Victoria has a seemingly endless number of amazing hiking trails. Most take you to wild and beautiful Pacific Ocean views and others take you to tranquil lakes in beautiful BC Coastal Rainforest wilderness. Regional Parks and Provincial Parks are everywhere you turn in Victoria and finding them is not too difficult. These are some of the best of the best hiking trails in and around Victoria.
Avatar Grove and Canada's gnarliest tree is an amazing thing to see and finding it is half the fun. The cute little town of Port Renfrew, known for it's logging, amazing fishing and home of one of the trailheads to the world renowned West Coast Trail, is now reworking it's image to include this fantastic wonder. Dubbed Canada's gnarliest tree this mammoth cedar will surely leap from the unknown to the feature of millions of tourist photos in the coming days and years. Avatar Grove is a 50 hectare area of old growth forest it has shot to prominence in this part of the world and groups everywhere you look are embracing it as something to be saved, admired and loved. Not cut into lumber. The Victoria based Ancient Forest Alliance is at the forefront of rescuing and protecting Avatar Forest. They discovered, named and drove it into the world's eyes. Avatar Grove is slowly growing into a hiking destination. Wooden stars and a boardwalk is being constructed and seems to grow month to month. There is even a viewing platform for the gnarly tree at an ideal location to take in the view. Though Avatar Grove and Canada's gnarliest tree is a couple hours drive from Victoria, the drive is very scenic. The various sections/trailheads of the Juan de Fuca Trail are all easy stops on the way to Avatar Grove. East Sooke Park, Witty's Lagoon, Fort Rodd Hill and many more sights are also located along the way.
Why should you go to Avatar Grove in Port Renfrew?
The beautiful drive to Avatar Grove is very scenic. Port Renfrew is a cute little town at the edge of the West Coast Trail. Botanical Beach and other Juan de Fuca Trail sections make easy pit stops along the way. Avatar Grove is a beautiful, wild and remote forest of giant trees and the now famous, giant gnarly tree that has to be seen to be appreciated. It is quite a marvellous tree to see up close. You will find yourself circling it over and over trying to grasp how bizarre and enormous it is.
Bear Hill Regional Park is a nice hill trail, just north of Elk/Beaver Lake in Saanich. It is an easy 2k hike to the summit where the views are sensational. From the trailhead to the summit only takes about 20-30 minutes. High up on the Saanich Peninsula you can see the Gulf Islands and even the San Juan Islands in the United States. The technically active, and alarmingly close volcano, Mount Baker in Washington State is very visible as well on a clear day. The trail to Bear Hill is easy and runs through a beautiful forest of Douglas fir trees that lead to the unexpected grove of Garry oak trees at the summit. The more you hike in Victoria, the more you notice these wonderful hiking trails to rocky hills/mountains. From Bear Hill's 220 metre elevation you may be able to spot other, distant Victoria mountains. If you look toward downtown Victoria you should be able to make out Mount Douglas and possibly Mount Tolmie. Bear Hill Regional Park connects with Elk/Beaver Lakes Regional Park making this small park into quite a larger area to hike. A beautiful 10k trail runs around Elk and Beaver Lakes.
Why should you hike to Bear Hill in Victoria?
This short, though challenging hiking trail gets you high above the surrounding area and to a beautiful viewpoint. Often overlooked by locals, you will often find you have the entire park to yourself. The connecting trail to Elk/Beaver Lakes Regional Park allow for a nice circle route.
East Sooke Regional Park is a convenient and easily accessible way to experience the wild, west coast of Vancouver Island. Weather blasted rocky cliffs, sandy beaches and deep coastal forest trails run throughout the park. Every few minutes along the coast you come to another startlingly desolate ocean vantage point. Everything about East Sooke Park is just great and should not be missed on a trip to Victoria anytime of the year. The sheer size of this park and number of trails, over 50 kilometres of them. The Coastal Trail, almost 12 kilometres long, stretches out linearly in an array of pocket beaches, rocky viewpoints and fantastically alive tide pools. It hugs the cliff, ducks into the forest and back out to another stunning ocean viewpoint. It does this over and over again. Dozens of times, and not once does it get boring. The Strait of Juan de Fuca and swirling mass of green and blue stretches out toward the Olympic Mountains in the United States. East Sooke Regional Park has three main access points and trailheads. This allows the huge park to be divided up into three manageable parts, each one with very different attributes. The Aylard Farm trailhead is the easy, family friendly and relaxing way to see East Sooke Park. A few short, 5 minute trails take you down to beaches, tidal pools and picnic areas. The Anderson Cove trailhead is popular with hikers tackling the more challenging trails to Babbington Hill and Mount Maguire. The Pike Road trailhead is the furthest west access to East Sooke Park with an easy, 1.5 kilometre trail leading down to Iron Mine Beach.
Why should you go to East Sooke Regional Park?
East Sooke Regional Park is a rugged and remote park that takes you along a beautiful stretch of Vancouver Island's coast. Numerous, well laid out trails interconnect several sights in the park, allowing for a staggering variety of hiking routes. For an easy family outing to a nice, sandy beach, East Sooke Park is perfect. For a challenging trail run or long coastline hike, this park is hard to beat.
