Hiking in Victoria
There is a wide diversity of hiking within a 30-minute drive of the city, ranging from walks on the beach to spectacular viewpoints overlooking the mountains and sea. With more than 60 provincial, regional and municipal parks, there are plenty of trails to choose from and a range of terrain to suit every level of hiker.
Here are a few local favourites:
MOUNT DOUGLAS (PKOLS) PARK
Known as Pkols to the local Songhees people, Mount Douglas rises 227 metres above Cordova Bay, affording spectacular 360-degree views of Victoria, rural Saanich and the Olympic and Cascade Mountains in Washington State. The summit resides at the heart of Mount Douglas Park, a 188-hectare woodland of fir, cedar, Garry oak, arbutus, ferns and wildflowers.
SUMMIT HIKE - Time: 1.5 hrs return Distance: 1.1 km to the summit
Difficulty: Moderate to strenuous
Starting Point: Parking lot off Cordova Bay Road just north of Cedar Hill Road
Trail description: From the parking lot, look for the trail marked “Irvine,” which goes right to the summit. It's steep as it winds its way through the rocky outcrops. Download a trail map. (There is also a road to the summit, if the hike doesn't appeal).
ELK/BEAVER LAKE REGIONAL PARK
A recreational favourite for swimming, paddling and Olympic training, the Elk and Beaver Lakes are popular for visitors of all ages.
Filter Beds to Brookleigh Boat Launch
Time: 3 hrs return, Distance: 10 km return, Difficulty: Easy
Starting Point: Filter Beds Parking Lot, off West Saanich Road onto Beaver Lake Road.
Trail description: This multi-use trail with a gravel surface slopes gradually along the lakeshore and forest with several rest areas along the way. You can go for a few hundred metres or several kilometres. Beaches, picnic areas and a fishing pier are all accessible for people with walking disabilities.
GOLDSTREAM PROVINCIAL PARK
Massive 600-year-old trees, cascading waterfalls, a crystal clear river that meets the sea, spawning salmon, flowers, birds and a nature centre are but a few of the features that draw people to the park. It is home to massive Douglas fir and western red cedar, mixed with western yew and hemlock, red alder, big leaf maple and black cottonwood. Numerous trails criss-cross the terrain and one route goes right to the base of Niagara Falls, which tumbles 47 metres down a rock cliff into a crystal clear canyon pool, making it almost as high although not nearly as voluminous as its famous namesake. The trails range from easy, wheelchair accessible walks to strenuous hikes.
Freeman King Visitor Centre Trail
Time: 1 hr return, Distance: 1 km return
Starting Point: Turn off Highway 1, 16 kms northwest of downtown Victoria.
Trail description: The trail heads north along the salmon-bearing Goldstream River and then into the forest, crossing Niagara Creek before ending at the river estuary and the Freeman King Visitor Centre. The centre has exhibits, interpretive programs, a gift shop plus coffee and snacks.
EAST SOOKE REGIONAL PARK
With nearly 50 kilometres of trails along rocky headlands and pocket beaches, through shady woodland to hilltops, coves and open fields, East Sooke Regional Park begs to be explored. Families will enjoy the sheltered beaches and gentler seaside trails while the more stalwart may tackle the 10-kilometre Coast Trail, with sweeping southern views of the Olympic Peninsula along its wilderness route. Sea lions, otters and mink, black-tailed deer, bald eagles, red-tailed hawks and pelagic cormorants are among the species to be found here. A diversity of inter-tidal life can be seen at low tide while reclaimed mine works, an old trapper's shack and a petroglyph site speak of the human history of this place. Aylard Farm is popular with picnickers and those seeking easy excursions. It's just a five minute walk through open fields to the beach.
Aylard Farm to Allridge Point Petroglyphs
Time: 2 hrs, Distance: 3 kms return
Difficulty: Easy to moderate
Starting Point: 35 kms southwest of the city via Highway 14 and Gillespie Road to the Aylard Farm parking lot.
Trail description: A 10-minute walk through open fields leads to a short steep trail down to a pocket beach where you can discover intertidal life and great views across the Strait. Head south (right) on the Coast Trail above the beach for one kilometre to reach the petroglyphs at Allridge Point. The last section is strenuous. Return the same way, or cut across a trail through the open fields to the parking lot.