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Backpacking the Sunshine Coast Trail: Sarah Point to Powell River

I completed two sections of the Sunshine Coast Trail with my friend Judy (who was a very good sport) during the third week in September. The first section from Mount Troubridge to Saltery Bay was a complete delight so we were both looking forward to the next four days which in theory would take us from Sarah Point to Powell River – with an overnight break in a cabin with hot showers at SunLund by the Sea.

In the end we cut out the last 13 kilometres of the trail and stopped just short of Sliammon Lake. We decided after a tough hike to Manzanita Hut that we would camp instead en route to Rieveley Pond Hut – and have a couple of easier days. Bringing a tent allows the option of making changes to plans while on the trail.

Read: The Sunshine Coast Trail: What You Need to Know Before You Go

Here’s what you have to look forward to on one of the more popular sections of the Sunshine Coast Trail.

Sarah Point to Manzanita Hut

Distance: 16 kilometres (+ 0.6 kms to reach the starting point because of low tide)

Time Needed: 6 – 9 hours depending on hiking speed; we took 7.5 hours

Our day started with a breakfast of homemade baked goods at Nancy’s Bakery, followed by a boat shuttle to Sarah Point from Lund with TerraCentric Coastal Adventures. I would recommend getting the earliest shuttle possible to give yourself plenty of time to get to Manzanita Hut. We’d been warned by a fellow at the Fairview Hut that it would take us 10 hours to hike but I do think he was off base unless you’re a very slow hiker.

The hike starts with stellar views of Desolation Sound. You could in fact camp on tent platforms right at Sarah Point but you would need to bring all the water you’d plan to use for the evening and morning with you. I believe there are three tent pads and an open air outhouse. Payment is required. Check out the BC Parks website for more information.

Backpacking the Sunshine Coast Trail: Sarah Point to Powell River

We spent the night in Lund at a lovely SunLund By-the-Sea Cabin

Backpacking the Sunshine Coast Trail: Sarah Point to Powell River

Unloading 0.6 kms from Sarah Point on account of low tide

The first part of the trail is truly glorious with lots of mossy rocks, arbutus trees and occasional views. There is a bench with a view at the 1.9 kilometre mark. We did not stop to enjoy it as it was raining at that point and we just wanted to get some miles under our belt.

The next bit of hiking included a lot of up and down – nothing big but there seemed to be a lot of it. This section of forest included smaller trees – most moss covered and loads of ferns. Under wet conditions the ferns ensure your lower body and feet in particular get wet. This is where the gaiters really made a difference.

At the 7.6 kilometre point you reach The Knob – a knoll that offers great views of the Malaspina Strait. The next few kilometres of hiking are somewhat repetitive. But at the 12 kilometre mark once you reach Wednesday Lake – where you can camp – it starts to get more interesting again. The lake itself would be a delight on a hot summer day. There’s a bench that beckons hikers to relax and take in the views.

Either at the lake or at the creek – 0.2 kilometres away fill up all your water bottles as there is no water at Manzanita Hut.

The last four kilometres felt longer than they were – probably because of all the water we were carrying. The upside was the beauty and magic we experienced every time we climbed to the top of a knoll. The area around Manzanita Hut is spectacular. Enjoy all the benches, seating area and picnic tables as you look out to Savary Island.

Backpacking the Sunshine Coast Trail: Sarah Point to Powell River

The official start of the Sunshine Coast Trail

Backpacking the Sunshine Coast Trail: Sarah Point to Powell River

Looking out to Desolation Sound from Sarah Point

Backpacking the Sunshine Coast Trail: Sarah Point to Powell River

The start of the trail through the arbutus trees is quite lovely

Backpacking the Sunshine Coast Trail: Sarah Point to Powell River

Look at how thick the bark is on the big tree

Backpacking the Sunshine Coast Trail: Sarah Point to Powell River

Fortunately there weren’t too many energy zapping trees to get over on the trail

Backpacking the Sunshine Coast Trail: Sarah Point to Powell River

A lot of this part of the trail looked like this

Backpacking the Sunshine Coast Trail: Sarah Point to Powell River

Wednesday Lake has a campsite nearby – and makes a great rest stop

Backpacking the Sunshine Coast Trail: Sarah Point to Powell River

New trees growing on a nurse stump

Backpacking the Sunshine Coast Trail: Sarah Point to Powell River

The hiking on the bluff towards Manzanita Hut is really special

Backpacking the Sunshine Coast Trail: Sarah Point to Powell River

More magic in the woods on Hummingbird Bluff

Backpacking the Sunshine Coast Trail: Sarah Point to Powell River

Looking out towards Savary Island through the clouds – from Manzanita Hut

Backpacking the Sunshine Coast Trail: Sarah Point to Powell River

The view the next morning out the hut to Savary Island

Manzanita Hut to Plummer Creek Campground

Distance: 9.8 kilometres

Time Needed: 4 – 5 hours

We woke to a different day filled with sunshine, clear skies and stellar views of Savary Island. There was no panic to get going as we knew in advance that we were planning to camp somewhere along the way and the area around the hut was a great place to hang out.

