The Canso Plane Crash hike is a popular and unique hiking trail near Tofino. This hike takes adventurers through the lush, dense forests of Vancouver Island to the site of a World War II-era plane crash, where the wreckage of a Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) Canso 11007 bomber still remains.
The Canso bomber crashed on February 12, 1945, during a routine patrol mission. The crew encountered engine trouble, forcing them to make an emergency landing in the remote wilderness. Fortunately, all 12 crew members survived the crash, and they were later rescued from the site. The wreckage has since become a historical landmark and a fascinating destination for hikers and history enthusiasts alike.
The trailhead for the Canso Plane Crash hike is located off the Pacific Rim Highway (Highway 4) near Radar Hill. The hike itself is approximately 5 kilometres (3.1 miles) round trip and takes about 1-2 hours to complete, depending on your pace and how much time you spend exploring the crash site. The trail is well-marked and relatively easy to follow, but it can be muddy and slippery after rain, so proper footwear and caution are essential.
Less than fifteen minutes from Tofino, the lower parking lot is found at the bottom of Radar Hill just off the Pacific Rim Highway. The crash site and parking lot are located on the edge of Pacific Rim National Park, so the park pass is required (found at the visitor center or one of the many kiosks located in the parking lot).
Make sure you only park in designated parking lots and not along the highway. You will get ticketed even if there isn’t a no parking sign.
The trail kicks off on the new multi-use pathway (ʔapsčiik t̓ašii) along the Pacific Rim Hwy for about 800 meters and turns right away from the highway. As you make your way through the forest, you’ll encounter a mix of terrain, including boardwalks, mossy rocks, and muddy patches. The trail also features some elevation gain, which adds a moderate level of difficulty to the hike.
Walking your first 500 meters through the forest is relatively easy with some incline. Along the way, you will come across an abandoned building for the brave to explore.
From here, the trail narrows and begins to descend. At the bottom of the hill is the muddy section. There have been upgrades over the infamous mud bog, but the winter conditions can still be challenging even with the newer installed boardwalks.
Once you reach the crash site, you’ll find the remains of the Canso 11007 bomber scattered across the area, with its engines, wings, and fuselage still visible. It’s a sombre reminder of the sacrifices made during World War II and a unique piece of history hidden within the wilderness.
While exploring the wreckage is allowed, please remember to treat the site with respect, as it is a historical artifact. Do not remove any parts or disturb the area, and leave it as you found it for future visitors to experience.
When visiting the wreckage site, please keep in mind that it is not a tourist attraction. Take caution as there may be sharp edges.
Most hikes have a viewpoint consisting of a peak, waterfall, beach or something natural to feast your eyes upon. This particular adventure into the forest however gave us something truly unique to see and the hike itself was particularly amazing too. It is slightly morbid thinking it’s cool to see the site of a famous plane crash, but I do find some solace in knowing that everyone survived and had a killer tale to tell. In all honestly, the Canso Bomber crash site is one of my favourite adventures ever and being able to do it with my family made it all the more special.
Heading out of town toward Ucluelet we turned off the jaw-dropping highway through the Pacific Rim National Park into the parking lot of Radar Hill. The path from the lot to the start of the hiking trail is about 15 minutes along the new footpath where you turn down what looks like a logging road marked with some ribbon. From here, the adventure begins…
… The trail has every condition conceivable, from wet to dry to muddy to overgrown and is every bit as crazy as the reason this hike exists. The crash site is a popular trail, so my advice is to go early as it does get very busy as the day goes on. We headed toward the plane through a swamp, across some seriously cool boardwalks where the trail finally opened up looking toward the hill and the first sight of the mighty wreckage. Hurriedly we climbed up the last part of the trail through the trees into the plane itself. Standing inside the bulk of the wreckage and looking back toward the tail of the plane is quite incredible and awe-inspiring. Reading the dials on the cockpit controls and warning labels from inside the plane shows how well intact the craft is.
Obviously, people should not take anything away from the site, but I’m sure over the years the wreckage has lost some small artifacts. This being said there are places around the crash site where more of the plane’s objects are scattered, like the engines that are half buried under the tail that are definitely worth checking out. Sitting in the cockpit, I imagined how crazy that night must have been for the crew who had to scramble out of the wreckage in the night and find their way to safety. It’s a humbling experience for sure and one that makes the hike all the more meaningful.
Another amazing thing about this place is the nature has started to take over again even though there is an abundance of visitors year round. Whilst having lunch atop the wing of the bomber, we were regularly visited by very tame Stellar Jays looking to cash in on the food brought in by hikers. They even landed on our hands and waited patiently for crumbs. The trees and vines are starting to grow through the aircraft, and various plants are finding new small nooks to start growing from. Nature is taking the site back and reclaiming the parts as its own, creating this incredible piece of art with the rainforest as its curator.
The hike back is an excellent chance to see another artifact that we quickly bypassed on the way in our haste to get to the bomber. About 20 minutes into the hike from the start is an abandoned power station that’s become home to an abundance of awesome graffiti. It’s not quite the level of Jordan River Power Plant, but some of the art there is fabulous.
This was an epic hike and one that is a must if you’re into adventure and have a solid interest in all things wild. This hike is close to Tofino however is still remote and precautions must be taken. I had a small but potentially nasty cut on my leg from a rusty shard or fuselage that thankfully, wasn’t too deep to really worry about but could have been worse had I not had a first aid kit.
The Canso Crash Site has a few challenges and is definitely a hike to be ready for with all bases covered. Going later in the day may leave you hiking back in the dark, so plan and know your route but as always, have fun and get out there.
How long is the Canso Crash Site Trail?
From the lower parking lot at Radar Hill and back is around 5km.
Do you have to pay to see the plane crash?
The parking lot and the crash site are in the Pacific Rim National Park, so you need a park pass.
How far is the Canso Crash Site from Tofino?
Less than a 15-minute drive.
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