The Canso Plane Crash Hike in Tofino
Have you ever seen a real life plane crash site? Have you ever walked through a creepy abandoned building that was definitely inhabited by ghosts? We hadn’t, until now! This Vancouver Island hike takes you to the crash site of a small airplane. The Canso Plane Crash hike or the Tofino plane hike as it is more commonly known as, is one of the best hikes in Tofino and is so so different to any other hike we had done before. It was so interesting to learn about the history behind the crash site.
The Canso Plane Crash is a crash site that has become a hiking trail in Pacific Rim National Park near Tofino on Vancouver Island. You will find that the trailhead is not too far away from Radar Hill and so the lower Radar Hill carpark is ideal to park in. The hike is 5.2km return and will take you around 2 hours.
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The trail is not maintained, however, there is a bit of a swampy section which someone has now put wooden planks across to help you navigate through the mud. There is not too much uphill on this hike until the end when you reach the crash site. To get all the way to the site, you will need to do a bit of muddy scrambling. This trail is dog friendly. Please note that there are no toilets in the carpark or at the trailhead. There is a toilet however, at the official Radar Hill carpark if you keep driving along Radar Hill road.
This guide will provide you with everything you need to know about doing the Canso Plane Crash hike near Tofino.
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❓ Why is the Plane There?
One of the things that makes this hike so interesting is the history behind how the plane got there as this was only months prior to the end of WW11. The crash occurred on February 8, 1945. The small airplane took off at around 11pm and was carrying 12 members of the Royal Canadian Air Force. The reason for the crash was that the plane’s engine failed and the pilot then had no choice but to intentionally crash the plane into the forest.
After leaking oil everywhere, the plane then burst into flames which was shortly put out by the passengers. The most incredible thing about this whole unfortunate flight is that all 12 people survived.
The pilot and passengers found shelter for eleven hours until rescuers arrived. The army then retrieved all leftover weapons from the wreckage and detonated explosives. Detonating the explosives left a 6-metre crater which is now a little swamp which you will pass by walking over wooden planks on your way to the plane crash site.
❗ An Important Thing to Note when doing the Canso Plane Crash Hike
The Canso Bomber wreckage has been degrading over the past several years. Please do your part by limiting further deterioration by staying off the plane structure.
📃 Hike Stats
Elevation: 35 metres
From Vancouver: 5.5hrs
Dog Friendly: Yes
📍 Where is the Canso Plane Crash
The Canso Plane Crash site is located on Vancouver Island close to the small beach town of Tofino. From the town to the parking lot, it is around a 10 minute drive down the Pacific Rom Hwy, or you could even ride a bike along the bike paths.
Click here to open the map in Google Maps!
Where to Park
For the Canso Plane Crash hike, you are going to want to park in the Lower Radar Hill parking lot jut off the main road. It is a pretty small carpark that will fit around 10 cars. There are no toilets located in this carpark but there is a pit toilet in the Upper Radar Hill carpark. To reach this carpark you will need to keep driving all the way along Radar Hill road to the top.
We didn’t have any issues getting a parking spot when we did the hike on a Saturday morning. There were only a couple of other cars there at the time.
This carpark is where you will also park if you want to visit Radar Hill Viewpoint. The viewpoint looks out over Clayoquot Sound. To reach the viewpoint it is only a 200 metre walk from the carpark which will take you around 5 minutes. Radar Hill got its name as it was one of the radar stations used during WWII to warn of air strikes to North America.
You will need a national parks pass displayed on your dashboard to park in this carpark. If you don’t already have one, you can purchase these online from Parks Canada or alternatively, the carpark also has a machine that you can use on the day.
Finding the Trailhead
From the Lower Radar Hill carpark, walk back towards the main road, turning right when you reach it. If you walk along the bike/walking path parallel to the main road and count 15 telegraph poles, you will then come to a fork where you turn right down a forest path. On your left you will see a gate leading to the main road with a telegraph pole next to it with a small drawing of a plane telling you that you are on the right path. Finding this plane drawing was one of the fun things that we loved about this hike!
📑 Things to Know Before You go
- Bring bug spray. The bugs can be fierce in this area.
- Bring bear spray
- Wear hiking boots for the mud and bring a rain coat. It likes to rain in this part of the world.
- Be respectful of the crash site and don’t climb all over it. The site has been degrading over the years.
- Have fun!
🥾 Canso Plane Crash Trail Difficulty
The Canso Plane Crash Trail is of moderate difficulty. Most of the difficulty comes from the amount of mud and roots on the trail, which makes for a little bit of scrambling, especially near the end to reach the plane. There are some very swampy sections of the hike which now have wooden planks to help you cross.
Oh! There is also a large component of mental difficulty in walking through the abandoned building because it is super scary! You can of course choose to hike around the building, but where’s the fun in that?
🕐 How Long Does the Tofino Plane Crash Hike Take
The Canso Plane Crash Hike will take you around 2 hours return. Make sure you have plenty of time so that you don’t need to rush as the trail can be quite slippery because of the amount of mud.
🚶♀️ The Canso Plane Crash Trail Description
The Canso Plane Crash hiking trail is fairly flat but with a lot of roots, and SO SO muddy! The hike is 5.2km return and will take you around 2 hours with a rest stop at the crash site. The trail is unmaintained and can be a little tricky in sections, with a lot of mud and roots to navigate. We had no issues with following the trail as it was well trodden and we came across a few other people on the trail too.
