Time in nature is extremely therapeutic, and it seems so much more essential to get outside when the norm (or the law :S) these days is to be cooped up at home! You don’t have to stray far from Victoria to go forest bathing, and you don’t have to have to be a super active person to enjoy a rejuvenating hike either. All but one of these hikes are less than an hour’s drive from downtown Victoria, and some can even be accessed by bike or public transit. Most are flat or otherwise easy, but I’ve made note of the moderate ones if you’re looking for a bit more of a workout.
8 Easy to Moderate Hikes Around Victoria, BC
Thetis Lake (15 minutes from downtown Victoria): Thetis is wonderful option since you can choose to do a longer loop around Upper Thetis (about 5km), or a shorter loop on Lower Thetis trail, depending on how you’re feeling. Popular with families and dog owners, and in warmer weather the lake is an excellent spot for swimming, floating, paddleboarding and kayaking. There’s also a dog beach – not a long walk from the main parking lot. There aren’t a ton of uphill and downhill sections, but it’s definitely not flat so you’ll want to wear some good walking or hiking shoes, especially if it’s been rainy. You can bike to Thetis along the E&N rail trail, about 40 minutes from downtown, and there’s public transit service in the summer (you can get there by bus anytime, but you’ll have to walk an extra 20 minutes from the stop to the park).
PKOLS/Moung Doug (20 minutes from downtown Victoria): Near UVic, you can either walk up the paved road or choose one of the many trails that wind around the small mountain (about 4 km up). The views are phenomenal: you can see ocean, Mt. Baker, the Saanich Peninsula and Victoria! There’s lots of space at the top to spread out, from a proper lookout to rocky areas. Though not technically difficult, this is of course an uphill climb, so I wouldn’t put it in the easy category. There are plenty of spots where you can stop for a water on the way up, while taking in the scenery. It’s possible to bus to PKOLS if you’re willing to tack on a walk from the stop.
Elk Lake (20 minutes from downtown Victoria): Elk Lake is a nice, fairly flat 10 km loop north of Victoria, and it’s even accessible by bus! It’s popular with runners, and the lake is a popular swimming spot in the summer. (If you have a dog, make sure to check for blue-green algae info to see if it’s safe.)
Goldstream Park and Trestle (25 minutes from downtown Victoria): Goldstream is the home of the famous Salmon Run in November/December, when thousands of Chum salmon return to spawn. At that time of year, it’s a great place to wander between majestic, mossy trees, spot bald eagles feasting on the fish, and visit the Nature House. There’s lots more to the park, including Niagara Falls, a 47.5 meter tall waterfall, just through the tunnel under the highway. Another trail branches up towards Goldstream trestle. The former railway bridge runs above Niagara Creek, and while I find it super scary to cross because there are no railings or anything, it’s really popular and it offers some great photos ops and a guaranteed adrenaline rush (if you’re afraid of heights like me :P). Also in the park is Mount Finlayson; it’s considered to be a difficult hike, though I’ve never done it. Goldstream has a big, partially sheltered picnic area if you want to spend the day there!
Mount Work (25 minutes from downtown Victoria): This one’s a good little cardio workout! For me personally, it’s the most difficult of this bunch. It takes about 1.5 – 2 hours round trip from Munn Road, and hiking up through the forest is quite peaceful. In warmer weather, we love setting up our hammock at the top, or bringing a picnic when it’s not too windy. There are expansive views of trees and the Saanich peninsula, with lots of raven activity at the summit. I love the amount of arbutus trees on this trail! (Let’s be honest, I love any trail with arbutus trees.) Nearby Gowlland Tod Provincial Park offers an excellent network of trails, and the Highlands area is also popular with mountain bikers.
McKenzie Bight (25 minutes from downtown Victoria): This one’s in Gowlland Tod. If you’re looking for a day of beachcombing with a short forest hike on either end, McKenzie Bight is the place for you! Once you get down to the water, you can keep hiking along the coast (similar vibe to East Sooke Park), or hang out at the beach. This is one of those rare places where you can spot lots of starfish, plus all the usual beach finds. Not a mountain, but it will still be a climb coming back up, no matter which direction you take the loop! The Cascade trail is steeper but then flattens out after the initial climb, whereas the McKenzie Bight trail is a gradual incline the whole way up.
East Sooke Park (45 minutes from downtown Victoria): One of my favourite hikes. Start at Ayland Farm parking lot; take in the beach below the trail, and then follow the coast along the arbutus-lined path, keeping a lookout for seals, seabirds, and sometimes whales! You’ll get to a rocky open area where you can find Coast Salish petroglyphs; this is the spot where we’ve seen whales. You can either circle back up to the parking lot through a forest trail, or just follow the same path you took to get there to get double the coastal views. We usually hike a bit beyond the petroglyphs and then turn back. The trail is uneven but never steep. For those who want a full day adventure: the entire Coast Trail between Ayland Farm and Pike Point is 13 km and takes about a full day to complete. You’ll need to plan ahead and come with 2 vehicles, so that you can park at the start and end points. Alternatively, you could park at the Pike Road lot and explore that end of the park, instead of Ayland Farm.
Kinsol Trestle (50 minutes from downtown Victoria) The walk to this historic trestle is only 20 minutes from the parking lot, along a flat, gravel trail. Once you arrive, you’ll want to spend some time marvelling at the wooden rail trestle, the largest of its kind on Vancouver Island. You can hike down to the quiet stream to admire it from below, and you may want to continue walking for a bit along the Cowichan Valley Trail. The entire CVT is a 108 km multi-day hike, but you could extend your trip to Kinsol Trestle by walking a small portion of it. If you’re wanting to add on a difficult hike, Old Mount Baldy is nearby; here’s how to find the famous swing at the summit. Check out this post for more information about things to do in the Shawnigan Lake/Cowichan area.
Mystic Beach: (1 hour and 20 minutes from downtown Victoria) Just over an hour from Victoria, this first section of the Juan de Fuca trail feels worlds away. A 40 minute/2 km hike through old growth rainforest and over a suspension bridge leads you to the misty, mystical beach, with the Salish Sea and Olympic Mountains just beyond. Run and play in the waterfall, check out the small rock piles that beach-goers have built, take a ride on the rope swing, or spend the night if you bring your camping gear. The trail is well-maintained and well-trodden, but is definitely uneven, with lots of rocks, roots, and muddy patches. You’ll be making your way uphill from the beach when you return to the parking lot, although the trail mostly levels off once you climb the steps back up from the beach to the forest. Follow signs for China Beach Day Use for the trailhead. If you want a longer, more challenging hike, you could do the next portion of the Juan de Fuca trail, from Mystic Beach to Bear Beach.
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