With so many attractions and things to do in Victoria, BC, the hiking trails in the southern Vancouver Island region are often missed by visitors to the city. While the mountains don’t have the elevation gain of, say, the steep mountains along the Sea To Sky corridor, the region’s terrain and climate offer a different sort of scenery with more rolling hills, plenty of lush, moss covered forests, and spectacular coastal views. Arbutus trees are common and the trails are generally shorter than their Vancouver counterparts.
There are many hiking trails in Victoria, most of which are within a short drive from the city. The following are some recommendations to explore on your next visit to southern Vancouver Island.
Jocelyn Hill via Caleb Pike
Jocelyn Hill is located in Gowlland Tod Provincial Park and has scenic views of Saanich Inlet from high above. There are two ways to access Jocelyn Hill, either via Caleb Pike from the south or McKenzie Bight from the north. It’s possible to do a full traverse from one end to the other if you are able to park a car at each or have someone pick you up.
Both routes are great but the trail from Caleb Pike offers more views along the way, as well as the option of going to Holmes Peak.
Goldstream Railway Trestle
One of the most popular hikes in the Victoria area is the Goldstream Railway Trestle that ends at a spectacular train bridge high above the Niagara Creek Canyon. Starting from the Goldstream day-use area off of Highway #1, you walk along a forested trail next to the Goldstream River before passing through a tunnel that goes underneath the Highway. Just up the left side of the tunnel from the trail is the spectacular Niagara Falls, a narrow waterfall that drops from the rocks high above. The trail to the trestle bridge goes to the right of the tunnel and up towards the top of Niagara Falls, before crossing the creek and heading up the steep switchbacks. As you approach the view of the trestle can be seen between the trees.
Note: As of 2015, the trail tracks are not in use but hikers should check whether they are in use in subsequent years.
Located by the day-use area in Goldstream Provincial Park, the hike to Mount Finlayson is a steep scramble that is quite the workout. In just 2km, the trail climbs over 400 meters before returning 2km back down the challenging slope. The start of the trail climbs through a beautiful forested area before opening up onto the rocky slope and following orange markers nailed into the rock to the top. The views are spectacular, overlooking the Bear Mountain Golf Resort and further south towards the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
The hike can be quite difficult and particularly coming back down where the top section is slippery and steep.
Coast Trail in East Sooke Park
The Coast Trail in East Sooke Park is one of the most scenic, coastline hikes in the southern Vancouver Island region. Hiking the entire coast trail one-way takes more than 8-hours and therefore, can’t be done unless parking vehicles at each end. However, there are several loops that can be done within East Sooke Park that pass through forested trails and along portions of the Coast Trail.
The most popular option is starting from Aylard Farm and hiking along the Coast Trail to the one of the junctions at either Alldridge Point, Beechey Head, or Cabin Point, then returning via the Interior Trails through the forest. Besides the incredible views, one of the highlights is passing the area where the Petroglyphs were carved into the rock by the Coast Salish First Nation hundreds of years ago. The section of Coast Trail heading north from Alldridge Point to Beechey Head or Cabin Point is much more challenging than the trail along the southern section, as there are plenty of short ups and downs as you make your way over the rock, seeing view after view of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
Another great area in East Sooke Park to explore is the northern section to Iron Mine Bay. The trail to the rocky beach at Iron Mine Bay is a very easy walk, however a longer route to Mount Maguire can be done that then loops down past the Old Mine and follows the Coast Trail to Iron Mine Bay.
Lone Tree Hill
The hike to the top of Lone Tree Hill is short but the view is one of the best in the Victoria area. Located in the Highlands region, there is a 360-degree view from the top as you can see towards Gowlland Tod Provincial Park, Scafe Hill, and Thetis Lake Regional Park.
From the small gravel parking lot, the trail to the top is well defined and a gradual climb as you pass several beautiful arbutus trees along the route. The final climb up onto the rock is the steepest section, before you walk across some larger rocks to admire the viewpoints in different directions.