The Elk & Beaver Lake Trail is one of many beautiful lakeside trails in Victoria. From the convenient parking lot the trail is mostly flat, gravel or dirt, densely forested at times and runs around both Elk and Beaver Lakes to complete a 10k circuit. The park is very popular for swimming, picnicking, windsurfing, boating, fishing and rowing. Though it can get busy the large size of the park disperses people quite well. If you are running here you will find the trails around the lake peaceful and quiet even if the sandy beaches are crowded and noisy. Like other BC Provincial Parks there are excellent toilet facilities at several points along this beautiful and relaxing trail. Concession stands are located at both ends of the park as well as water sport equipment rental shops at the Elk Lake end of the park. A connecting trail extends from the north end of the park leading to Bear Hill Regional Park. Bear Hill sits high above the surrounding area and has beautiful views of Saanich Peninsula as well as the more distant San Juan and Gulf Islands. On a clear day you can easily spot Mount Baker in the United States.
Why should you go to Elk/Beaver Lake Park in Victoria?
Elk Lake is a hugely popular recreational lake. Jet skiing, rowing, windsurfing, swimming and quite a lot more are popular here. Beaver Lake is a bit quieter, hidden in the deep forest at the south end of Elk Lake. On a busy, summer day you will find dozens or even hundreds of people in the park at the nice, sandy beaches. On quieter days, you may find yourself alone, except for the flocks of birds that reside here.
The beautiful wilderness hiking trails in Francis King Park take you past massive, old-growth Douglas Fir trees. Some estimated to be as old as 500 years and the Elsie King interpretive trail gives beautiful descriptions of the forest around you. The Elsie King Trail is a self guided, 800 metre loop trail, named after a leader of the Victoria Girl Guides and wife of the Victoria naturalist, Freeman King. There are over 11 kilometres of trails in Francis/King Park, and the park connects to Thetis Lake Regional Park. Thetis Lake Park then connects to the beautiful Mill Hill Regional Park, combining these three beautiful parks into one, massive, interconnected hiking paradise. Francis/King contains the massive old growth forest, Thetis the beautiful lakeside trails, and Mill Hill the wonderful mountain views out to the ocean around Victoria. Francis/King Park has a nice nature centre with volunteer naturalists ready to answer questions and help you identify various things in the park. Open noon to 4pm daily, the nature centre also has some interpretive displays of both the park's natural and cultural history.
Why should you go to Francis/King Park in Victoria?
Francis/King Park is well laid out and interesting. You can learn about the parks history and about the local wildlife. The massive, 500 year old Douglas fir tree is quite a sight to see in an impressively large forest so close to Victoria.
Galloping Goose Regional Trail developed from a disused railway line begins at the Johnson Street bridge in downtown Victoria and goes in two directions. One direction goes to the Vancouver ferry terminal at Swartz Bay, 35km away. And the other 55km through the Western Communities, out past Sooke ending near the ghost town, Leechtown. The trail is paved for 13 kilometres, from Victoria to Colwood, then the trail is gravel and dirt paths. Most of the distance the ground is fairly smooth and rarely do you encounter even gradual hills as the route follows the old railway line. There are convenient km markers all along the trail emanating from the Johnson Street starting point. The Galloping Goose is a wonderful trail that takes you through busy, urban areas of Victoria, yet away from cars and roads. The beginning of the trail in Victoria near the Inner Harbour is a beautiful way to start the trail. The large train trestles stretch across the water, giving you a constantly changing and beautiful view of downtown Victoria.
Why should you walk, bike or run along the Galloping Goose Regional Trail?
Wandering through a busy city without crossing streets is an unusual experience. The Galloping Goose Trail takes you past one beautiful view after another. Further from Victoria you pass through dense forests and come out to Vancouver Island's west coast and the open Pacific Ocean. Still further, the trail bends inland and past the amazing Sooke Potholes before reaching Leechtown.
Goldstream Provincial Park and Mount Finlayson are beautiful and shouldn't be missed on a trip to Victoria. Huge coastal rainforest trees everywhere. An impressively golden river, an abandoned gold mine and one of the highest mountains in Victoria. As soon as you leave your car you can feel the wonderful forest alive around you. Goldstream Park is home to the annual salmon spawning run every fall and the rest of the year is just a wonderful world of centuries old Douglas Fir and Western Red Cedars. Trails run all over the park, but the Mount Finlayson trail takes you up to beautiful views of Victoria. It's a relaxing trail that only gets a bit steeper and challenging near the end. The summit of Mount Finlayson is about an hour from from the parking lot, it's a very accessible way to hike in Victoria. Across the highway there is still more to this beautiful park. Abandoned gold mine tunnels dot the hillside and a breathtaking train trestle is just a short hike away.
Why should you go to Goldstream Provincial Park?
Goldstream Park is a great look at a BC Coastal Rainforest. The air always feels slightly damp and cool, even in August. The forest cover is so thick and deep and everywhere you look there is water. Creeks, waterfalls and further down the park you even come to the ocean. The yearly salmon run is quite a sight to see and Mount Finlayson is a challenging, though short climb to fantastic views.