Cox Bay Lookout Hike – Tofino, Vancouver Island
The Cox Bay Trail is one of Tofino’s best kept secrets! If you do one hike in Tofino, you need to make it the Cox Bay Lookout hike! The views from the lookout are unreal! This is one of the best hikes in Tofino and our personal favourite. It is extremely short with a bit of scrambling. We especially love doing this hike at sunset because the sunset views are the best in Tofino. The views of the sun setting over the ocean and then turning the sky different colours is absolutely magical and makes for some great photos!
Tofino is a small surf town on Vancouver Island with beautiful beaches, great food and lots of fun outdoor activities! If you are looking at planning a trip to Tofino, make sure you also check out our Ultimate Weekend Itinerary for Tofino!
The Cox Bay Lookout hike is 1.2km return and we recommend allowing for 2hrs or more. This is so that you also have time to enjoy the view at the top. It is one of those views that you will not want to leave. The Cox Bay trail is about a 10 minute drive from Tofino and located on Cox Bay Beach. The view from the top looks out over Cox Bay and shows the classic Tofino beach views where the mountains and pine trees flow out onto the beach.
The hike is a classic British Columbia hike with the amount of mud and tree roots that you will have to navigate. As well as the mud and roots, there is a bit of a climb up a rope section near the end of the trail to help you up the rock face but we managed it quite easily. This hike is dog friendly, however we aren’t sure if some dogs might struggle on this section of the trail. You may need to be prepared to carry them up this part.
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📃 Hike Stats
Elevation: 115 metres
From Vancouver: 5.5hrs
Dog Friendly: Yes, however keep in mind that your dog may struggle in some sections that are especially steep
Toilets: Yes, in the carpark
📍 Where is Cox Bay Lookout Located?
Cox Bay Lookout is located in Tofino, British Columbia on Vancouver Island. The lookout is to the side of Cox Bay Beach and overlooks the entire beach.
Click here to open the map in Google Maps!
How to get to Cox Bay Lookout
You will need to drive to Cox Bay Beach and then walk along the beach to find the trailhead. The lookout is a short, but steep hike.
Where to Park
You will want to park in the Cox Bay Beach Parking, right next to the Surf Grove Campground. Parking is free. Check out the map above for the exact parking location.
Finding the trailhead for Cox Bay Lookout
Walk down the trail from the carpark onto Cox Bay Beach and turn left once you reach the beach. Walk all the way to the end of the beach. Here you might see a little bit of a stream coming out from the trail above depending on how much it has rained. You will need to climb up the rocks and then you will find the muddy/rooty trail. This is the start of the trail. Alternatively, there is an opening to the right of the rocks which is a little easier.
🕐 How Long Does it Take to Hike to Cox Bay Lookout
The hike is short but steep and will take around 2 hours return on average.
🥾 How Hard is the Cox Bay Lookout Hike
The Cox Bay Trail is very short but technical with a bit of scrambling. There is also a lot of mud and roots along the unmaintained trail so you need to be careful to watch your footing. If you have small kids, this may not be the best trail for you but we will leave this up to you to decide. We would classify this hike’s difficulty as moderately challenging due to the amount of scrambling.
🐶 Can Dogs do the Cox Bay Lookout Trail
Dogs are allowed on both Cox Bay Beach and the trail, however there are a few scrambling sections which you might not be able to get your dog up. One section includes a rope on a steep rock where you will need to pull yourself up.
⌚ When is the Best Time to Hike this Trail
The best time to hike the Cox Bay Lookout Trail in our opinion is definitely sunset. The sunsets at Cox Bay Beach are wildly beautiful and having a picnic overlooking the beach at the lookout for sunset will be something you remember forever. If you decide to hike up for sunset, make sure you bring along some head lamps for the way back down in the dark.
🥾 The Cox Bay Lookout Trail
Once you start the hike, you will immediately understand what we mean about the mud and the roots. You will feel like you are playing one of those games you used to play as a kid. You know, where the mud is fire and you have to jump from tree root to tree root to avoid it.