The Canso Plane Crash Abandoned Building
The start of the trail is super easy, with a relatively wide maintained path that isn’t too muddy. Soon after starting the hike, you will reach the old abandoned building. This building is believed to have been a communication shack. You can choose to walk through the building or around it to the right. Walking through the building only takes a few seconds and isn’t too far at all. Walk up the stairs, then turn left. You will see that it says “Trail this way” painted on the wall. go through the doorway and you will see the forest on the other side. Congratulations! You conquered the creepy abandoned building!
After the building, this is where the trail gets a bit more difficult. Both the mud and the roots get worse and worse. You might need to slow down a little to make sure you don’t trip over a root or fall in the mud.
Once you reach the wooden planks, you are almost there! You might hear frogs croaking in the creek as you pass by. Near the end of the planks, you will catch your first glimpse of the plane! If you don’t feel comfortable climbing up the rest of the way, you can admire the plane from the bottom. However, we recommend going all the way so that you can see the plane in more detail. It is a bit of a muddy scramble at this section but definitely worth it! Don’t be scared about getting muddy. Just embrace it.
🥾 What Shoes to Wear on the Trail
Because of the amount of mud on the trail, you definitely don’t want to wear your favourite, white sneaker as they will not be white anymore once you have finished the hike.
We recommend wearing hiking boots for this one. My favourite hiking boots are Oboz Bridger Mid B-Dry Boots and Dave’s are the Scarpa Kailash Plus Gore-Tex Backpacking Boots. Both of these hiking boots served us well on this hike. ☺
🐻 Wildlife on the Trial
We didn’t see any wildlife except for some very noisy frogs, however, you are on Vancouver Island in the forest so you need to make sure you have bear spray with you just in case. This area is home to black bears, cougars and wolves so make sure you are up to date with your wildlife safety.
🌲 Leave No Trace
Whenever you are enjoying the the beautiful nature that our world has to offer, remember to leave no trace (LNT)! Respect the beautiful places that make British Columbia beautiful and take out everything that you take in, take only photos and respect the wildlife and other people. You can read more on the 7 LNT principles here.
Hike Packing List
What you wear and bring hiking in Tofino will depend on the season. For example, in Winter, you may want to pack gloves and a beanie and some extra layers. If it is Summer, you should also make sure you have some bear spray and bug spray because the bears and bugs will both be out and about!
No matter the season, on this trail, you will probably get muddy so keep this in mind when choosing what to wear.
- Hiking Boots or Trail Runners – My favourite boots are the Oboz Bridger Mid B-Dry Boots and Dave’s favourite boots are his Scarpa Kailash Plus Gore-Tex Backpacking Boots.
- Hiking Socks – Good hiking socks are important to make your boots as comfortable as possible! Some great hiking socks are the Smartwool Hike Classic Edition Light Cushion Crew and the Darn Tough Hiker Midweight with Cushion Micro Crew socks.
- Micro Spikes – During Winter, you may want to bring along a pair of micro spikes if the trail is icy. We have a pair each in our backpacks on every hike we do in the Winter and they have come in handy more often than not.
- Merino Top / Tee – Merino is a great material to hike in so we use Merino tops to hike. Our favourite Merino tops are from Icebreaker!
- Fleece – My favourite fleece is the Patagonia Better Sweater 1/4 Zip.
- Puffer Jacket – We love our puffer jackets to keep warm at the beginning of a walk and then once we are at the viewpoint. Dave’s favourite puffer jacket is the Arcteryx Cerium LT Hoody and Kerry’s favourites are the Eddie Bauer CirrusLite Down Hooded Jacket and Rab Microlight Alpine Down Jacket.
- Rain Jacket – Check the weather before you go, but if there is any rain in the forecast we recommend bringing along raincoats which can also double as a wind breaker.
- Beanie – We never go anywhere in Winter, Spring and Fall without our beanies! Some of our favourites are from Dakine and Eddie Bauer.
- Safety Items such as a first aid kit, bug spray, sunscreen, headlamps, a navigation device and bear spray.
For a full guide containing all of the things we take hiking, check out our hiking gear guide!
Other Hikes to do in Tofino
Cox Bay Lookout – The best view in Tofino
Distance: 1.2km / 0.7 miles | Elevation: 115 metres / 377 ft | Time: 2 hrs | Level: Moderately challenging
If you are spending time in Tofino, we can also highly recommend Cox Bay Lookout as an absolutely amazing view over Cox Bay Beach! The trail is similar to the Canso Plane Crash Hike in that there are a lot mud and roots, however there is a lot more elevation in a short amount of time. Cox Bay Lookout is one of the best views in Tofino, especially at sunset.
This was such a different hike to what we are used to and we really enjoyed it! It was like hiking to a museum which was very rewarding and it was so great to learn about a little piece of Vancouver Island history. We loved that the hike wasn’t too long and the abandoned building made it quite exciting! When we did this hike in Spring, the mud was pretty bad but not impassable. It is probably a good idea to check the weather forecast to see how much it has rained leading up to doing this hike. This way you can gauge a little on how much mud there will be!
Definitely check out Radar Hill at the same time if you do the Tofino Plane Crash Hike as it is such an easy viewpoint to get to and has really beautiful views!
You might also enjoy:
- Cox Bay Lookout: The Best Secret Viewpoint in Tofino
- 5 Unique Waterfalls on Vancouver Island That You Need to Visit
- The Ultimate Weekend Itinerary for Tofino, BC
- Best Weekend Trips From Vancouver, BC
- How to Spend 1 Day in Banff in Summer
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