Safety on the Trail


Users of the Vancouver Island Trail do so entirely at their own risk.  The Vancouver Island Trail Association (VITA) takes no responsibility for trail users.


The VI Trail passes through a combination of managed forest lands, wilderness areas and rural to urban environments with a corresponding range of trail standards.  Trail users are commonly in locations remote from any assistance.  The nature of the terrain is highly variable; some trail sections are steep, and footing is poor at times and in places even on gently to moderately sloping terrain (e.g. slippery roots and rocks).  A number of creeks and larger rivers are not bridged and so can only be waded during low flows.  For safe wading technique, see

Many sections of the Trail are suited only to  experienced back-country travelers.  We have already learned from experience that thorough planning is essential for completing a successful hiking or backpacking trip.  Be sure to research the section of trail you plan to traverse to get a good sense of the difficulty involved and be sure you have adequate skills, experience, strength and endurance.  Users must have adequate navigation skills and appropriate equipment – such as maps, compass, GPS and/or a satellite location beacon (cell phones can be very useful but should not be relied upon because of incomplete cellular coverage).  Trail users must ensure they are adequately equipped and supplied for the trip they are embarking on – whether a through-hike, an overnight excursion or a day-hike.  

Trail access cannot always be assured; temporary trail closures and/or re-routing are at times necessary.  Trail users should always consult and be familiar with the information provided in the section descriptions, in the Trail Guidebook and in the Blog.  The Blog is particularly important to check for notices regarding trail closures, trail re-routing and current trail conditions, especially any hazardous conditions.  Earlier in the year during snowmelt and high flow conditions in streams and rivers, be prepared for sections of flooded trail that may well require a bush-whack to get around.  At higher elevations, notably in the Beauforts section, navigation is much more difficult when much of the trail is obscured by snow.  In most years, starting a through-hike from Victoria should not be planned/attempted until after June 15, so that you are into July before reaching the higher elevations.

The Trail is identified with 2-inch square, fluorescent/reflective orange aluminum markers attached to trees.  However, this is not yet consistent as it is very much a work in progress.  At this time, some sections still are only marked with flagging tape.

The VI Trail passes through a wide range of land ownership and Crown land tenures, and through the traditional territories of several First Nations.  Users must respect the Land and be considerate of all the various managers of the Land.  Remember, you are a guest on all private lands and should act accordingly.

Be sure to leave no trace of your passage; follow all “leave not trace” ethics and procedures –

The following sections provide additional information to keep you safe while on the Vancouver Island Trail:

Adequate Equipment for Navigation

Carry adequate navigational equipment – always carry maps and compass, optionally supplemented by a GPS (a dedicated unit or GPS capable phone/tablet).  Notice above it says GPS is supplemental; it’s not maps and compass or GPS since you can never be sure such devices won’t fail for lack of battery power or other issues.  Whether in a group and particularly if hiking alone, carrying a personal locator beacon (Spot or In Reach) or a satellite phone is good insurance and can greatly reduce response times in any emergency (either your own or that of other trail users).  While many of us rely on cellphones to stay in contact, cell coverage is non-existent in many areas along the Trail.

First Aid Capability 

There are numerous first aid courses available specifically tailored to outdoors activities. The most basic of courses should be considered as mandatory before you even step out your door, but once you decide to do outdoor activities in remote areas such as those traversed by the Vancouver Island Trail, you would be wise to take a more advanced course for back country conditions.

Safety in Numbers

The extra margin of safety provided by traveling in a group is always advisable in remote areas.

Wildlife Encounters and Safety

There are many black bears, cougars, biting insects and things that go bump in the night on Vancouver Island.  There is a wealth of available information on this topic – just google!  Recommended reading includes:

Safety Around Work Sites

Normally, notice of active work sites and temporary closure/re-routing will be posted on the Blog.  However, a hiker might encounter an active work site during their hike, perhaps road maintenance or active logging.  The following procedures are mandatory:

  • if any equipment is in use – road grader, drill, backhoe, excavator, bulldozer etc. – stop at a safe distance where the operator can see you.  Do not proceed until you have caught the eye of the operator (you may have to throw a stick at/near the cab to attract attention).  Only proceed when the operator has indicated it is safe to do so.  Then move quickly and fully past the work area.
  • if hiking on a road and you encounter a logging truck (loaded or empty) or other heavy equipment (e.g. low-bed), move well off the tracked portion of the road and make sure the driver has seen you; continue only when well clear.
  • you may encounter a sign warning of blasting in progress.  If you hear a drill operating, then follow the procedure above re communicating with the operator.  You need to know the blasting signals/whistles used just prior to and after a blast.  Before a blast, you will hear 12 short whistles (at 1 second intervals), with the blast fired two minutes after the last whistle.  If you are close enough to hear this clearly, it’s advisable to stand behind a good sized tree (some fly-rock can be airborne for several minutes).  After a blast and it is safe to proceed, the all clear is sounded – one long whistle of at least 5 seconds.
  • if your way down a trail or road is blocked by an ‘ACTIVE FALLING’ sign (the sign will typically be on a rope strung across the trail/road) – under absolutely no circumstances can you proceed/enter the active falling area (whether you can hear a chainsaw or not).  There is no safe way to contact the fallers (without radio and proper frequency – not available to a hiker).  The hiker must stop and wait for the end of shift and the taking down of the sign before proceeding.