About the Wildside Trail

About ImageThe Ahousaht Wildside trail is one of the finest rainforest and beach trails in the world. Full of cultural significance, ecological wealth and coastal history, the trail has used for hunting, intertidal food gathering, berry picking, cedar harvesting and spiritual practice by First Nations of Flores Island for thousands of years. The trail is 11 km long and leads from the community of Ahousaht along beaches and through forest all the way to the summit of Mount Flores.

Trail History

In the early 1990s a group of mothers from Ahousaht came together with the idea of restoring the trail as an eco-tourism initiative to bring visitors to Flores Island and provide culturally significant employment opportunities for their children. In 1996 the community of Ahousaht formed a partnership with the Western Canada Wilderness Committee to create a restoration initiative for the trail. Twenty youth, some from Ahousaht and others from Tofino and Port Alberni, came together for seven months to rebuild and restore the trail. Since the restoration efforts in the 1990s the trail has become a popular destination for wilderness travellers from all over the world. Every year the trail brings thousands of hikers and wildlife enthusiasts to Flores Island for “a walk on the Wild Side”.

Walking the Trail

The Trail begins in the community of Ahousaht on the southeast side of Flores Island. The closest city to the Wildside Trail is Tofino, British Columbia. From Tofino it is a 45 minute water taxi or 10 minute float plane ride to get to Flores Island. In the summer there are daily water taxi departures from Tofino’s 1st street dock at 10:30 and 4pm. For float plane service contact one of the many seaplane operators based in Tofino. For the truly adventurous, Flores Island is a day and a half paddle from Tofino, with a sleep over on Ahous Point on Vargas Island. While the trail can be walked all year round, the ideal time to visit is between May and late September when the weather is warm and there is less wind and rain.

About ImageThe trail is 11 km one way and 22 km road trip. The minimum timeframe recommended for a round trip of the trail is 2 days. There are many exquisite beaches and sheltered spots for camping, these designated spots include public outhouses and food caches. The trail is moderately difficult as there is little elevation or climbing required. However, the trail goes through both beach and true wilderness, therefore weather is an important consideration and hikers should always come prepared for wind and rain. There are muddy sections of the trail so proper footwear (gumboots or waterproof hiking boots) are a must. The trail is home to bears, cougars and wolves, therefore it is highly recommended that the trail be guided by one of the many qualified local interpreters from Ahousaht. There is a $25 fee for trail usage that can be paid at the Wild Side office in Ahousaht. You can contact the office at wildside@gmail.com or (250) 913-0022. To make arrangements for a guide or a water taxi contact Qaamina Sam at qaamina@hotmail.com or (250) 726-3780. When you stop in the Wildside Trail office be sure to pick up Stanley Sam’s Ahousaht Wild Side Heritage Trail Guidebook, which is filled with rich historical and cultural information about the trail and each of its sites.

About Ahousaht

Ahousaht means people of Ahous, a small bay on the west side of Vargas Island in Clayoquot Sound. Ahousaht can be translated to mean ‘people living with their backs to the land and mountains on a beach along the open sea.’ Ahousaht First Nation territory encompasses much of Clayoquot Sound with the village of Maaqtusiis(Marktosis Indian Reserve IR #15) being the only reserve or village site inhabited year-round. Ahousaht First Nation has 25 reserve sites within the nation’s territories, all accessible only by float plane or boat.

The traditional territories of the Ahousaht people are bordered by the Hesquiaht and Tlaoquiaht nations to the north and south respectively. These territories, within and beyond the Clayoquot Sound Biosphere Reserve, are home to an incredibly diverse ecosystem and a rare ancient temperate rain forest. The Ahousaht people have lived in harmony with these territories since time immemorial guided by an understanding of the Nuu-chah-nulth worldview, “Heshook-ish tsawalk” which means “everything is one.” Ahousaht First Nation is the largest of the Nuu-chah-nulth nations with over 2000 members. Approximately 1/3 of Ahousaht members live within Ahousaht traditional territories while the remainder live in other rural and urban areas. The contemporary family structure of the nation is an amalgamation of former tribes in the area including the Ahousaht, Manhousaht and Keltsmaht.

The traditional governance system of Ahousaht still exists today and is represented by three principle Hereditary Chiefs who are responsible to the Ahousaht people and the hahuulthi (ancestral territories and resources). The Hereditary Leadership of Ahousaht recently established the Maaqtusiis Hahoulthee Stewardship Corporation to further develop their contemporary capacity. Ahousaht First Nation also currently operates with an Elected Chief and Council system. There are 12 members of Council who are largely responsible for the day-to-day operations of the nation. Both leadership bodies work closely with the nation’s administrative backbone organizations: Ahousaht Administration and the Ahousaht Education Authority. - From the Ahousaht Band Website—http://www.ahousaht.ca/Home.html