sunset view of the waves from cox bay lookout tofino

Hiking to Tofino’s Cox Bay Lookout

The small town of Tofino on the West Coast of Vancouver Island is well-known for its beautiful beaches, surfer culture, and big waves. We fell in love with Tofino during our 2 months of van-life in British Columbia because of the good vibes and incredible scenery. We found that one of the best things to do in Tofino is enjoy the sunset on the beach & Cox Bay Lookout is best spot to share for the most memorable sunset Tofino has to offer.

While sunsets on the beach are fantastic as well, the Cox Bay Lookout offers aerial views of the beach, ocean, and surrounding forests. It is a local hidden gem with no official trail to it. It may seem like such a beautiful view would be completely full of other people, we’ve often had this spot to ourselves. For these reasons, Cox Bay Lookout is one of our favourite spots in Tofino and an absolute must every time we visit.

Although the route is a short 0.6KM to the lookout, be warned that this is an unkept trail with plenty of elevation. I should also add that this trail is ALWAYS muddy and you should expect to get your boots dirty! Check out Tofino travel tips & regulations here. With this in mind, Cox Bay Lookout is absolutely worth it for the views and if this sounds like an adventure for you, keep reading!

How to get to Cox Bay, Tofino

Click HERE to open this map on Google Maps!

Cox Bay is relatively easy to find. It is about a 10-minute drive from Tofino, and 30-minutes from Ucluelet. Cox Bay is on the Pacific Rim highway and there are large signs and flags you can look out for. You’ll want to follow the signage to turn into Cox Bay carpark, and typically you’ll want to park at the end of the carpark (closest to the beach)!

This is a busy parking lot due to Cox Bay being a popular spot for surfers to spend the day. You’ll often see cars parked alongside the road beside the parking lot if there are no spots available. As of 2022, you will have to pay for parking at Cox Bay. Once parked, you’ll follow the boardwalk that takes you to the beach. P.S, there are bathrooms available here.

How to find Cox Bay Lookout Trailhead

You’ll start your journey by looking for the trailhead. Remember, this is not an official trail. This means that you won’t find signs and it won’t be super obvious that it’s a trailhead. Once you reach the beach, you’ll turn to your left and start walking alongside the beach.

You’ll be walking for a few hundred metres and for 5 minutes or less. This is a super popular beach and you’ll notice plenty of families and surfers enjoying their day. It’s an enjoyable walk along the beach and you’ll eventually make it to the end.

At the end of the beach, you’ll notice a small opening that almost looks like a cave entrance. There will be plenty of rocks and a small stream coming from the trail. There are multiple ways to reach this lookout, but this trailhead is the easiest and most used route. Remember, there are no signs and this is not an official trail. You’ll follow the streams upwards to begin your hike!

Hiking the Cox Bay Lookout Trail

I’d like to start this by saying that the very first time we did this hike we had no problem finding our way to the lookout. However, the 2nd and 3rd time hiking to Cox Bay Lookout we found ourselves getting lost! You might be creating your own path for parts of this hike, so be prepared for a bit of bushwhacking and navigating.

I’d also like to add that this trail will ALWAYS be muddy no matter what season you visit! It was muddy when we visiting in the summer, and even worse when we visited in the Spring. To be completely honest, this made the trek a bit more of a challenge but it was definitely a fun challenge. Be prepared and make sure you’re wearing appropriate boots or shoes. If you’re bringing your pet, also be prepared for them to be covered in mud!

Keep to the Right!

Here’s the good stuff. The one thing we were told to remember about this trail is if you’re not sure which way to go, KEEP TO YOUR RIGHT. You’ll mostly be walking up and navigating to the right. There are some parts of the trail that will try to lead you to the left, but always stay to the right.

You’ll be weaving through the forests, climbing over rocks, and stepping over fallen trees and roots. It’s not a necessarily difficult hike, but the elevation is decently steep and there are plenty of slippery sections. You’ll be ducking and dodging trees and branches, and every so often you’ll get a peak of the view.

After hiking for about 25 minutes, you’ll reach a steep rock face with a rope attached to it. You’ll need to pull yourself up the rock face and this is how you’ll know that you’re close to the lookout and on the right path. After a few more minutes, you’ll reach Cox Bay Lookout.

Cox Bay Lookout

You’ll know that you’ve reached the lookout spot when you’re met with this fantastic view of Cox Bay and the ocean. There’s plenty of room for you to sit down on the rocks and relax. You’ll notice a buoy tied to a tree at the lookout to indicate that you’re close to the cliff edge.

We love this view because you can watch the waves roll into Cox Bay, and you can see far enough to the other beaches in the distance. You can even spot surfers in the water from here! The view of Cox Bay is so uniquely shaped and appealing to the eye. It will seem like you can see for miles at this viewpoint.