The day started with some up and down through beautiful woods until we reached a large open block section that afforded some views. Our next stop was Emil’s Bench built with wide boards to accommodate a pack. It’s got a marvelous view to enjoy as well.

At the 6.3 kilometre mark we reached Fern Gully Creek Campground – rather a green, depressing kind of place. It certainly didn’t speak to us so we continued onto the Plummer Creek Campground hoping it would meet our expectations. The rest of the day – which was pretty easy in comparison to the previous day, included a mix of very woodsy walking along with a final steepish descent towards the water. You could see cabins and hear boats off in the distance. In this area there was also a lot of bear scat so we moved quickly to leave it.

The final stretch of walking was easy and in short order we saw the sign to the campground. The next camping option was a further three kilometres away so we were biased before we even saw it to call it a day. Fortunately Plummer Creek Campground, though a little spooky feeling, is quite alright though lacking in bear boxes. There’s a picnic table, a fire ring and an outhouse. Nearby via a steep hill is a small river – which was perfect for drinking water and a quick clean-up. The only thing we didn’t have any success with was starting a fire. After an hour of smoking green wood we called it a day and sat down with a glass of wine instead. We’d both decided that we’d had enough of a dry trip and figured it was worth carrying a 750 ml bottle of wine in a Nalgene bottle to enjoy over a couple of nights.

Backpacking the Sunshine Coast Trail: Sarah Point to Powell River

The inside of Manzanita Hut

Backpacking the Sunshine Coast Trail: Sarah Point to Powell River

Beautiful open forest as we leave Manzanita Hut

Backpacking the Sunshine Coast Trail: Sarah Point to Powell River

It was a treat to be in bright open woods

Backpacking the Sunshine Coast Trail: Sarah Point to Powell River

Looking out from Emil’s Bench over the Malaspina Strait

Backpacking the Sunshine Coast Trail: Sarah Point to Powell River

Dazzled by this section of forest

Backpacking the Sunshine Coast Trail: Sarah Point to Powell River

It sure has the feel of primordial forest

Backpacking the Sunshine Coast Trail: Sarah Point to Powell River

One of the campsites

Backpacking the Sunshine Coast Trail: Sarah Point to Powell River

Moss lined trail

Backpacking the Sunshine Coast Trail: Sarah Point to Powell River

Still smiling near the end of the day

Plummer Creek Campground to Rieveley Pond

Distance: 7.6 kilometres

Time Needed: 2.5 – 4 hours

This part of our hike felt incredibly easy but I doubt most people on the way to Rieveley Pond feel quite the same way, at least if they’re doing the full 17 kilometre distance in a day. We knocked 7.6 kilometres off in 2.5 hours. Most of the hiking was either flat or climbed gently.

We did notice for the second time on the hike a culturally modified tree – a term I wasn’t familiar with but Judy had heard of. A strip of bark is removed so as not to harm the tree but I’m not sure what the bark is used for – baskets perhaps??

Just one kilometre into today’s hike, we came to Toquenatch Falls, the first ones we’d seen on the trip. At the threee kilometre stop to admire the massive Toquenatch Douglas fir. It was truly awe-inspiring to look up its trunk into the sky. There were several other notable specimens around – both dead and alive.

After 3.7 kilometres we reached Homestead Campsite. It’s got road access and isn’t very pretty or private. In hindsight we were very pleased that we chose Plummer Creek for the night.

The next hour was a delight – perhaps because we knew it was a short day and the sun was shining. Rieveley Hut is more rustic than some with an earthen floor downstairs and an open air kitchen area. But upstairs you sleep on wood, just like all the other huts. After lunch at the hut Judy found a trail leading to a beat-up wharf – but that wharf was in the sun, and the perfect place for a little sunbathing and relaxation.

