Welcome to hiking
heaven! Criss-crossing the island, old logging roads and hiking trails
provide easy access to alpine areas and inspiring mountain scenery.
Less challenging than backpacking, day hikes provide lifetime memories
of peaceful walks, bird watching and wildlife viewing. Along
the many paths in our protected forests and provincial parks you'll
find the freedom to discover nature for yourself; an abundance of
waterfalls, meadows, lakes and beaches - all reachable without guides,
ropes or heavy packs.
of Mount Finlayson, Goldstream Park
Just as Victorians can be proud of their lengthy Galloping
Goose Trail, so too can they brag about the beauty of the Coast
Trail. The 6-mile (10-km) trail, which runs beside the Strait of Juan
de Fuca in East Sooke Regional Park near Victoria,
is the ideal testing ground for a longer journey such as the West
It takes about seven hours to cover the Coast Trail round trip,
which runs through the thickly forested rolling hills that rise above
the strait between Becher and Iron Mine Bays. The shoreline, as rugged
here as anywhere farther up the coast, forced the trail builders to
deal with everything from windswept bluffs to rain-forest ravines.
Occasionally the trail descends to sea level, allowing a hiker's eyes
the chance to range across the strait to the peaks of Washington State's
Olympic Mountains that dominate the southern horizon. You don't have
to traverse the entire length of the Coast Trail in order to enjoy
a visit to this large 3,500-acre (1420-ha) park. Watch for one of
the trail's most exotic features, a large petroglyph that is carved
into the rock face at Aldridge Point, a 1.2-mile (2-km) ramble from
the east entrance to East Sooke Park at Becher Bay. Once you reach
Aldridge Point, the large sea-lion petroglyph is easy to locate.
An interpretive marker is fixed on the hillside directly above the
rock face on which it is inscribed. According to a Native legend,
the petroglyph represents a supernatural animal like a sea lion that
was responsible for the deaths of many of the Becher Bay Indians when
they ventured out in their canoes. The tribe became nearly extinct;
the remaining members were afraid to go out on the water, until one
day a mythical man caught the sea lion and turned him into the stone
representation seen on Aldridge Point.
Although it's helpful to have an incentive such as an ancient rock
carving to draw you out along the trail, the natural beauty of the
environment is enticement enough. Wild rose blossoms perfume the breezes
that blow among the gnarled, smooth-skinned limbs of arbutus trees.
Some of the park's best beaches are located in several small coves
around the bay at Creyke Point, about 0.6 mile (1 km) east of Aldridge
Follow the well-marked Coast Trail about a mile west of Aldridge Point
to Beechy Point, where the ocean swells beat against the craggy
shoreline. The old-growth forest is marvelously shaped by years of
spindrift driven on the wind by winter storms. Far off in the west
you can just make out where the trail ends at Iron Mine Bay.
Shoulder your pack and head that way if you wish, or simply retrace
your steps to Becher Bay and drive about 7 miles (12 km) along East
Sooke Road to reach it. In fact, if you are intent on exploring the
entire length of the Coast Trail, it would be helpful to go in two
parties and leave a vehicle at each end, trading keys when you meet
up in the middle.
East Sooke Regional Park is located off
East Sooke Road, just a 30-minute drive from Victoria. Within its
1422 hectares, East Sooke Park hosts a variety of environments, from
windswept coast and rocky hilltops to open grasslands, sandy beaches
and secluded coves. Energetic hikers travel the complete 6 hour Coast
Trail, considered to be one of the premier day hikes in Canada. Besides
hiking the 60 kilometres of trails through rain forest, there are
many other outdoor activities to be enjoyed in the park.
Seven main hiking
trails run the length of Goldstream Provincial
Park, including an ascent of Mount Finlayson. With the exception
of the Prospectors Trail (moderate; 6 miles/10 km return) and
the Mount Finlayson Trail (strenuous; 1,375 feet/413 m; 3 miles/5
km return), all of the trails run along the upland region of the park
to the west of Hwy 1. Other trails include the Arbutus Ridge Trail
(moderate; 6 miles/10 km return), which begins from campsite #40 and
climbs uphill through the drier upland regions of the park, where
a profusion of wildflowers accompanies hikers from April to June,
the finest season to enjoy this hike. The Upper Goldstream Trail
(easy; 2.5 miles/4 km return) passes through some the largest groves
of trees in the park as it heads to Goldstream Falls. The trailhead
is beside the campground gatehouse, where trail maps are also located.
