If you’re looking for some fun outdoor adventure ideas to enjoy with your family and friends on southern Vancouver Island, here are ten suggestions from Elanor, our engagement and outreach assistant, who spends her free time exploring, hiking and biking around the island.
McKenzie Bight in Gowlland Tod Provincial Park
This is a gorgeous 3.5 km hike, just 20 minutes outside of Victoria. This has been one of my favorite hikes since I was a child! Take the wide, forest-surrounded McKenzie Bight trail down to the beach. This is a perfect spot to enjoy a picnic and take in the views. Head back up the Cascade Trail to see the beautiful waterfall which flows strongly in the early spring, fall and winter months. Tip: this hike has become quite popular recently, so if you can’t find a spot to park in the parking lot, there’s usually lots of spots on the Ross Durrance Road, too.
Francis King Provincial Park
Craving a wander through some deep forest? Francis King Park offers a gentle trail for all abilities through 500 year old Douglas-fir trees, just a 20 minute drive outside of Victoria. The Elsie King Trail is a wheelchair accessible trail. In the spring, there are some lovely wildflower meadows to enjoy.
Witty’s Lagoon, Metchosin
This relatively easy trail passes the scenic Sitting Lady Falls before heading to the beach. The beach itself is expansive with plenty of spots for sitting and viewing wildlife. This beach is one of the sandiest beaches you can find on southern Vancouver Island and offers gorgeous views of the Olympic Mountains on a clear day.
Goldstream Provincial Park
This is a great spot to check out with a range of ages and hiking experience. Take in the old growth temperate rainforest, and if you’re looking for a more educational experience, check out the Goldstream Nature House for lots of cool information about the wild salmon that spawn in the park from October to December.
PKOLS (Mount Doug Park)
This is a fantastic hike right outside of Victoria. On a clear day, the views from the top of Mount Doug are phenomenal – you’ll be able to see the gulf islands, the coastal mountains, Mount Baker, and the Olympic Mountains. In the spring, camas and fawn lilies will be in bloom! I like to head up from the west side of Mount Doug (there’s a parking lot off of Blenkinsop Road, or you can get there by bike via the Galloping Goose bike trail).
Devonian Regional Park, Metchosin
Located off of William Head Road in Metchosin, this park has a number of easy to moderate hiking trails that lead you to a beautiful beach area beside the Strait of Juan de Fuca. If you enjoy birdwatching, Sherwood Pond is a popular spot for spotting many different bird species.
Swan Lake Nature Sanctuary
Swan Lake is a delightful urban lake in the heart of Saanich. It takes about forty minutes to walk around the lake, and you can also take the Christmas Hill loop for a longer hike and views of the city. Keep your eyes out for the beaver that has moved in recently, and for mink, swans, ducks and other wildlife.
Sooke Hills Wilderness Regional Park
This is the largest park in the region, and has something for everyone. You can choose to scramble up Sugar Loaf or Mount Braden for stunning views up the west coast of Vancouver Island, across to Mount Baker and the Olympic Mountains, or opt for a gentle stroll along the river on a wide gravel path.
China Beach, Juan De Fuca Provincial Park
It’s a bit of a drive outside of Victoria, but I love China Beach! Take a quick 20 minute stroll down to the beach (through some gorgeous temperate rainforest), and enjoy the expansive sandy beach and big waves. If you turn right when you get to the beach and follow the shore as it curves into the peninsula, you’ll find a wonderful hidden waterfall.
Lone Tree Hill, Highlands
This is a moderate intensity hike in the heart of the highlands. This hike is particularly lovely in spring when the wildflowers are in bloom. The peak of Lone Tree Hill provides wonderful views of the Olympic Peninsula, the Highlands and Victoria.
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