The Swan Lake and Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary is located right at the edge of downtown Victoria and offers a series of trails that pass through an important ecosystem for many local birds and other wildlife. A trail wraps around the Swan Lake area, over a series of wooden bridges, passing important marshland for birds, such as finches, wrens, and different species of ducks. The Christmas Hill area contains several of the region's unique plant life amongst the rocky outcrop and a view of the area.
There has no nearby parking at Christmas Hill within the residential area, so you will have to hike to the area from the parking lot near Swan Lake. You can choose to just do the loop around Swan Lake, hike the route to Christmas Hill, or do them both.
From the parking walk onto the trail heading towards the Nature House. Walk past the Nature House and continue down the path and out onto the dock for a scenic view of the Swan Lake area. Walk back to the trail and go left so you follow the trail around the lake in a counter-clockwise direction. Walk down a couple of step and pass along the wooden bridges as they pass under tree coverings that many of the local birds use to hide in. The bridges continue as they open up and you cross the lake, offering another scenic view of the area.
Continue following the gravel trail as you make your way away from the lake and through the park area. The trail is easy to follow and relatively flat, with the occasional small uphill or downhill section. The trail loops around and onto a section that is above the lake area, looking across to where the Nature House is. A bit further along the gravel trail and watch for a short trail to the left that takes you out to the lake, onto a viewing platform that looks across to the Nature House.
Return to the trail and continue your walk as it wraps around the southern portion of the park. Eventually, the trail reaches a junction. Go straight and continue to another junction along wooden boardwalks where the trail splits into multiple different directions. At this junction, going right and following the signs takes you to Christmas Hill. The hike to Christmas Hill requires a short walk along a road but then crosses several roads and follows trails between houses, uphill until you reach the larger park area at Christmas Hill. For those wishing to complete the loop of Swam Lake, go left and walk the short distance back to the Nature House.
For those hiking to Christmas Hill, follow the signs and make your way up to Nelthorpe Street. Walk to blocks up the street to the traffic lights at McKenzie Avenue and cross the street. Directly across the street, follow the trail uphill as it pass between several properties before exiting onto, again, Nelthorpe Street. Walk about 1-block up the street and watch for the continuation of the trail on your left where it again pass between several homes in the area before reaching Nicholson Street. At Nicholson, walk up the street to the left and at the turnaround near the top, look for a trail to Christmas Hill on the right side.
Follow the trail as it continues uphill on a much more gradual pace. There are several trails that loop around the mountain but to get to the top, go left at the first junction. Watch for a trail on the right and follow it uphill, making your way up the rock and onto the peak of Christmas Hill. The viewpoints from the top are spectator as you look west across the Saanich area. It's worth hiking around the trail that loops around the top to see the viewpoints from the other sides as they are all spectacular on a clear, sunny day.
After enjoying the Christmas Hill area, hike back down and return to the turnaround at Nicholson Street. Walk down the road and find the trail on the right, hiking back down. Walk to the bottom of the next section of road, onto the trail as it takes you back to the intersection at McKenzie and Nelthorpe Street. Cross the street and continue to follow Nelthorpe Street for 2 blocks, returning to the trails at Swan Lake on your right. Follow the path in a counter-clockwise direction back to the Nature House, then a short walk back to the parking lot returns you to where you began your outing.
Swan Lake and Christmas Hill is located a short 10-minute drive from downtown Victoria, just to the east of Highway #17. From downtown Victoria, drive to Blanshard Street and head northbound. As you are just leaving the city, onto the Highway, take the first exit, Exit #7 for McKenzie Avenue. Turn right onto McKenzie Avenue after exiting. At the next street, turn right onto Rainbow Street and drive to the end of it where it meets Ralph Street. Turn left onto Ralph Street. Drive to Swan Lake Road where you turn road and then the gravel parking lot is on your left. Note: There is no public parking around Christmas Hill as there are parking restrictions throughout the residential areas.
The bus can be taken from downtown Victoria but you will have to walk a few blocks to the entrance to Swan Lake. From Douglas Street in downtown, take either Bus #70: Swartz Bay Express or Bus #72: Swartz Bay. The bus ride will take about 20 minutes as you have to get off the bus at McKenzie Avenue.
After getting off of the bus, walk east along McKenzie Avenue and go right at the first street, called Rainbow Street. Walk 3 blocks to Ralph Street and go left. Walk to the end of Ralph Street where there is a gravel parking lot for the Swan Lake Sanctuary.
Dogs are not allowed on any trails around Swan Lake or Christmas Hill as the area is a protected bird sanctuary.
Toilet facilities are located at the Nature House next to Swan Lake. There are no outhouses or toilets on Christmas Hill.