You can reduce your hiking time in the park by beginning from the
hiker's parking lot located on the west side of Hwy 1, halfway between
the campground and the day-use areas.
Mount Finlayson Trail
Goldstream Provincial Park
lies south of the parking lot, while the Gold Mine Trail (easy;
4 miles/6 km return) leads north to Niagara Creek. Highlights include
evidence of old-time resource extraction, a tall falls that depending
on the season may or may not have any water in it, and a short side
trip to view an impressive wooden railway trestle still in use by
the Esquimalt & Nanaimo Railway. The day liner passes over the trestle
twice daily, Monday to Saturday, so if you're here by 8:30am or
5:15pm you stand a good chance of seeing it whisk by.
One of the most spectacular hikes on Vancouver Island is the trail
over the Kinsol Trestle in the Cowichan Valley Regional District.
The once-abandoned railway line is believed to be the biggest wooden
trestle left in the Commonwealth. At 187.6 metres long and more
than 38 metres above the Koksilah River, it is truly an amazing
structure. A complete restoration of the Kinsol Trestle was completed
in 2011, retaining 60% of the historic timber. The bridge now allows
hikers and bikers to see more of The Cowichan Valley Trail and Trans
Canada Trail. To access Kinsol Trestle, turn north at the 4-way
stop in Shawnigan Lake Village and continue passed Mason's Store
on what becomes Old Port Renfrew Road for about 10km, then follow
If you're interested
in a long hike to the trestle, with the occasional vista across
Shawnigan Lake, drive up
the Malahat and take the
South Shawnigan Lake turnoff to Sooke Lake Road. Travel south-west
on the gravel road until you reach the old CN right-of-way. It's
not well signed, but there's a little parking lot. From there, it's
about a 13-kilometre hike to the trestle.
The hiking trail (easy; 2 mile/3 km return) in Horth
Hill Regional Park in North Saanich leads to one of the highest
viewpoints at the top of the Saanich Peninsula. It climbs gradually
through a semi-arid forest to the summit of North Hill. From here
you have splendid views of the Gulf and San Juan Islands, Mount
Baker's volcanic cone, Hurricane Ridge's scissor-cut profile, and
all of the Saanich Peninsula and Inlet laid out before you in stark
relief. This is a good hike to do as soon as you arrive at BC Ferries'
Swartz Bay terminal. You can stretch your legs, taste the island
air, and orient yourself for further exploring. To find the park,
head west on Wain Road from Hwy 17, just south of Swartz
Bay. Follow signs pointing north on Tatlow Road to the parking
lot and trailhead. You'll often have this trail to yourself.
When you hike the trails in John Dean Provincial
Park in North Saanich, you are following some of oldest in the
provincial park system. You are also following in the footsteps
of the local First Nations people who, legend has it, rode out the
great flood atop Mount Newton (1,007 feet/302 m), or Lau Welnew,
"the back of a whale." There is great hiking here for those who
admire old-growth forests. At heart of this park are some the largest
Douglas fir that remain on the south coast of Vancouver Island,
as well as a mix of grand fir, western red cedar, Garry oak, and
arbutus. Five hiking trails of varying degrees of difficulty and
length cross the south and east face of Mount Newton. Explore here
in spring to see a vivid display of wildflowers native to British
Columbia, including drifts of blue camas lilies, which carpet the
understorey, as well as red Indian paintbrush and white erythroniums.
Wildlife flock to the food-rich forest, and from the top of Mount
Newton, you can watch as ravens, red-tailed hawks, bald eagles,
and turkey vultures put on a colourful display of soaring techniques.
The summit of Mount Newton is renowned as the place to watch some
of the best sunsets in British Columbia. To find the park, head
west from Hwy 17 on McTavish Road to East Saanich Road, then south
on East Saanich to Dean Park Road and follow this road to its western
terminus, where trails begin from the parking area.
