By Cherie Baxter
Provincial Parks in Victoria have a wide range of terrains, destinations and sights and with very little travel time to get there. Whether you’re planning a short hike or a camping getaway, there are many options to take a break from the hustle bustle of British Columbia’s capital filled with breathtaking views.
Goldstream Provincial Park
One of the most popular destinations for Victoria and surrounding area residents is Goldstream Provincial Park. With the short travel of 16km from Victoria this camping and hiking hot spot is all you could ask for. Full service camping spots available between mid May to early September fill up fast.
Goldstream Provincial Park is filled with lush forest and includes many intertwining trails. You can take a hike up to the Goldstream Railway Trestle which is part of the Esquimalt and Nanaimo railway. This 3km trail passes Niagara Falls, a narrow waterfall dropping 47.5 meters. The steep trek brings you to the magnificent trestle but we do not suggest walking on it, instead simply enjoying the view of such an impressive railway structure. Another option to get to the trestle is from the campsite via the Gold Mine Trail. This trail isn’t nearly as busy and makes for a lengthier 8.5 km forest hike through lush green and takes you past the old gold mine along the way.
For a bit more of a challenge, Mount Finlayson has an elevation of 410 metres with a spectacular view from one of the highest points in the Greater Victoria area. Make sure you follow the markers and watch your footing through the steep sections and loose rock. Or, if you’re staying at the Goldstream Provincial Park campsite, visit the Upper Goldstream Falls waterfall.
Gowlland Tod Provincial Park
Approximately a half hour from downtown Victoria is Gowlland Tod Provincial Park with a few different options depending on the desired difficulty level. For the easiest trail, there is Tod Inlet which is an easy walk and takes under one hour. The Inlet is rich in history, from the industrial activity of the Vancouver Portland Cement Company and nearny Butchart Gardens.
A couple of other options that are intermediate hikes are Holmes Peak or McKenzie Bight. Holmes Peak is only 2.2 km but climbs a somewhat steep trek taking you to the peak. On a clear day, there are beautiful views of the Saanich Arm and out towards the Malahat. McKenzie Bight is a little longer at 3.5 km along the eastern shore of Saanich Arm along the Cascade Trail and passing the Cascade Falls to the beach area of McKenzie Bight.
Jocelyn Hill is a popular destination for hikers and can be accessed from two different entry points. If you have two vehicles you can even park one at each entry point and hike the trails from one to the other. The first of the two routes to Jocelyn Hill is from Caleb Pike which is 10 kms round trip from the southern end of the Gowlland Tod Provincial Park. Follow the trail past Holmes Peak through the tranquil forest with a steep incline taking you to the peak of Jocelyn Hill where you will take in the best view of Saanich Arm on a clear day. From the northern entrance, via McKenzie Bight the hike takes you along the Timberman Trail and with a slight detour, past the Cascade Falls. The difficult hike up the steep trail takes you to Jocelyn Hill but for the most spectacular view wind around to the west side.
John Dean Provincial Park
Explore southern Vancouver Island with some hiking closer to Sidney. Approximately 30 minutes from downtown Victoria John Dean Provincial Park provides many trail options ranging from as little as 1 km and as long as 5km. The trails loop around Mount Newton through green forests of old growth Douglas Fir and Garry Oak.
There is a short hike around Skipper’s Trail that loops you around serene, calm waters of the Lilly Pond or extend your hike through any of the multiple trails around the park. Make your way to Pickles’ Bluff view point for an awe-inspiring eastward view of Sidney, the North Shore Mountains, the Gulf & San Juan Islands, and other parts of the Victoria area.
Sooke Potholes Provincial Park
A very popular summer destination for hiking, swimming and camping is Sooke Potholes Provincial Park. People come from all around come to soak in the warm, clear freshwater of the Sooke river. The potholes were formed from glacial action from the last ice age and surrounded by rock cliffs. There are trails ranging from easy to moderate through lush forest. Bring your camera along for photo opps of the beautiful scenery and wildlife.
If you want to make a camping trip of your visit, campgrounds are available on the north end of the provincial park providing well maintained, first-come, first-served sites available from mid May to early October.