Lace up your hiking boots, grab your walking stick, a snack and a bottle of water, and head on out to enjoy the sights. The following list includes some of our local trails and walkways—to find more in your area, visit crd.bc.ca/parks or vancouverisland.com/trails.
Beacon Hill Park. This 200-acre park steps from downtown Victoria offers trails meandering through meadows, gardens and trees, an 18-hole putting green (bring your own clubs and balls), splash park and playground. Walk up to the lookout for views of the Juan de Fuca Strait and Washington’s Olympic Mountains. Stroll past the duck ponds, over a bridge, through beautiful gardens, and find what was once the world’s tallest free-standing totem pole. beaconhillpark.ca
Galloping Goose Regional Trail. This 60-km partly paved trail (formerly a railway line) winds from Victoria to Sooke with access points along the way. It also intersects with the E&N Rail Trail-Humpback Connector, the new 17km cycling and pedestrian trail. Start the Goose in the heart of the city or drive out to a rural access point for more of a country experience. gallopinggoosetrail.com
The 29-km Lochside Regional Trail starts in Saanich and ends at the ferry terminal in Swartz Bay. In some places trail visitors must share paved or gravel public roads with motor vehicles and farm vehicles. Trail maps and suggested access points/day trips are available from the CRD website: www.crd.bc.ca/parks-recreation-culture/parks-trails/crd-regional-parks, then select “Find a Park.”
Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary consists of two distinct areas: marshy lowlands surrounding Swan Lake; and the rocky, oak-forested highlands of Christmas Hill. The 12,000-year-old lake is a rich habitat for a variety of birds and wildlife including muskrats, river otters and mink. Circle the lake along a 2.5-km trail and cross the new floating walkway then stop in at the Nature House (open on a limited schedule) to see interpretive displays and more. For more of a hike, the summit of Christmas Hill is 109 metres above sea level and gives a spectacular view of the city. Call 250-479-0211 or visit www.swanlake.bc.ca for info, to download a trail map or to check out the various programs for kids and families.
Sidney Spit Marine Park is a great destination for a day trip. Once the foot-passenger ferry service has resumed, (possibly early July), board in Sidney and travel to Sidney Island (25 minutes). Explore the sandy spit at the northeast end or hike around the whole island. You’ll see tidal flats, salt marshes, rolling meadows and sandy beaches, not to mention various wildlife. Walk-in camping is also available for those who want to stay longer. For updates on the ferry service, now operated by Sidney Whale Watching, visit sidneywhalewatching.com.
Witty’s Lagoon Regional Park in Metchosin. More than 5 kms of beautiful trails run through woodland, past lagoon and marsh. Watch for birds as you meander down to the sandy beach. The warm water means you can actually swim in the ocean (that’s rare around here). Add a low tide and this beach becomes a paradise for skim boarders, beachcombers and swimmers alike. The Nature House at the trailhead has some great displays. Check for opening hours. On Metchosin Road, approximately 40 minutes from downtown Victoria. www.crd.bc.ca/parks-recreation-culture/parks-trails/crd-regional-parks
Roche Cove Regional Park in East Sooke. Picnic at the protected cove after an easy walk from the parking area. Wander the 7 kms of trails through cedar forest and along the Galloping Goose Regional Trail. Hike along a cool creek or climb a mossy slope for hilltop views of Roche Cove and the Sooke Basin. Roche Cove is also a good access point for the Galloping Goose Trail. Head out on Sooke Road, turn left on Gillespie Road (just past the 17 Mile Pub), which leads to the park entrance on the left. Approximately 45 minutes driving time from Victoria. www.crd.bc.ca/parks-recreation-culture/parks-trails/crd-regional-parks
East Sooke Regional Park offers 50 kms of trails along the windswept rocky coast, over dry hilltops, through dark rainforest to sheltered coves. Find pocket beaches, grassy knolls, rocky bays and tidepools for exploring. Aylard Farm is popular with picnickers and those looking for an easy excursion. A 5-minute walk through open fields leads to a sandy beach. Trails head inland to hilltop views, or along the rugged, more challenging Coast Trail. From Sooke Road, turn left on Gillespie Road. Go to the end and turn left on East Sooke Road, then right on Becher Bay Road to reach the park entrance. Approximately one hour driving time from Victoria. www.crd.bc.ca/parks-recreation-culture/parks-trails/crd-regional-parks