So new is it that hikers are just beginning to make their way to
Gowlland Tod Provincial Park in Saanich,
where there are over 25 miles (40 km) of trails. In the afterglow
of goodwill that followed Victoria's hosting of the 1994 Commonwealth
Games, local and provincial governments, as well as interested private
companies, joined together to create the Commonwealth Nature Legacy.
The grand purpose of the project is to further protect the remaining
natural spaces that surround the ever-expanding city. Gowlland Tod
Provincial Park protects a significant part of the Gowlland Range,
one of the last remaining natural areas in Greater Victoria, and
a portion of the natural shoreline and uplands in Tod Inlet, which
adjoins the Saanich Inlet south of Brentwood Bay near Butchart Gardens.
Included in this park are representative examples of the rare, dry
coastal Douglas fir habitat that features old-growth forest, wildflowers,
and stands of arbutus and manzanita. Old mining and logging roads
in the park now serve as hiking trails. There are three access points
to the park, which shares a common boundary with Mount Work Regional
Park. For those hikers who enjoy easygoing trails coupled with access
to Tod Inlet's shoreline, take Wallace Dr from either of its two
intersections with Hwy 17A. The trailhead at the north end of the
park is located on the west side of Wallis Road opposite Quarry
Lake. A second trailhead is located on Willis Point Road west of
Wallace Dr and is shared with Mount Work Regional Park. Trails provide
seaside access to McKenzie Bight and climb to spectacular viewpoints
and rocky outcroppings on Partridge Hills and Jocelyn Hill. The
southern entrance to the park is reached by following Millstream
Road north from Hwy 1 to Caleb Pike Road, then a short distance
west to the trailhead. From here trails lead to Holmes Peak, Mount
Finlayson, and Jocelyn Hill.
Bear Hill Regional Park is paired with
Elk and Beaver Lakes Regional Park.
Over 11 miles (19 km) of easygoing hiking trails link Eagle Beach
with popular North Beach on Beaver Lake. For a more vigorous workout,
head for Bear Hill Regional Park. The trailhead is located on Bear
Hill Road east of Oldfield Road north of Elk Lake. The extensive
park features more than 1,000 acres (400 ha) of lush wetland, tranquil
forest, and panoramic hilltop vistas of the Saanich Peninsula.
Juan De Fuca Marine Trail is a 47-km
hiking trail that stretches along the western shoreline of southern
Vancouver Island, from China Beach to Botanical Beach. The trail
offers rugged beauty, wildlife viewing and roaring surf in its course
along the Strait of Juan de Fuca. It has been designed to meet the
needs of both day-trippers and the more experienced hiker.
Cowichan River Footpath
River Footpath winds along the scenic Cowichan River from Glenora
to Skutz Falls, crossing the river there and follows the north bank
almost to Lake Cowichan. The footpath takes hikers along some of
the most scenic river stretches on Vancouver Island. Great fishing
in the Cowichan River too!
River Falls and Little Qualicum Falls
Provicial Parks have rambling trails that lead beside the clear
waters of these pristine rivers. A walk to the falls is a big part
of a visit to either park.
Carmanah Walbran Provincial Park is located adjacent to the
West Coast Trail unit of Pacific Rim National Park, on the West
Coast of Vancouver Island. Road access to the Carmanah trailhead
is via Highway 18 from Duncan to Lake Cowichan, and a further 70km
on gravel logging roads.
Rim National Park is Canada's only National Park on Vancouver
Island, and comprises three geographically separate units: the Long
Beach unit, the Broken Group Islands and the West Coast Trail. Long
Beach is the longest of the many beaches in the park, providing
miles and miles of refreshing, quiet walks. There are nine hiking
trails located in the Long Beach unit, ranging in length from 1.2km
to 5km (return). These trails take the hiker into the fascinating
and beautiful world of the coastal environment. Most of the trails
are surfaced with boardwalk, wood chips or gravel. Long Beach, the
most developed and visited area of Pacific Rim National Park, is
accessible by car from Port
Alberni on Highway 4.
