Happy 2021! Although we are in a new year and vaccinations are underway, the coronavirus isn’t showing signs of going away anytime soon. With this in mind, it’s time to continue exploring local. For me this means enjoying the various hiking options around Victoria on southern Vancouver Island. If you’re planning a visit in the future, I recommend incorporating a few of these hikes into your itinerary!
Matheson Lake Regional Park
Located in the quiet region of Metchosin, Matheson Lake is circled by an undulating scenic loop trail, from which you can connect to other parks and trails, including the Galloping Goose bike trail. It’s a nice option for a peaceful after-work hike in the summer months, and a good swim spot too. On the way home, you can enjoy either a hearty meal or a tasty treat at the locally owned My Chosen Café.
Pickles’ Bluff Loop
Located in John Dean Provincial Park in North Saanich, this hike leads to great views of the Saanich Peninsula and surrounding ocean. It’s not uncommon to see eagles flying overhead as you sit on the ledge admiring the view in front of you.
Joceyln Hill via Caleb Pike
On a sunny summer morning, get up early for this hike in the Highlands. Fairly challenging at points, the trail offers some awesome view points overlooking Finlayson Arm and the Saanich Inlet. If you feel like a really long hike, you can follow the trail all the way over to the north side of Gowlland Todd Provincial Park. Doing this will take you to our next spot.
Accessed either via the Timerbman Trail coming from Jocelyn Hill loop or from a wider trail starting at the north end of Gowlland Todd Provincial Park, McKenzie Bight is a surprise gem at the bottom of the forest. This picturesque ocean inlet is a great option for a swim and if you’re lucky, you may even spot some sea otters. In the winter months, a fog hangs over the distant evergreens, evoking classic Vancouver Island vibes. There are two trails you can take on your way back up; the Cascade Trail to the right of the bridge is a real thigh-burner, but in the winter season you will pass the pretty Cascade Falls.
A short drive east of the town of Duncan, this hike offers some great views of the sprawling Cowichan Valley. The hike involves an uphill climb before winding through forest to the famous white cross lookout point. This area also has several dirt bike trails, so don’t be surprised if you see a bike whizzing through the trees!
Mt. Wells Regional Park
Located past Langford, the fairly challenging hike up Mt. Wells takes you to a mossy rock outcrop that overlooks the Sooke Hills, Victoria, the Juan de Fuca Strait, and snow-capped mountains of Washington State. A good workout with great views as a reward. This park is also a popular bouldering spot.
East Sooke Regional Park
Located just before the town of Sooke, this park is home to several trails of varying difficulty and length. The coastal trail is a popular option for dog-owners and endurance-walkers. If you’re looking for a more accessible trail or don’t feel like walking far, the easy walk to Iron Mine Bay takes you to a scenic beach with clear ocean water.
Elk/Beaver Lake Regional Park
The 10k flat loop around Elk Lake is a lovely outing for walkers or runners, especially during the autumn months when the fall colours are in full bloom. Accessible via public transit, this lake is home to Victoria City Rowing Club, and is also popular with windsurfers and water-skiers. Horseback riders tend to enjoy the trails around Beaver Lake.
Mt. Doug (as it’s more commonly known) is appreciated by many for its easy access from downtown Victoria. Various trails will take you to a viewpoint with stunning 360 views over the city, ocean, and surrounding Gulf Islands. Accessibility-wise, there is also the option to drive up to the top. A great place to watch a sunset, go for a run, or catch up with friends.
One of the most challenging hikes in the area, Mt. Fin as it’s known by locals has 360 views of hills swathed in evergreens. The steep trail starts in Goldstream Provincial Park, a short drive from downtown Victoria. If visiting in October, you can loosen your stiff legs after the hike with a leisurely stroll to the riverside to watch the yearly salmon run.
Mt. Work Regional Park
Adjacent to Gowland Todd Provincial Park, the steep hike from this park leads you to views over the Saanich Inlet. On a summer’s day, you can finish your hike by driving back down the road for a refreshing dip in Durrance Lake, and then follow it with a sandwich made fresh in front of your eyes at the Red Barn Market.
Located along the Juan de Fuca Trail, this long beach awaits you after a 2k hike through tranquil forest. The trail is well-signed, however it is not wheelchair-accessible like some of the paths that lead to other beaches across this section of the coast. Mystic Beach is popular for its waterfall and rope swing, but it’s the vast collection of mussels covering the rocks that catches my eye whenever I go.
For a shorter and more accessible beach hike, consider Sandcut Beach which is located just on from French Beach Provincial Park. Depending on recent weather, a waterfall may flow onto the pebble beach. On the way home, consider stopping at the locally owned Shirley Delicious for a warm brew and tasty snack, or stop in Sooke town for a hearty meal and delicious slice of pie at Mom’s Café.
Sooke Potholes Regional Park
Enjoy exploring the rustic trail that leads up the river with its clear water and inviting pools. Expect to see varied wildlife (maybe even bears!) and people jumping off the cliffs. The turn off for this park is just before you reach the town of Sooke.
Gonzales Hill Regional Park
I include this one last because it really is the ideal option if you want to stretch your legs and see a nice view, but don’t feel like venturing far. Located off Fairfield Road and just up from Gonzales Bay, a short steep walk (or drive) up a side road will take you to the distinctive observatory, from where there are wonderful views of the neighbourhood, distant hills, and Juan de Fuca Strait. Although another great sunset spot, it’s equally enjoyable to watch moody skies brew over the ocean.
From beach scenes to mountain views, southern Vancouver Island offers so many great hiking options, and there are still many more I have yet to experience. Making a wishlist of places or trails to explore in your region can be a handy way to keep motivated and upbeat during this strange time. Which other hikes would you recommend in this area?