At the start of the hike, there will seem like there are trails going in all different directions. This makes keeping to the right trail is a little tricky. The best tip we can give you is to always keep to your right as you hike up to the viewpoint.
Well into the hike you will reach a rope on the side of the rocks that will help you climb up. When you get to this point in the hike, you will know that you are very close to the top!
Tip: Embrace the mud. You might find yourself trying to not get muddy at the beginning of the hike, but this will change on the way back down.
🌞 The Cox Bay Lookout Viewpoint
The viewpoint is absolutely awesome! There is enough rock space for you to sit and enjoy the view for a while. Bring a picnic up and enjoy the view for a while.
If you choose to visit the Cox Bay Lookout at sunset, we recommend heading back down before it gets too dark to make the hike a bit easier. You should also make sure that you have your headlamps with you in case you do have to come back in the dark. We absolutely love our headlamps as they are nice and strong and make hiking in the dark so much easier!
🌲 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.
🎒 What to Bring Hiking
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!
- 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!
🛌 Places to stay in Tofino
We found accommodation kind of tricky for Tofino as we were trying our best not to spend too much. The campsites turned out to be more expensive than we were used to but we still found it was the cheapest option. There is also a hostel which works out to be even cheaper than camping if you stay in a dorm.
We stayed at the Surf Grove Campground which is located right on Cox Bay Beach. Staying at the Surf Grove Campground means that you won’t have to drive anywhere to do the Cox Bay Lookout hike. You can walk to it directly from your campsite!
If you are looking to stay somewhere really nice in Tofino and happy to spend the money, there are some really beautiful places you can stay at but we recommend booking far in advance to make sure you don’t miss out. Below is a list of some of the accommodation options separated by expense.
- Surf Grove Campground – located on Cox Bay Beach
- Bella Pacifica Campground – located on Mackenzie Beach a little further towards town.
- Tofino Hostel – A hostel with a view!
- WildPod Glamping – Stay in a dome pod with an epic view of the ocean!
- The Shoreline Tofino – Beautiful Cabins within 2 km of Mackenzie Beach and 3 km of Chesterman Beach.
- Tofino Resort + Marina – located right on the Marina, the views from this hotel are awesome!
- Pacific Sands Beach Resort – This resort is located on Cox Bay Beach and is absolutely stunning!
- Ocean Village Tofino – Cabins located right on the beach front!
- Cox Bay Beach Resort – The resort has a fitness centre, sauna, outdoor hot tub, BBQ’s for guest use, a lounge with a stone fireplace, and a pavilion where guests can sit, read and enjoy the beautiful views of Cox Bay Beach.
Other Must-do Tofino Hikes
If you are spending some time in Tofino, why not add another awesome hike to your itinerary? Another of Tofino’s best hikes is the Canso Bomber Plane Crash Hike.
Canso Plane Crash Hike
Distance: 5.2km | Elevation: 35m | Time: 2 hours | Level: Moderate
The Canso bomber plane crash or the Vancouver Island plane crash as some may know it as, is a plane crash site in Tofino from WW11.
You can hike through the muddy forest to the actual plane crash site, which has been left completely intact. On your way to finding the plane, you will have to walk through an old abandoned building which is believed to have been an old communication shack.
This trail is such a unique Tofino hike and a real experience that you will never forget!
This is our all time favourite hike in Tofino and one that we will do again and again! The view from the top is also a great spot to enjoy a picnic if the weather is nice and it’s not too windy.
If you are planning a trip to Tofino, check out our Ultimate Weekend Itinerary for Tofino! This guide will provide you with some awesome activities, accommodation options and best places to eat as well as tips on the best time of the year to visit Tofino.
You might also enjoy:
- Hiking to the Canso Plane Crash Site on Vancouver Island
- 21 Best Views in Vancouver
- How to Find the Secret Horseshoe Bay Lookout
- 5 Unique Waterfalls on Vancouver Island That You Need to Visit
- The Ultimate Weekend Itinerary for Tofino, BC
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