Demonstration Forest is located west of Campbell River and north
of Hwy 28 near Loveland Bay Provincial Park. You'll find almost
19 miles (30 km) of easygoing hiking trails here. Logging was carried
out in this forest from the 1920s to the 1950s, and the Snowden
Demonstration Forest is in various stages of recovery. Early on,
logs were brought out by railway. Their gentle grades (minus the
ties) crisscross the forest in places such as the Frog Lake Trail
System's Old Rail Trail (easy; 2.5 miles/4 km return) and Lookout
Loop (easy; 2 miles/3.2 km return). These two feed into each other.
Access is from parking lots at either the north or south ends of
Elmer Lake. To reach Elmer Lake, turn north off Hwy 28 at Elk Falls
Provincial Park. Follow well-marked Lower Campbell Lake Road about
2.5 miles (4 km) west of Elk Falls Provincial Park towards Loveland
Bay Provincial Park. Elmer Lake lies about 1 mile (1.6 km) along
a secondary road that leads north from Lower Campbell Lake Road.
Enchanted Forest Trail (easy; 2.5 miles/4.3 km return) leads through
some of the lushest growth in the forest and begins from the south
end of Elmer Lake. The Snowden Demonstration Forest is about 10
miles (16 km) west of Campbell
River. Follow Hwy 28 west of town for about 4 miles (7 km) to
the turnoff for Loveland Bay Provincial Park. Stay left after crossing
the John Hart Dam, from where a well-signed gravel road leads to
the Snowden Demonstration Forest
The Nootka Island Trail (also called
the Friendly Cove/Yuquot Trail) rambles between Louie Bay on the
north side of Nootka Island and Yuquot (Friendly Cove) on the south.
Along the way, the trail crosses exquisite beaches and tidal shelves,
as well as leading inland to bypass rocky headlands and deep river
mouths. This 22-mile (35-km) trail is gradually becoming a choice
hiking destination, and is a complement to the West Coast Trail.
By comparison with the West Coast Trail, the Nootka Island Trail
is poorly marked and infrequently maintained. Be prepared to bushwhack
around fallen trees brought down by the frequent, savage winter
storms that pound this section of coast. In order to avoid an exhausting
amount of bushwhacking, consult tide charts for the most opportune
times to cross beaches. Allow seven days to complete the hike one
way. Hikers must be completely self-contained and are advised to
carry a handheld marine radio, as the sole source of help is from
the lighthouse staff at Yuquot. Note: There is a large population
of bears on Nootka Island, and chances are good that hikers will
encounter them along the beaches. At present, these bears do not
associate hikers with food. Cache all supplies well out of reach
of these animals. Access to Louie Bay is by floatplane from Gold
River or Tofino; to
Yuquot, by the MV Uchuck III.
Provincial Park is a rugged mountain wilderness of more than
250,00 hectares, located in the centre of Vancouver Island, and
site of the island's last remaining icefield: the Comox Glacier.
The primary access points to the park, and its 107 kilometres of
hiking trails, are through the towns of Courtenay and Campbell River.
Courtenay provides access to the Forbidden Plateau and Paradise
Meadows areas of the park, and a series of trails providing easy
access for day or overnight hikers. This alpine area of the plateau
is dotted with the beautiful Forbidden Plateau Lakes. The Buttle
Lake area of the park, forty-eight kilometres west of Campbell
River, contains two campgrounds and provides access to outstanding
scenery through a series of overnight trails and many short trails
that lead to picturesque waterfalls and interesting natural features.
The trailhead for the Ripple Rock Trail (easy; 5 miles/8
km return) is located on the east side of Hwy 19 about 4 miles (6
km) north of the Ripple Rock Rest Area, which is just north of Campbell
River. The roadside parking area is well marked. The trail leads
hikers through abundant second-growth forest (with a few spectacular
examples of old-growth Sitka spruce and Douglas fir on the east
side of Menzies Creek) to a viewpoint of the treacherous waters
in Seymour Narrows. Despite the blasting away in 1958 of the twin
peaks of Ripple Rock, which lies underwater directly east of the
viewpoint, large boats are still harassed by the rip tides, swirling
currents, and whirlpools that constantly agitate the surface of
the narrows. Other hiking trails of the same distance and difficulty
that lead off from Hwy 19 include the McNair Lake Trail, 22 miles
(35 km) north of Campbell River, and the Dalrymple Creek Trail,
35 miles (57 km) north of Campbell River.
