By Michael Chang
There are plenty of tourist attractions in Victoria, BC, and travelers to the area often spend as much time exploring some of the natural nearby beauty. There are several easy hikes that are great for families of all ages to explore near Victoria. Like the city itself, the trails are often rich with history, yet full of scenery as hikers can get a good feel for the natural and rugged beauty of the Pacific Northwest.
A few safety and preparation tips to keep in mind:
1. Make sure to pack adequate water and food for your outing.
2. When going for a hike, always tell someone where you're going and when you plan to be back. This can be difficult when travelling but even letting the hotel front desk know or a friend back home.
3. Never hike alone.
4. There are many wild animals on Vancouver Island, with cougars and black bears being the most concerning for humans. Make sure to keep children close when hiking in the forests or along beaches near forested areas.
Here are the Top 5 Easy Hikes near Victoria, BC.
| Strait of Juan de Fuca near Iron Mine Bay, East Sooke Park
Iron Mine Bay in the northwestern area of East Sooke Park offers scenic, coastal views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, looking south towards Washington State's Olympic National Park. Located about a 1-hour drive from downtown Victoria, the 1.5km one-way trail to the beach area is wide with a gradual descent, making it really easy. The rocky beach in the bay is scenic and the large rock outcrop to the left of the beach is a popular attraction to climb to the top of to experience further views looking south towards Washington State.
Also enjoyable is walking a short distance south along the Coast Trail to experience further views of the shoreline. The Coast Trail can be rugged and, although it starts off as an easy walk, it gets much more difficult, to the point where you have to use your hands to help lower yourself down or pull yourself up over rocky sections.
Besides the incredible west coast scenery, what makes Iron Mine Bay enjoyable is it's not too busy due to it being "off-the-path" from where most travelers go. To reach the start of the trail to Iron Mine Bay, drive north on Highway #1 and take the exit towards Sooke.
Follow Sooke Road for sometime and go left onto Gillespie Road. At the end of Gillespie, turn right onto East Sooke Road and follow the narrow road until you see signs pointing to East Sooke Park at Pike Road.
| Niagara Falls in Goldstream Provincial Park, Victoria, BC
Unlike "The Niagara Falls" in Ontario, the Niagara Falls in Goldstream Provincial Park just north of Victoria is a narrow stream of water that cascades over the rocks high above. The site is spectacular as you make the short walk through a scenic forest along the Goldstream River, then pass through a tunnel under the highway, before walking up to the canyon with the waterfall in full view.
The trail begins from the Goldstream Provincial Park day-use area, which is just off of Highway #1 and well marked with signage as you pass through. The day-use area has a number of picnic tables and a Nature House, located about a 10-minute walk from the parking lot, with plenty of information about the region and lots of things for kids to learn about.
There are also 2 other popular hikes that start from the day-use area but are much more difficult. One is the hike to the Trestle Bridge, which follows a trail up the north side of the waterfall before crossing a bridge above the waterfall and continuing uphill, high above the canyon. The second popular hike goes up Mount Finlayson, the steep mountain that sits as the backdrop for the day-use area. The hike to the top of Mount Finlayson is one of the steepest in the Victoria area.
|Island View Beach and a View of Haro Strait.|
Island View Beach is located along the shores of Haro Strait and accessible from the intersection at Island View Road along the Patricia Bay Highway towards the ferries. Many fossils have been discovered near Island View Beach that date back more than 20,000 years and are thought to be those of giant mammoth or bison. The area is also popular with bird watchers where you can see many different types of birds, such as bald eagles and red throated loons.
The walk along the beach trail is flat and easy and ends at a sign marking the Tsawout First Nation territory. There are great views of Haro Strait and nearby islands of James Island, Sidney Island, and D'Arcy Island, with San Juan Island in the United States in the distance. If you are travelling with family, kids will enjoy playing on the beach area.
|Tod Inlet in Gowlland Lake Provincial Park|
Located in the northern section of Gowlland Tod Provincial Park, Tod Inlet is full of history. Its industrial era began in the early 1900's when the limestone rich area was quarried and infrastructure, such as the buildings and a dock, were built to support the business. Once the land had been exhausted, the area was rejuvenated and turned into a large garden, known today as Butchart Gardens. While Butchart Gardens is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the Victoria area, very few people venture to Tod Inlet, which is located just behind Butchart Gardens but only accessible via the inlet by boat or a hiking trail that begins along Wallace Drive.
The trail to Tod Inlet is wide with a gradual descent that takes only 20-minutes or so. There's plenty to explore, from the remains of the old buildings to the visible jellyfish from the dock. There is a narrower trail that goes down to the mouth of Tod Creek, then follows the creek upstream through the forest with scenic views of the canyon.
|The Ogden Point Breakwater near Downtown Victoria, BC|
The Ogden Point Breakwater is a popular walk from Dallas Road near downtown Victoria. The breakwater is about 800-meters long with a lighthouse structure at the end. It's hard to believe that the railings were only installed in 2013 as, previous to this, people had to be careful walking along the high, cement structure, especially during wind storms!
What makes this route unique is you can see all of Victoria's harbour traffic come and go at the end of the breakwater. This includes the many pleasure craft, commercial boats, ferries, sea planes, helicopters, and sometimes wildlife like seals or even whales. This waterway can be a very busy area.
Another interesting sight are the people fishing from the large cement blocks below. You can also walk down one of the sets of stairs to the lower level but be careful, the rocks can be slippery and the waves do splash up onto the cement blocks.
Michael Chang is an avid hiker and runs a local online hiking resource called Vancouver Trails, which focuses on day-hikes around Vancouver, Whistler, the Fraser Valley, and Southwestern British Columbia.
Background Photo Credit: Destination British Columbia