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Cox Bay Lookout: The Best Sunset Spot in Tofino

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After what turned out to be a steeper scramble that I had anticipated, we had finally found the famous lookout and were sitting on the rocks taking in the view. Dave had his arm around me as we watched the mountains and beach turn from daytime colours to yellow, pink and orange. It was magical.

The Cox Bay Trail is one of best hikes in Tofino and one of its best kept secrets! If you do one hike in Tofino, you need to make it this one! The views from Cox Bay Lookout are unreal, especially at sunset!

Girl sitting at the Cox Bay Lookout at sunset in Tofino

The trail itself is extremely short with a bit of scrambling. We especially loved doing this hike at sunset because it is one of Tofino’s best sunset spots. The view from the lookout of the sun setting over the ocean and then turning the sky different colours is absolutely magical and makes for some great photos!

The Cox Bay Lookout hike is only 1.2km return but 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 find yourself struggling to leave.

The view from the top looks out over Cox Bay and shows the classic Tofino beach views that you have probably seen in photos, where the mountains and pine trees flow out onto the beach.

couple standing at Cox Bay Lookout Tofino

The Cox Bay Lookout hike is a classic British Columbia hike with lots 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, some dogs might struggle on this section of the trail. You may need to be prepared to carry them up this part.

Everything you need to know to hike to Cox Bay Lookout is located in this guide including:

  • Where to park
  • Are there bears in Tofino
  • Is there a lot of scrambling
  • How long will the Cox Bay Lookout Hike take
  • When is the best time to hike to Cox Bay Lookout
  • Can dogs do the Cox Bay Trail

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Everything You Need to Know about the Cox Bay Lookout Hike in Tofino, Vancouver Island

📃 Hike Stats

Distance: 1.2km / 0.75 miles
Time: 2hrs 
Elevation: 115 metres / 377 ft
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 parking lot

📍 Where is Cox Bay Lookout Located?

Cox Bay Lookout is about a 10 minute drive from Tofino, British Columbia on Vancouver Island on Cox Bay Beach. The lookout is to the side of Cox Bay Beach (when facing the ocean) and overlooks the entire beach.

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 for other things to do in Tofino.

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.

Cox Bay Lookout

Where to Park

You will want to park in the Cox Bay Beach Parking, right next to the Surf Grove Campground. Parking is now paid parking which is a recent change and there is a pay station in the parking lot.

Parking is currently $3 per hour or $15 per day and you can choose to either use the parking metre to pay or download the parking app honkmobile.com.

Check out the map above for the exact parking location.

Finding the trailhead for Cox Bay Lookout

Walk down the beach 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 if you don’t feel like scrambling straight away.

the start of the cox bay lookout trail

🕐 How Long Does it Take to Hike to Cox Bay Lookout

The hike is short but steep with scrambling sections 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. You will need to use your hands to scramble up some sections.

There is also a lot of mud and roots along this 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.

Cox Bay Lookout at sunset

⌚ 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.

You can hike to Cox Bay Lookout all-year-round. During the Winter, it may be harder to catch a sunset with all the grey clouds we tend to get here at that time of the year. However, if you do manage to get a sunset during the Winter, it’s bound to be a good one.

🥾 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, it 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.

Girl sitting at beach viewpoint in Tofino at sunset

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!

🐻 Are there bears in Tofino

Black Bears are on of Tofino’s local residents. You may see them while you are driving on the side of the road foraging for berries or on the trails in Tofino.

Black bear on side of road

It is important to carry bear spray with you and be up to date with your bear safety.

There are no Grizzly Bears in Tofino but there ARE also Mountain Lions which you should be aware of on Vancouver Island.

🌲 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!

🥾 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 cheap accommodation hard to find in Tofino. We camped, which still turned out to be more expensive than usual.

There is also a hostel in Tofino 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 not looking for ultra budget accommodation like we were, there are plenty of GORGEOUS places to stay in Tofino. I recommend booking as far in advance as possible to make sure you don’t miss out.

TOFINO IS A POPULAR PLACE TO VISIT. 👀

Below is a list of some of the best Tofino accommodation options separated by price:

Budget Accommodation

Somewhere in-between

Luxury Accommodation

  • Pacific Sands Beach Resort – This resort is located on Cox Bay Beach and is absolutely stunning! We are dying to stay here one day.
  • 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.
Cox Bay Beach at sunset
Cox Bay Beach at sunset post hike

Other Must-do Tofino Hikes

If you are spending some time in Tofino, why not add another awesome hike to your itinerary?

Canso Plane Crash Hike

Canso Plane Crash Site Tofino

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!

Our Thoughts

This is our all time favourite hike in Tofino and one that we will do again and again! The viewpoint at the top of Cox Bay Lookout is a great place 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.

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