed requirements for hiking trips. In general, I would rank seclusion and views near the top of the list.  Just having the ability to walk and hang out, whether we are talking or just spending some quiet time together.  For me, that’s my main requirement.  After that it really depends.

For day hikes we prefer hikes that can be accessed by public transit; and often we will choose ones that are challenging enough to make sure we are in shape enough by the time we get to do a larger planned multiday hike.

But for multiday hikes it really depends on circumstances.  This summer we are planning on hiking the JMT. We both have three weeks off of work and are planning like crazy for that trip. But this spring we are hiking the SCT, which is described as “easy to moderate” and “family friendly”. This doesn’t fit our usual type of hike. But that’s OK.

So why are we hiking the SCT?  Well…  it’ll be really pretty. It will be interesting to do, and I would really like to catch that trail before it gets as popular as the WCT.  It also fits really nicely into the vacation slot we have available.  I have earned some time in lieu at work and have some vacation carried over, and so we have about a week and a half (including weekends) to do something. And the SCT can be done with only a little planning. We can’t forget that it is close to home, easy to get to and any accommodations and services we hire will be supporting a nearby community (where some of our friends and colleagues grew up!).  The huts are interesting, and it’s something we can hike in early April. And, well, in about 10 years maybe we want to do this with a hypothetical kid of ours, so I guess we can check it out now and see if it makes the list later.

So even though the SCT is something quite a bit different than we are used to, I am really looking forward to checking it out.  We will be sure to post notes about planning the trip (including any new resources we put together), as well as reviews and notes about the trail itself.