Because the Gulf Islands are so tightly configured, it's often difficult
to determine where one begins and another leaves off, especially
as Vancouver Island provides such a big backdrop that it takes on
the appearance of a mini-mainland. One of the best ways to sort
things out is to take a hike to some of the higher viewpoints. There
aren't as many hiking trails found in the islands as on the mainland.
In part, this is a reflection of size, steepness, and also choice:
most visitors come to the islands to indulge in activities centred
around the water. You will find good hiking and walking trails,
however, on Galiano Island's Bluffs Park and the Bodega
Ridge Trail in the Bodega Ridge Nature Preserve.
Another viewpoint worth seeking out is on South
Pender Island. Mount Norman dominates the southern half of the
twin islands, forcing traffic to divert around its north flank.
Take Canal Road west where it divides and continue a short distance
to the trailhead for Mount Norman Regional
Park. From here it's a steep 1-mile (1.6-km) walk uphill along
an old logging road. The detritus left behind from recent logging
is not a pretty sight, and it will be some time before reforestation
masks the damage. Make the journey only on a day when you're guaranteed
a good view. Once on top you'll find an observation platform with
a wooden bench on which to rest while you get out your binoculars.
The views from here are directly west over Bedwell harbour towards
Salt Spring Island, Victoria, and southern Vancouver Island and
south across Boundary Pass into Washington. Follow a rough trail
from the viewpoint boardwalk through the salal to the east side
of Mount Norman for a view of the sun-weathered flanks of Saturna
Island, and beyond to Vancouver and the British Columbia-Washington
Newcastle Island Provincial Park is
located adjacent to Nanaimo, with access by passenger-only ferry
from Maffeo Sutton Park, behind the Civic Arena in Nanaimo. The
19 kilometres of day-hiking trails provide access to unique historical
sites on the island while enjoying excellent views of the Strait
of Georgia. Nearly half of the hiking trails are designed as multi-use,
and allow bicycle access on signed trails. The foot passenger ferry
will transport bicycles to and from Newcastle Island.
The most challenging
hiking of all is found on Saltspring
Island, where rough trails lead to the tops of both Bruce
Peak (2,326 feet/709 m) and Mount Tuam (1,975 feet/602
m), the tallest points of land on the Gulf Islands. From Fulford
Harbour at the south end of the island, take Musgrave Road west
from Fulford Harbour to reach both trailheads, though eventually
by different routes. One leads north off Musgrave to Bruce, while
another leads south to Tuam. You'll find great views from both down
onto the Saanich Inlet and Peninsula, and across Satellite Channel
to Cowichan Bay. If you make this hike in summer, take plenty of
drinking water with you as these open slopes are baked by the sun.
Good books to consult for information on these and additional trails
include Hiking the Gulf Islands by Kahn and The Gulf Islands Explorer
by Bruce Obee.
Northern Gulf Islands
A nature walk along the forested shoreline of Shelter Point Regional
Park on Texada Island takes
visitors through a setting that could have been the inspiration
for author J. R. R. Tolkien's giant marching trees featured in his
Lord of the Rings trilogy. Long branches from two groves of Douglas
fir spread like muscled arms above each end of the trail. Although
sturdy, most of their tops have been cropped by winter storms. Eagles
and osprey rest in the tallest boughs when they aren't out cruising
the coastline for a meal. Others also have drawn sustenance from
these waters for many generations. When the tide is out, look carefully
from the promontory at the south end of the nature trail and you
may be able to discern an ancient V-shaped rock fishing weir, fashioned
by Indians of the Sliammon Nation. (Once frequent visitors to Texada,
their traditional village was located where the Powell River pulp
mill complex now stands.) Near the south end of the trail stands
the gnarliest Douglas fir of them all, a full 7 feet (2.1 m) in
diameter. As you look west from here across the Strait of Georgia
at the Comox Glacier's broad white expanse, you get one of the best
views of central Vancouver Island. Lasqueti Island lies off to the
southwest. The trail loops back from its southern terminus at a
gravel road through the forest to the giant fir. You can also choose
to walk partway on a rough shoreline trail that branches away from
the main trail and leads past arbutus and western red cedar. Also
watch for the wild honeysuckle vines that entwine themselves around
tree trunks in several places. The 2-mile (3-km) loop trail begins
south of the entrance to the park's newly expanded campsite area.
