I hiked West Coast Trail last week starting on 07/01 and finishing on 07/04.
Before starting this hike I was trying to decide whether it was worth time and money to do the WCT or just stay in Olympics and hike the rain forest and beaches there. I am glad I went to WCT.
The trail is absolutely spectacular. Olympic coast is great, but does not come close. The secret at WCT is the sandstone outcrops all along the Pacific shore. This creates creek gorges, cascades, waterfalls, potholes, tidal sandstone flats, sea caves, arches, surge channels and other wonders. The ladders, boardwalk, cable cars and bridges give a very unique variety to the trail. You just never get bored. Some of the creek gorges end with fantastic waterfalls right onto the beach, Tsusiat falls is unreal. This is what Zion National Park would look like if it got flooded by the ocean.
The weather was wonderful for me, sunny every day, other than little fog in the morning. The temps were very comfortable (compared to my usual desert extremes), 13C for low, 19C for high. With little wind, dense sea level air and high humidity it felt amazing.
The route was not too hard, I suspect partly due to the perfect weather. There was a lot of mud, but it is shallow and not smelly. Lots of slippery surfaces and a variety of obstacles. The beach hiking, especially on sandstone flats is very easy and fast. The forest sections go slower. I was moving very slowly, taking a lot of pictures and still it took me less than 72 hours. I wish it were longer!
There are plenty of campsites. All are good, but some are gorgeous: Cullite Cove, Bonilla Point, Tsusiat Falls, Tsocowis Creek. The water in creeks is very warm. There are plenty of swimming holes (Sandstone Creek, Tsusiat Falls, etc), staying clean is super easy.
There are plenty of people on trail. I was hiking south to north, opposite to what most people do and met about 150 people total (counted). The campsites are not too crowded, however.
Trail logistics is not too easy and somewhat unusual for me, coming from the US. The signage around the trailheads is minimal. I could not find the WCT office at Port Renfrew in the middle of the night :) Do use the WCT Trail Bus (a private company) for transportation. Getting to south trailhead by car is reasonable, getting to the north one not as much. I was very surprised to find no public parking at the south trailhead. One has to park at a private lot (somebody's front yard) and pay $5/night. There are 2 "ferries" involved. They supposedly run on schedule, but it's a flexible thing, don't be surprised if ferry leaves 5 minutes early. The south trailhead ferry is just a guy by name Butch that runs a motor boat from his house, right by the WCT office. I walked by this ferry 5 times and was waived in it's direction 3 times, before finding it. There's a big gap in available camping in the middle of the trail around Ninitat Narrows "ferry", due to bear closure and native american reservations. I got stuck at Ninitat crossing and had to backtrack 4 km to camp. I did not try to camp around the north trailhead, but camping around the south one was easy. Drive a couple of miles along the road to lake Cowichan, find a spur logging road and camp beautifully. I suspect the north would be as easy.
Some gear notes. There were some mosquitoes and no-see-ums, but only in camps. None while moving. No-see-ums gave me a bit of trouble, a bug shelter would have been nice. Virtually all hikers wear long pants, heavy leather boots and gaitors. I wore trail runners and shorts and was very happy. Shoes will get wet no matter what, so light quick drying shoes with good traction are best. Trekking poles are absolutely essential. Floorless pyramid tent worked quite well too, lots of good tent pads that take stakes. However, I suspect a hammock may have been even better, since then you could camp absolutely anywhere. Finding a dry flat spot for tent in rain forest is very hard.
Permits were quite easy. I called and asked whether a walkin permit for one person would be a problem, they said "no". True, I just showed up at the south WCT office at 9am, got permit and was hiking at 1pm.
All in all, truly a lifetime experience. Highly recommended.