Tinhat Hut-> Elk Hut-> Walt Hill Hut// Fiddlehead Landing -> Dixon Road
The Sunshine Coast trail has been on my “must do” list for a couple of years now, and it was only recently I finally put aside all excuses and found a crew who were keen to try. We were all photographers who had weekdays free, and since I don’t go without Whiskey, I wanted to ensure that it would be the least busy on the trail. Scroll to the end of the article for map links and other resources!
The Sunshine Coast trail is located on the northern Sunshine Coast which involves 2 ferries from mainland Vancouver. With the timing of the ferries and the drive across the Southern Sunshine Coast, parking at the end of the trail, and shuttling to the beginning being so time-consuming, we decided to sleep over at Egmont, near Earls Cove. This way we could pick up an early ferry and have a fresh start at the trail the next day, freshly showered and with a good nights rest. There is also so much to do on the drive to Egmont, so we checked out one of my favorite spots, Smuggler Cove, and reached our cabin at the BackEddy well before sunset.
In the morning, we took off early and headed to meet Jesse of the Sunshine Coast Shuttle Services so he could help drop us off at the beginning of the hike (this way we could do a one-way hike to reach our car). We parked around the 137 km mark of the trail and he shuttled us to Fiddlehead Landing with his truck (dog friendly, yey!). We hit the trail in the rain, knowing that our first day was over 1100m incline with full packs.
Pretty soon we were seeing views between trees and with a couple sketchy log crossings and some very muddy patches. Eventually we made our way to a huge junction at km 88 where the trail meets a rugged forest road. Going straight would keep us on the SCT and turning right would take us a couple kilometers to the Tin Hat hut and some pretty epic views. The snow started around this point and we kept climbing until we finally broke through the trees when Brice, who was (usually) in the lead saw the first glimpses of the cabin. I was sooo happy to drop my pack at the hut and magically the sun came out and lit up the best views on the entire trail. We had slammed this section, of around 9km in only 3 hours 45mins (including breaks) so we had tons of daylight left. A benefit of off-season camping is that the snow meant we didn’t need to go off in search of water (there is no water source at the cabin normally). Also, sharing a tight space with a dog (even a short haired, well behaved and non-smelling one) can understandably be difficult for non-dog lovers, and so I also go out of my way to go to huts off-season.
The cabin is small, but well built and would be cramped with about 8 people in the loft. It sits on the best views of the trail and has a compositing outhouse in really good condition. There is a wood pellet stove to keep warm and even in the spring, there was more than enough pellets for a couple months more. We even had reception! After a really well deserved dinner we grabbed our cameras and headed out to the view point for sunset. Crampons really helped as we were making fresh tracks and we were rewarded with one of the best sunsets yet this year!
After a really warm night’s sleep in the winterized cabin loft, we took our time eating breakfast, making lunch, and headed out. The weather was calling for rain in the evening so we tried to keep moving. There are two options to head to the next part of the trail, the quicker South trail, or the longer trail that loops around Lewis Lake. The Lewis lake trail was unbroken snow and is a scramble in sections, and also adds about 5kms but is more scenic and avoids some of the logging roads. We chose the south route because of the snow and the weather. About the halfway point, we had a quick lunch break at Coyote lake where the sun popped through he clouds for a couple minutes, and then kept going, arriving at Elk Hut just before the downpour started in earnest.
Elk hut is an open hut, with 3 sides walled in, and one open. The loft is also open to air, so it was going to be a chilly night. On a dry summer day, I can imagine this would be a lovely place with a firepit outside (that was totally soaked), places to hang out, and a log dock. We even saw a canoe underneath the cabin but as it was pouring rain our whole time there, we didn’t get to enjoy it much! To warm up, we quickly changed into dry(ish) clothing, boiled up some water for tea, cooked up some dinner and crawled into our sleeping bags really early hoping for an early head start the next day.
13 hours later, we crawled out of our bags back into rain. I suppose we had been pretty tired from a cold day’s trek so we all slept really well. After breakfast and packing up again, we started to our last hut of the trip- Walt Hill. It looked like this would be our easiest day so far, and most of the hike was lovely but as soon as we hit the snowline, everything changed. Although this section is lower in elevation than Tinhat, the snow was deeper and softer so we spent what seemed like an eternity taking turns breaking trail and post-holing up a path that no one had visited recently. The views are really nice on this section, and I can imagine without snow this would be one of the best parts of the trail to hike. When we finally saw glimpses of the hut, we were absolutely elated to have 4 walls and a fire to warm up and dry out for the evening. We had about an hour after reaching the Walt Hill hut before the rain really came down again. We still had lots of snow so we didn’t have to worry about a water source once again and huddled inside drying out the shoes, socks, and clothes for the evening.
Our last day on the trail was calling for the a downpour, so I threw on all the rain gear, packed up my camera deep into my bag, and raced down the mountain thinking only of that dry car! Thankfully it was a quick section on a very well marked trail with only a couple water crossings (which probably aren’t anything on a dry day). We cheered at every kilometer marking (or at least I did!) until we reached the road where I parked and all scrambled into the car making really good time (2 hours 50 mins 12 kilometers).
Overall I would love to do this trail again! I really recommend it for those that aren’t as comfortable tenting in bear country, or would prefer to shed the weight of a tent and have a roof and space to sprawl out in the evenings. I can imagine the huts would be pretty busy in the summer and could be quite tight in space if there were too many people (it has been full on weekends in the summer). There isn’t a way to book the hut, so plan accordingly by bringing a backup tent or aim for a weekday (or day when the weather isn’t great). Definitely take advantage of Jesse’s shuttle service and ask him questions when you are in the car about the conditions and trail reports he’s heard about. Also please consider donating to PR PAWS who maintain the trail and huts if you are using the trail.