Francis King Regional Park is 113 hectares of lush forest and wildflowers with 11 kms of gentle groomed trails. The Elsie King Trail is a forest loop of cedar boardwalk (wheelchair and stroller accessible) that includes interpretive signs and rest areas with benches and a shelter. Located on Munn Road, off Prospect Lake Road, 13 kms out of downtown Victoria. www.crd.bc.ca/parks-recreation-culture/parks-trails/crd-regional-parks
Thetis Lake. Hike scenic trails hugging Upper and Lower Thetis lakes. For panoramic views of the lakes and surrounding hills, follow more challenging trails up Seymour or Scafe hills. Protect this sensitive habitat by staying on designated trails and keeping pets on the trail. The beach area of Thetis Lake is perfect for a picnic or swim, although it tends to be crowded in summer. If you have a canoe, try an early morning or evening paddle. From Old Island Highway, turn right on Six Mile Road which leads to the park entrance. Pay parking: $2.25 for the day or $20 for the season. www.crd.bc.ca/parks-recreation-culture/parks-trails/crd-regional-parks
Goldstream Provincial Park. Take a trip into the old-growth temperate rainforest, just 17 kms from downtown Victoria. Douglas fir, giant maples and Western red cedars make this park a local favourite. Goldstream offers year-round activities with its riverside trails, salmon spawning, wildflowers, ferns and lush vegetation. Visit the Nature House or look for one of the old mine shafts from the late 1800s when miners panned for gold. 250-478-9414 or goldstreampark.com.
Duncan & Area
Cowichan River Footpath. The lower stretch of the footpath, from the Cowichan Fish and Game Association clubhouse to Skutz Falls, is a well-maintained trail, beautiful at any time of the year, with many excellent picnicking spots. To access the Duncan trailhead, drive north from Victoria on the Trans-Canada Highway (#1) to Duncan. Turn left at Miller Road and left again at Vaux Road. Follow Vaux (which changes its name to Robertson Road) for approx 6 kms to the Fish and Game Clubhouse parking lot. There is a 2.4-km circle route to Holt Creek and a 6.4-km circle route with good picnic spots. Maps can be picked up at Duncan Visitor Information Centre.
Hemer Provincial Park is located on Holden Lake southeast of Nanaimo. There is a network of shady forested trails, including a main trail running alongside the lake, and a bird viewing platform overlooking a marsh, approximately 1 km from the parking lot. You may see various types of ducks, Trumpeter swans, Bald eagles, turkey vultures and beavers. From Cedar Road follow the signs to the park entrance.
Cable Bay Trail leads down through the cool forest to the ocean. Enjoy a picnic lunch on the mossy rocks, and watch for sea lions. The beach itself is sandstone and is under water when the tide is in. Two kms of well-maintained trail is fairly steep on the way back up, so make sure young hikers don’t use up all their energy at the shore. Off Holden Corso Road (which becomes Barnes Road); watch for the sign. This is a popular trail for dog walkers, but it doesn’t tend to be crowded.
Nanaimo & Area
Buttertubs Marsh Bird Sanctuary encompasses 49 acres of natural wetlands and grasslands. The 3.3-km loop of wide trail is level and perfect for strollers. You’ll make your way around a body of water buzzing with bird activity. Some ruins in the area, as well as the giant bleached remains of long-dead deciduous trees standing in the water give the marsh a wonderful ambience. No dogs allowed. 1780 Jingle Pot Road.
Pipers Lagoon Park past Departure Bay off Hammond Bay Road is a great place to walk, beachcomb, fly a kite or have a picnic. An isthmus extends out to a rocky headland, and twisting trails lead to seaside lookouts. Spread your blanket on the sandy beach or play Frisbee or Bocce on the field. The lagoon is home to a variety of seabirds, including sandpipers, loons, kingfishers, oyster catchers, horned grebes and great blue herons.
Neck Point Park is a short distance past Pipers Lagoon. This oceanside park includes forest, beaches, rocky cliffs and lookouts. Explore the various trails criss-crossing the park, watch the boats on the ocean, do some beachcombing, and just enjoy the sea breezes and sparkling water. Go along Hammond Bay Road, past the turn-off to Pipers Lagoon, then turn onto Morningside Drive to access the park.