Stay at Cox Bay Lookout for Sunset

The sun will start to go down, and you’ll watch the sky and the clouds turn beautiful colours of golden yellow, and then pink and grey. I recommend you stay up here for the entire sunset! Since the hike is so short, you can stay until the sun goes down and it will not be entirely dark on your way down. There have been times when we’ve had the Cox Bay Lookout all to ourselves and other times where we’ve shared a beautiful sunset moment with others.

The hike back down to the beach will be quick, and you’ll soon find yourself walking along the beach again with beautiful sunset colours reflecting on the wet sand. This is an absolutely special hike and we’ve captured some great memories and epic sunsets here. Make sure to respect the area and pack away any garbage you may have brought with you, and leave absolutely no trace.

Best Time to Visit Tofino

The best time and my personal favourite time to visit Tofino is the summer. I love the laid-back, hippie surfer vibes that come alive in the summer, and I love the van-lifers that call Tofino home in the summer. The weather is beautiful and it’s so nice to spend the warm months in Vancouver Island on the beaches in Tofino.

It should be noted that Tofino is especially busy in the summer, and much quieter in the off-seasons. In the summer-time, it may be harder to find parking spots and popular beaches might be busy. You’re more likely to encounter other hikers on the Cox Bay Lookout trail in the summer. However, there is room for plenty of people to enjoy the views.

Off-Season in Tofino

I had mentioned above that at every season, you will find this trail to be absolutely covered in deep mud. This means that every season is going to have the same kind of challenges on this hike. A unique bonus about visiting in the off-seasons is that you’ll experience larger waves, and if you’re lucky you can storm-watch in Tofino.

It is also worth it to mention that it will be much colder in the off-seasons, and you’ll need warm clothes on this hike. The lookout is very open and exposed to wind. In the summertime, you’ll still probably need a sweater or maybe bring a blanket.

Where to Stay in Tofino

There are plenty of wonderful options for staying in Tofino. You’ll find plenty of people camping in their cars or vans, but you must know that you CANNOT legally sleep overnight in Tofino or Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. You 100% WILL get caught by the RCMP. They are very on-top of this rule and you’ll be ticketed and asked to move immediately.

Luxury Accommodations

Our first and favourite recommendation will always be Pacific Sands Beach Resort. This luxury, beachfront resort is the most perfect Tofino getaway. They have direct access to Cox Bay and their own sunset spot. Another couple of boutique luxury stays we also would love to stay at are The Shoreline Tofino, and the Long Beach Lodge.

Value + Budget Accommodations

We also have stayed at a couple of budget camping accommodations in Tofino, and Surf Grove is highly recommended by us. You can also check out Bella Pacifica Campground, and Tofino Hostel. Finally, I’ve included Tofino Resort + Marina for the best value stay.

If you’ve read this far, I’ll share a personal story from our first night in Tofino. We had just finished our Cox Bay Lookout hike and had takeout for dinner. We knew it was illegal to park in the town and the park, but we were looking for somewhere to park our camper van for the night in Ucluelet. We were eventually pulled over by the RCMP because it was late and he thought we looked lost. He let us know that you’re not allowed to sleep in Ucluelet either, however, there is ONE spot where the locals and surfers are legally allowed to park and camp overnight. He gave us the directions and we arrived to the spot with plenty of other camper vans & car-campers parked for the night. For more details on this legal overnight camping spot, read our Ultimate Vancouver Island Road-Trip Guide (coming soon).

Final Thoughts

This hike to Cox Bay Lookout is hands-down one of our top favourite things to do in Tofino. We’ve made many memories at this spot, have met some really kind people, and had the best conversations. While it is a bit of a challenge, it’s 100% worth it to hike up here for the views. If you’re planning your trip to Tofino, make sure you add this spot to your list!

Pack your hiking boots to Tofino for this hike and you won’t be disappointed. It is a local favourite, so please make sure to be respectful. As always, make sure you respect the outdoors and locals of this area, dispose of your trash properly, and support local businesses.

Please leave a comment and let me know if you’ve hiked this trail before, or if you plan to do so on your next trip to Tofino! I’m always happy to answer any questions or comments you may have. Check out more on Vancouver Island:

Comments (3)

  • Monika

    April 14, 2022 at 2:02 pm

    I’m so glad I found your blog/IG. We’re heading to Tofino in June. We will have our 4 year old in tow. How long is the hike to this view in Cox Bay?

    1. Jake & Marie

      April 14, 2022 at 3:35 pm

      Thank you so much! This hike will take about 30-45 minutes, and maybe a bit longer with a 4 year old. :)

  • Denzy G

    June 7, 2023 at 1:38 am

    Hi! Thank you for the lovely read. could you let me know the name of the spot to camp in Tofino?

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