Victoria may be the largest city on Vancouver Island, but that doesn’t mean it’s out of touch with the nature side of things. In fact, there are some incredible hikes, trails and provincial parks right in Victoria’s backyard. Hiking is one of the top things to do in Victoria and it doesn’t take much to get out of the city and into the trees. Don’t believe it? The hiking is so good, you can even book a tour package with an enthusiastic guide to make sure you start off down the right trail. Check out this list of some of the top hikes in Victoria, B.C. and prepare to strap on those hiking boots!
Mount Douglas Park
The closest to downtown Victoria in Saanich, Mount Douglas is the easiest escape for city-goers to get a breath of fresh air. The park encompasses from the beach to the summit, leaving visitors with around 21km of trail to explore! Aside from spending the day at the beach, where there is a playground and public washroom, the most popular aspect of Mount Doug is the view. Ascend a trail to the top to get a 360-degree view of Mount Baker and the surrounding city. The park is the largest urban forest to be found in the area, and it makes for a hike as strenuous or as relaxed as you desire.
Despite the ominous name, Mount Work is a fairly breezy hike, requiring some effort to get to the summit, but nothing drastic as far as hiking goes. The Mount Work Regional Park sits on the border of Gowlland Tod Provincial Park and is one of the largest regional parks with over 500-hectares. You can kick off the hike to the summit of Mount Work from two entrances – McKenzie Bight near Gowlland Todd, or Munn Road- both are equally rewarding. The various viewpoints give hikers a view of Finlayson Arm, Mount Finlayson, Gowlland Tod Provincial Park and the rest of the Saanich Peninsula area. The hike makes for an enjoyable 2.5-hour-or-so adventure.
Goldstream Provincial Park and Mount Finlayson
Goldstream Provincial Park is a fantastic network of trails about 17 kilometers outside of downtown Victoria. Aside from the comfortable campground, abandoned mine and incredible opportunity to witness a full-on salmon run, there are two main highlights to the park: The Goldstream Trestle Bridge, which passes by Niagara Falls, and Mount Finlayson.
Getting to the trestle is a fairly up-hill, forty-five-minute endeavor. It passes by the stunning Niagara Falls, whose 47.5-meter height makes it almost as tall as its world-famous namesake. It’s especially impressive after a fresh rainfall, and takes next to no effort to see. When you’re there, pass by it for the Trestle Trail, which crosses above the roaring cascade and ends up at the promised bridge. The view from the old train crossing is beautiful, with the summit of Mount Finalyson visible overlooking the trees and river below.
Mount Finalyson is another great hike, as it is considered the Grouse Grind of Vancouver Island. Expect to take about one and half hours to get to the summit, and some rocky scrabbles during your ascent. The 410m elevation climb is well worth it, as the view of the Langford area and surrounding Goldstream Provincial Park are rewarding. Plus, it’s great exercise. If you do it enough, you should expect to have buns of steel and iron calves in no time.
Gowlland Tod Provincial Park
The trails of Gowlland Tod Provincial Park are stunning to say the least. Sweeping views of Finlayson Arm, waterfalls and beach access are some of the highlights. There are numerous ways to access the park, and a number of trails to embark on from there. You can even walk your way through this park, and into Mount Work Regional Park if you have a ride waiting on the other end. Jocelyn Hill via Caleb Pike is one of the best known and most rewarding, albeit difficult hikes in the park. Taking almost five hours round trip, you’ll want to dedicate your day to this one, and bring lots of snacks, or maybe even a summit beer. It gives the most rewarding view of Finlayson Arm, with its 210m elevation gain showing off views of the stunning, forest-hugged waters.
East Sooke Park – the Coast Trail
The farthest out of Victoria on this list, the Coast Trail in East Sooke Park, is well worth the drive. To do the whole thing, you can expect to dedicate six hours of your day to the trail – and that’s with a car parked at the other side waiting to take you back to the beginning. However, as it winds its way along the ocean, through the rainforest and across bluffs of rugged west coast beauty, you’ll almost forget you’ve been on the trail for so long. Petroglyphs line the way, giving hints of the Coast Salish people’s history, and there are various finds including Alyard Farm. While some do attempt the entire trail in one day, there are plenty of trails that jut-out back to where you parked, and plenty of shorter loops to explore. The waters surrounding East Sooke Park seem particularly emerald, and the rocks and beaches are a blast to clamber around and explore.
Now that you’ve received a tiny glimpse into the world of hiking that exists within, or just outside of Victoria, British Columbia, it’s time to strap on those hiking boots of yours and hike Victoria!
For more hikes on Vancouver Island, check out www.discovervancouverisland.com’s list of the Top Hiking Spots on Vancouver Island.