The Top Bridge Trail in Parksville links Rathtrevor Beach with Top Bridge Mountain Bike Park on the scenic Englishman River. The trail is 5km each way and winds through public and private property, with a number of access points (a local favourite is at Industrial Way and Tuan Road). Enter from the Chattell Road trailhead and you’ll be at the suspension bridge over the river. The Information Centre at the south end of town will provide directions.
Cathedral Grove-MacMillan Park is a day-use park just past Cameron Lake on Highway 4. View some of the largest and oldest trees on Vancouver Island, including over-800-year-old giants and lush vegetation on the interpretive trail system that winds through the park. Cathedral Grove is approximately 20 minutes from Parksville.
Stamp River Provincial Park near Port Alberni is over 327 hectares of forests, rivers and waterfalls. Explore the 2 kms of hiking trails along the river, past fish ladders and crashing waterfalls. Starting in late August, spawning Sockeye salmon begin making their way up the Stamp River. The park is a 20-minute drive from town on Beaver Creek Road.
Courtenay/Comox & Area
Paradise Meadows Loop Trail at Mount Washington starts adjacent to Raven Lodge, 800 metres past the old trailhead area. A 1 km trail connects into the old trail system after winding its way around meadows. The Loop Trail is an easy walk of about 4.2 kms in length (1.5 hours) through sub-alpine meadows, suitable for all ages. You may catch glimpses of deer, black bears, eagles and marmots. You can also take a chairlift ride to the summit to see breathtaking mountain and ocean views. Other activities include biking, disc golf, bungee trampoline, guided hiking tours, mini golf and more.
Lake Helen McKenzie Loop Trail also begins at the Paradise Meadows trailhead in Strathcona Park. It is an easy 8-km (2-hour) walk on a boardwalk that takes you past Battleship Lake and sub-alpine meadows, and around beautiful Lake Helen McKenzie. The trail is well marked with some views of the mountain peaks through the alpine forest. If you’re eating a picnic lunch, make sure to protect your food from the gray jaybirds. www.discovermountwashington.com
Lazo Marsh & Wildlife Park in the Courtenay area is a shallow wetland basin of cattail and yellow flag iris. Mallards, wigeons, wood ducks and Canada geese commonly nest here. Enjoy the forested trails through mixed woodlands and surrounding marsh. Parking and access from Lazo Road. On the north side is an easy stroller-friendly hike; the southside trails go deeper into the woods and marsh conservation area. www.comoxvalleyrd.ca/parks-recreation/parks-trails-beach-accesses/park-conditions-upgrades
Filberg Park includes many paths overlooking Comox Bay. Established in 1929, the old farmstead covers over 9 acres with over 100 different trees, perennials, annuals, herb gardens and rhododendrons.The site also offers a historic lodge and picnic areas. Access from Comox Avenue. filberg.com
Ripple Rock Trail is a good hike for families (although not recommended for small children), 15.5 kms north of Campbell River, just off the Island Highway (it’s well-signed). The trail is 8 kms long and includes two patches of old-growth Douglas-fir and Sitka spruce, a sandy beach and good viewpoints. Have a picnic lunch at the top of the bluff overlooking Seymour Narrows. Easy to moderate trail with a steep section.
Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. The stretch of Pacific Rim National Park between Ucluelet and Tofino boasts magnificent beaches and dramatic seascapes (and a few tourists!). Check in with the Tourist Information Centre at the Ucluelet-Tofino-Port Alberni Junction to find out about trails, beaches, eateries and activities. www.pc.gc.ca/en
The Wild Pacific Trail in Pacific Rim Park. Follow cliff-edges along the extreme outer coast, including the Amphitrite Point Lighthouse site. You’ll view the ocean’s fury from the protection of the trail and from viewing platforms situated at the best headlands along the route. You’ll also be awed by gigantic nurse-logs, raised root systems, mosses, fungi, lichens and ferns. The trail can be walked in two main sections: Lighthouse Loop and Big Beach. Then leave the coastline to visit the largest trees in the area at Ancient Cedars grove.
Lighthouse Loop, part of the Wild Pacific Trail and 2.6 kms long, can be walked in a 30-45 minute loop using the adjoining He-Tin-Kis Park boardwalk. The trail includes frequent viewpoints and benches for watching whales, birds or catching the sunset. The Bog Interpretive Trail is open, a 300m interpretive loop (within the Loop!). wildpacifictrail.com for maps and descriptions of sections.•