Victoria's seemingly endless hiking trails are beautiful from above as well as on foot. New perspectives such as seeing Goldstream Park's Niagara Falls as if floating up through the trees 47 metres to its narrow mouth are hypnotizing. Thetis Lake's endless shoreline looks wonderfully random and branches to untouched wilderness. East Sooke Park and Victoria's coastline from the air gives you an appreciation of how tremendously beautiful Victoria is.
Goldstream Provincial Park just a 20 minute drive from Victoria is a must-see on any visit 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. Several of the huge trees are estimated to be over 600 years old and you find some reaching to the sky and others laying dramatically along the forest floor. 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. As if it Goldstream Park couldn't get any better it does. Across the highway a trail leads to the mighty 47 metre high Niagara Falls. Getting across the highway to Niagara Falls is half the fun. An ancient tunnel under the highway takes you to the falls. Finding this tunnel is easy, though it is not marked on Goldstream Park mapboards, as it is not officially for hikers. It is a tunnel to channel water under the highway, however, it is an amazing and beautiful way to get to the falls and for the most part, the only way.
Parking along the side of the highway is only feasible if you are driving from the north, and even then, it requires an abrupt and unmarked parking area. The best option, by far, is to park at the main parking area for Goldstream Park and walking to the falls and train trestle via the tunnel. With so much to see at Goldstream Park it is no wonder why it is so popular and so generously equipped with picnic tables. There is also a wonderful visitor centre, concession stand and dozens of picnic tables. Everywhere you look you will find mapboards and informative, interpretive signs indicating what to see.
It is hard to say what the most amazing thing to see in Goldstream Park is. Most people think of the extraordinary salmon run that happens here every year in October. Thousands of salmon rush up the shallow stream and the park has several excellent viewing areas to see the chaos. For others, Goldstream Park is wonderful for the enormous trees and wild, deep forest. It is an easy look into a prehistoric feeling forest of enormous giants reaching to the sky or sprawled across the forest floor. Still others love it for the challenging, yet short hike to the summit of Mount Finlayson to take in the towering views over Victoria. Niagara Falls, and the deep and dark, cavernous route to get to it, make it the highlight for most on any visit to the park. Niagara Falls flows through a narrow channel 47 metres up and crashed straight down into a narrow valley enclosed from above by a tangle of trees. There is one feature of Goldstream Park that seems to be the favourite over all the others. The amazing train trestle up beyond Niagara Falls. A few hundred metres of very steep hiking gets you to this breathtaking monument. Though in regular use up until a few years ago, this stunning bridge across an enormous valley is a sight to see.
Whether you are pacing across it looking down through the gaps or marvelling at the construction from below, exploring this wonderful relic of Victoria's history is well worth the hike.
The breakwater at Ogden Point is just a short drive or 20 minute walk from Victoria's Inner Harbour and is often missed by visitors. This long breakwater stretches far out into the ocean, ending at a small lighthouse. The ocean views from the shore are wonderful and the walk along the breakwater take you far out to sea. Scuba divers are often seen as well as plenty of people fishing from the lower steps. There is an excellent little cafe restaurant at the start of the breakwater and it always seems to be busy owing to the million dollar views from every table.
Lone Tree Hill hides far out in the wilderness of Victoria about halfway between Goldstream Park and Butchart Gardens. The short, 15 minute hike to the summit of this dome shaped hill gives you panoramic views of Victoria, Saanich Inlet and distant mountains in the US. The hike is fairly short and relaxing at just 1.6k trailhead to summit. Expect to hike for under 30 minutes to reach the viewpoint. The views for such a short hike are quite amazing. You can see the distant Malahat, Victoria as well as the very distant Olympic Mountains in the United States.
Dogs are welcome in the park, however, bikes, camping and fires are not. In the springtime you will see spectacular swaths of wildflowers. The original, lone tree that gave the park its name is now just a weather-beaten tree stump. It was a 200 year-old Douglas fir. There is another lone tree a the summit, however, an Arbutus tree just a few metres from the original, lone tree, now dominates the hilltop.
Lone Tree Hill Regional Park is a wonderful place to watch the world. On a clear day you can see the Olympic Mountains in the US and high above you you will occasionally spot bald eagles and turkey vultures circling.
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.
Thetis Lake Regional Park is a very popular Victoria park that contains several lakes. Lower Thetis Lake, Upper Thetis Lake, Prior Lake and further out, McKenzie Lake are all within this amazing park. A wide, spider web of hiking trails run in between and around these lakes in the midst of a beautiful and secluded forest. Trails also lead to more challenging trails to Scafe Hill and Stewart Mountain. In the summer Thetis Lake is fantastically popular as a swimming beach. Sandy beach, beautiful lake, and a wonderful trail system make the park crowded on hot days. Fishing, kayaking and canoeing are other popular attractions. Thetis Lake Park is connected to Mill Hill Regional Park and Francis/King Regional Park as well.
Thetis Lake Regional Park is an incredibly place to escape the world on a rainy day and a perfect place to enjoy the world a sunny day. The sandy beach is alive with activity in the summer and the seemingly endless forest trails are so numerous as to always be relaxing and serene. The always varying terrain make Thetis Lake always interesting place to walk around. Rocky cliffs, small island chains and sunny forest clearings keep you always interested in what is around the next bend.