What is the BC Marine Trails Network, and who is it for?
It is a series of safe havens, rest areas, overnight campsites and launch or access points that will eventually extend along the entire length of the BC coast. The great majority of overnight camping sites are small, undeveloped 'wilderness' sites that have no facilities, are user-maintained and must be respected, using the 'Leave No Trace' principles. It is for paddlers and other users of small, beachable watercraft, from Canada and around the world.
Where does the trail network start/finish?
There really is no start or finish to the trails. Because of the many access points, paddlers have the option to start or finish wherever they want. However, as a means to establish sites that are otherwise left unofficial and hence often unportected from development etc we will disgn routes that are labelled and named as Marine Trails with start and end points. Paddlers can, of course, ttravel entire trails or just parts of them of string trails togehter and vary their routes as they wish.
Why do you not show some sites that are already well-known to paddlers?
Good question! There could be several reasons:
- Some popular sites are on private land. We are willing to show these sites if the landowner consents. However, because of liability and other concerns, this is unlikely. In some instances a site on private land is shown if there is a long hisory of public use (e.g. Blackberry Point, Valdes Island) and this status is mentioned in the site notes.
- We treat Indian Reserve land as private land. At some sites, the First Nation band may grant permission to travellers to use Reserve land. In these cases, we provide the contact information needed to arrange that permission. Always seek permission before camping on Reserve land.
- The ownership of many coastal sites is in dispute: a site that is currently under public ownership (i.e. Crown or BC Park) may lie within the traditional territory of one or more First Nation and there could be a formal claim under way for a transfer of ownership and control of various rights associated with that property. Where a site is under a land claim and the First Nation does not currently favour continued recreational access, we may agree to not display that site, especially if there is a suitable alternative in that same area. Many sites have special cultural or spiritual significance for the First Nations and we wish to respect their culture and heritage by consulting and working cooperatively with them on all site access issues.
- We might have not yet physically visited to perform a Site Assessment or 'groundproofed' that site. We are unwilling to give out second-hand information - it might be wrong! We know how much this can spoil your paddling day!
However, if you know of a site that is not on our map, please feel free to let us know at
There’s no need to give much detail except the location (preferably the coordinates). We can take it from there and let you know what we already know about it, if anything. At that point, if its 'new' to us, we'll ask you about every possible detail and we'll want to see photos, too!
Can the network be used by novice paddlers?
Some waters are quite protected and novice paddlers will be able to paddle from site to site with little issue. Some island groups are located within protected waters, but paddlers may have to cross more exposed areas to reach them. Less skilled paddlers can still enjoy those sites however, with the aid of water taxis and professional guides. For other waters, conditions and geography will require advanced paddling skills. Some areas of the trails network will be very remote and paddlers will need to be completely self-sufficient. A general guide to the relative difficulty of sections of the BC coastal waters is given on our site in a link to SKGABC's Water Classification Maps. We advise paddlers to particpate in club or guided trips. For most paddlers, solo travel is too risky.
Are there any fees for using the trails?
A large number of the campsites are situated on Crown lands and might be designated as Marine Trail Recreation Sites. These do not currently require a fee. Some provincial, federal, and regional park sites may require a small fee, as will some sites on First Nations' lands and other privately-owned commercial campsites. For information regarding backcountry camping and fees in BC Parks please visit here.
Will the establishment of the BC Marine Trails Network restrict paddlers to BCMTN sites?
Definitely not. Paddlers will have the same freedom to camp on Crown land that they have enjoyed in the past. Restrictions still apply for Ecological Reserves and for some Crown leases and tenures. The difference is that the establishment of Marine Trail Recreation Sites hleps to secure these sites for paddlers from future private or commercial use. The BCMTN will serve to direct paddlers to known, reliable BCMTN sites and to areas within parks where camping is permitted, making it easier to plan your travel itinerary.
When will the Network be finished?
New sections of the trails network will be made public when they are sufficiently ready. Due to the massive scope of the Marine Trails initiative, we anticipate it will be several years in the making. Even the three trails opened in 2011 and 2015 are works in progress, as new campsites, launch points, and commercial sites are still being added and descriptions amended. Supporters will receive our Newsletters and so can keep abreast of our trail announcements.
I'd like to help. What can I do?
Paddlers and other boaters can help out in a number of ways. Firstly, they can make a yearly membership contribution by signing up as BCMTNA members. We will also be needing volunteers of all kinds as the work continues to develop. Each spring and summer we look for paddlers to help us with site checks, or 'groundproofing' new potential sites. We hold regular stewardship events, such as the week-long beach cleanups. Volunteers help to promote the BCMTN to fellow paddlers and the public by representing us at events or posting items to social media sites.