Although not well marked, the trail is easy to locate.
A forested trail leads through Boyle Point
Regional Park at the south end of East Road on Denman
Island. Although not a lengthy walk, this 1-mile (1.6 km across)
excursion will give your legs a good workout, and you will be rewarded
at the end of the trail with views of Hornby Island (the ferry from
Gravelly Bay on Denman to Shingle Bay on Hornby is a short distance
north of the park) as well as the strategically located lighthouse
on Chrome Island just offshore. Cliffs precipitously drop off below
the lookout at trail's end, and you may not be tempted to follow
a rough route down to the shoreline. One noticeable difference between
the waters of the north and south ends of Denman is the presence
of sea urchins around Boyle Point, but not at Longbeak Point and
the waters around Sandy Island Provincial
Owing to the low elevation of most Gulf and Discovery Islands, walking
routes are neither lengthy nor challenging. Some of the best trails
are on Hornby Island and lead around Helliwell
Provincial Park. A 3-mile (5-km) loop trail follows the bluffs
that rise above the beach and lead through open fields and stands
of magnificent old-growth Douglas fir. One of the best times to
be here is in late April and early May, when wildflowers carpet
the hillside above the beach.
Parks are selected and cherished for their natural beauty and diverse
habitat, and in British Columbia, we are blessed with a staggering
number of regional, provincial and national parks from which to
choose. Trails on Vancouver Island accommodate
hikers, bikers, horse riders and cross-country skiers. Backcountry
trails are normally primitive, doing no more than necessary to get
you to your destination. What all these trails have in common, is
a need for their users to be able to look after themselves. Remember,
away from the road it's a wilderness.... and it sure is beautiful
On Vancouver Island
it is possible for the well-prepared backpacker to travel many days
in rugged wilderness (home of cougar, wolf and bear), trek through
coastal and old-growth rainforest, along deserted beaches and alpine
meadows. And freedom in the wilderness is not the sole domain of seasoned
hikers - guided adventures can be tailored to suit individual experience,
limited only by your imagination and desire to conquer.
prepared wilderness hikers
Scott Provincial Park, located 450 km from Victoria, encompasses
21,850 hectares of rugged natural parkland, including over 60 km
of hiking trails. Well-prepared hikers will slog through some of
the muddiest and most tortuous terrain of any trail in British Columbia
to reach Cape Scott, a distance of 27 km from the parking
lot. The longest of the Cape Scott Hiking
Trails is the North Coast Trail.
The nearest settlement to this remote wilderness area is Holberg.
The West Coast Trail is a strenuous
77-kilometre trail originally developed as a life saving trail for
shipwrecked mariners. This magnificent and strenuous trail takes
the hiker along the wild and remote West Coast of Vancouver Island.
It can be travelled on foot from May to September, and demands all
the strength and stamina of hikers travelling and camping along
its rugged and often rain-soaked length. Only competent and well-conditioned
backpackers should attempt the entire trail route, which normally
takes six days to hike.
If hiking in British
Columbia sounds exciting to you, then Heli-Hiking on Vancouver Island
will blow you away.
Hikers waiting for their ride home
will provide you with unique views of valleys, glaciers and mountain
peaks as you are whisked to an altitude of between 6,000 and 8,000ft.
Your small, guided group selects a vigorous or relaxing hike prior
to setting off to learn about nature as you stretch your legs and
explore rocky mountain ridges and flowered meadows.
Hiking Trails on Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands
and the Sunshine Coast of BC.