Backpacking the Sunshine Coast Trail: Sarah Point to Powell River

Culturally modified tree by indigenous people

Backpacking the Sunshine Coast Trail: Sarah Point to Powell River

Second growth forest but still beautiful

Backpacking the Sunshine Coast Trail: Sarah Point to Powell River

Dwarfed by the roots

Backpacking the Sunshine Coast Trail: Sarah Point to Powell River

What a contrast of textures

Backpacking the Sunshine Coast Trail: Sarah Point to Powell River

Dwarfed by the tree

Backpacking the Sunshine Coast Trail: Sarah Point to Powell River

Imagine what this tree trunk has lived through

Backpacking the Sunshine Coast Trail: Sarah Point to Powell River

Homestead Campsite – with road access

Backpacking the Sunshine Coast Trail: Sarah Point to Powell River

The Rieveley Pond Hut

Backpacking the Sunshine Coast Trail: Sarah Point to Powell River

Prepare to be serenaded by frogs at Rieveley Pond Hut

Rieveley Pond Hut to our Finish

Distance: 4.3 kilometres to reach Theodosia FSR Br.01 plus another few kilometres down the road to meet our shuttle

Time Needed: 2 hours

It was a short and beautiful day of hiking with fabulous sections of forest, including ancient Douglas firs along with the Appleton Canyon Trail, marked by waterfalls and canyon views. (You can drive to a parking lot via Tomkinson Road and access the Appleton Canyon portion of the Sunshine Coast Trail as a day hike.) There are places where you could safely cool off in the summer heat and the very brave may want to try a freezing shower under Gorge Falls. Take your time through here. It’s a soothing part of the woods to be in.

Our trip ended with a shuttle pickup on Theodosia FSR Br.01 road. It’s in good shape so anyone with a vehicle that has a decent amount of clearance should be fine. We did see many enormous piles of bear scat once we hiked down the road – but again never saw a bear.

Backpacking the Sunshine Coast Trail: Sarah Point to Powell River

On the way to Appleton Creek Recreation Area

Backpacking the Sunshine Coast Trail: Sarah Point to Powell River

The forest is taking over

Backpacking the Sunshine Coast Trail: Sarah Point to Powell River

Long sections along the river are a nice change

Backpacking the Sunshine Coast Trail: Sarah Point to Powell River

Gorge Falls

Backpacking the Sunshine Coast Trail: Sarah Point to Powell River

Feeling the end in sight

Backpacking the Sunshine Coast Trail: Sarah Point to Powell River

Looking at where we ended the trip

Our seven days on the Sunshine Coast Trail was at an end. It felt like the right amount of time to get into the rhythm of the trail. In many ways I would have liked to keep going but in late September the nights were getting really chilly and the thought of creature comforts very appealing. I would highly recommend a minimum of three days on the trail.

How would you like to hike this section of the Sunshine Coast Trail?

Backpacking the Sunshine Coast Trail: Sarah Point to Powell River

Thank you to Hello BC for all your help with this superb adventure.

Leigh McAdam

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
HikeBikeTravel
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Join the discussion 10 Comments

  • Stefano Cecchi says:

    I did the same section as you did this past summer. Your pictures are fantastic and they brought back great memories, thank you for sharing your experiences.

  • Neal Van Der Voorn says:

    The photography is quite good; I enjoyed looking the at the photos. I also liked reading your descriptions and comments. I can only assume that the trail is not too challenging? Possibly, 3 out of 5?

    • @Neal The first day on this trail is actually quite challenging. A 7.5 hour hike with a backpack is nothing to sneeze at. The way we did it was easier by breaking it up but if you made it all the way to Powell River in 4 days I’d rate it a 4/5 for exertion. And if you climbed from Fairview Hut to Mount Troubridge (going in that direction) a 4,000′ climb would rate a 5/5 so it really depends where on the trail.There are certainly loads of easier sections that rate a 3/5 but it really would need to be rated on a section by section basis.

  • Gemma says:

    I love the many shades of green in these photos – so vibrant and so much variation. The Powell River area is a real favourite of mine – we did the canoe circuit there a few years back and stayed in one of the brilliant Sunshine Coast Trail huts. Thanks for the insight on this section of the trail – it’s on the list!

  • Paul Anderson says:

    Hi Leigh…thanks for the post and detailed information. We are not sure if we want to tackle the Sarah Point to Powell River section or the Saltery Bay part. I can’t find any information on your Saltery Bay hike…can you compare to the north section? Same kind of terrain (forest, mossy)? Also, did you get the guide book for the hike?

    Thanks!

  • Darci says:

    Hello, lovely blog, I really enjoyed it! Just curious how much water you packed? And how often there is water fill up stations/creeks?

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