3 Family-friendly Island Hikes

What better time than summertime to get out and explore the great outdoors with the kids?

Slow down and delight in their discoveries as they investigate every creek, hollow tree and snail. Don’t forget to pack plenty of food and water and take lots of breaks.

Here are three easy hikes on Vancouver Island that are fun for the whole family.

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Reminders: Check trail reports, bring the 10 essentials, leave a trip plan with a responsible person, and pack out all trash.

Sooke Potholes

Round trip: 4 km

Location: Sooke Potholes Regional Park

Take a hike on the Riverside Trail, cool off on beaches, watch salmon returning to spawn, and marvel at cliffs, swirl holes, and waterfalls created by the Sooke River.

Starting at Parking Lot 1, head past the toilets and up the stairs to the right. Quickly earn the first viewpoint, overlooking deep pools in the gorge. Briefly walk along Sooke River Road. Keep left to see the ruins of an abandoned lodge.

Follow the fence north. Then bear left to descend to a junction where the Riverside Trail goes up the stairs to the right. Go straight ahead and down the rock stairs to the viewing platforms. Peer over two waterfall tiers and down the gorge.

Continue upstream on the main path. Fork left by Parking Lot 2. Return to the road. At a pedestrian crossing, leave the road, and follow Mary Vine Creek left to Sand Pebble Beach. Have a picnic, go for a swim or watch American dippers hunt for insects and fish in the river.

Backtrack to the road and walk north on the shoulder to reach Parking Lot 3. At the north end, take the Riverside Trail left. Up the path, rainwater fills puddles on a rocky clifftop that serves as a phenomenal viewpoint for the Sooke Potholes. Two deep pools are divided by a narrow gap in the gorge. Keep kids away from the edge and beware of slippery rock.

Just upstream, there’s another spectacular viewpoint. The river has carved a bizarre canyon out of the sandstone bedrock. There are waterfalls, tight chasms, and swirl holes.

Push on upstream to Skipping Rock Beach. Indeed, the flat stones are perfect for skimming.

Turn around and retrace your steps downstream.

McKenzie Bight

Round trip: 3 km

Location: Gowlland Tod Provincial Park

Lively tide pools and lovely arbutus trees await. The McKenzie Bight Trail is short and sweet, but you could easily while away most of day exploring the coastline.

A big sign indicates the way to Gowlland Tod Provincial Park across the road from Mount Work Regional Park’s parking lot. Set off on the wide McKenzie Bight Trail. Hike northwest and steadily downhill along the lush ravine of Pease Creek. Enjoy birdsong and the burble of flowing water.

Emerge from the rainforest at the mouth of Pease Creek on McKenzie Bight. Explore the beach ahead before following the trail to the right and up a little hill. Turn left at the outhouse to arrive on a grassy promontory with arbutus trees. Picnic time! Save some treats for the uphill return to the trailhead.

Extension Ridge 

Round trip: 9 km

Location: Nanaimo

Extension Ridge is a pleasant jaunt through arbutus, Douglas-fir and Garry oak trees, with views of the Salish Sea. The Abyss, a rock cleft ascribed to an earthquake, is the star of the show.

Find the start of Extension Ridge Trail, part of the Trans Canada Trail (TCT), on Harewood Mines Road, south of the Highway 19 overpass. Head east in the right-of-way, turn right at a signed junction and climb the steps under the power lines. Go right twice, then left at the base of a pylon to enter a clear-cut. Keep right on the main trail.

Twenty minutes from the trailhead, ascend a conglomerate outcrop to discover The Abyss. The enigmatic fissure is narrow enough to step across but wide enough to fall in. Be careful with kids and dogs.

The TCT continues south in the woods, following the mellow crest. Twenty minutes from The Abyss, come to a wide-angle viewpoint with two seats carved into stumps at the top of the clear-cut.

Keep going for 45 minutes to enjoy more of the ridge. Go under a power line. Gradually descend to a clearing occupied by a quartered circle of rocks strewn with assorted trinkets. Stay right, and reach a bluff viewpoint featuring a canine memorial plaque. Finally, steps lead down to a gravel road, where an Extension Ridge Trail signpost points back the way you came. Turn around here.

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