ʔapsčiik t̓ašii: Cycling Tofino’s New 25-km Multi-Use Trail

Beneath my bicycle tires, smooth pavement winds, slopes and climbs through the forest. On my right, yellow-green ferns burst out of decomposing stumps. Above me, the cloud-morphed sky is punctuated with dark grey branches. To my left, the faint buzz of the highway flows through storm-felled trees and resilient undergrowth.

I’m pedaling a rented seven-speed bicycle on the new 25-kilometre multi-use trail named ʔapsčiik t̓ašii. Pronounced ups-cheek ta-shee, the pathway is located in the ḥaḥuułi—the traditional territories and homelands—of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation and Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ.

trail name importanceAlison Karlene Hodgins

According to pc.gc.ca, ʔapsčiik t̓ašii means “Going the right direction on the path.” It also has a second meaning: “Make sure you speak the truth.” Elders from Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ and Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation gave the new multi-use path its official name.

From the website, “Individually, it can refer to our personal journeys in life: going in the right direction. To remember we are on the t̓ašii (trail) and going in the right direction refers to being mindful of the environment and all living things.

“Collectively, the Elders say, ‘the land we walk on is made from the dust of our ancestors—in our life journey, we walk it carefully, respectfully, with humility and dignity.’”

Pacific Rim National Park Reserve was established in 1970. Now, the Park works in collaboration with nine Nuu-chah-nulth Nations to achieve long-term conservation and sustainable use—and in the important practice of naming.

“Wayii (meaning hill) is the name the Elders Working Group chose for the escarpment overlooking Long Beach. The path will also have other Nuu-chah-nulth place names to ensure the cultural significance of the area where the path traverses is acknowledged and appreciated.”

bicycle image on the trailAlison Karlene Hodgins

We begin our journey alongside the highway at Tofino Bike Co, located in the same parking lot as the famous Tacofino taco truck. (The line is long, but it’s worth the hype—we grabbed six fish tacos and a spicy, salty chocolate diablo cookie the evening before.) Nourished with Rhino coffee and propelled by the promise of blue sky peeking out behind bulbous white clouds, we pedal past lingering construction on the bike path and zoom down the trail.

The multi-use path is also used by walkers and hikers, but cycling is probably the most common method of transportation. The trail connects Tofino and Ucluelet, making the area accessible for locals without a car.

Upscheek Ta-scheepc.gc.ca

Dips and ascents punctuate the smooth paved road, and as we approach Radar Hill, we’re forced to cross the highway. Luckily, it’s easy—for a highway, this stretch is very calm.

This section of ʔapsčiik t̓ašii is stunning. Here, the highway is out of sight, though not completely out of earshot. Still, we can hear birds, see greenery and feel like we’re away from it all. Crossing wooden bridges and boardwalks, we bend into frequent twists and turns on this well-designed, enjoyable bike ride.

Long BeachAlison Karlene Hodgins

Our destination is Long Beach, recently named one of the best beaches in the world. A great expanse of sand stretches low into the frothy Pacific, where surfers catch waves in the frigid water. Crabs and star fish get caught in tidal pools among the gritty grey rocks. Finally, as we leave to cycle back to Tofino Bike Co, the sun comes out. 

I love the variety of hills, meaning neither way is a grudging climb or a speedy descent, making this a perfectly moderate bike ride. In the end, we cycle 30 kilometres roundtrip—a respectable distance for someone who hasn’t been on a bicycle in over a year (ouch).

After returning our rentals, we hobble into town for fish and chips at Big Daddy’s Fish Fry, pick up a couple of beers to-go at Tofino Brewing Co., and settle in at our campsite to relax by the fire—resting our sore muscles after a beautiful bicycling adventure on the wild West Coast.

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