*Friendly reminder to stay close to home right now. Delay visits to areas far away, and wait to adventure when it is safe to do so!
One of the many things that make living in British Columbia, and more specifically on Vancouver Island, so special is the relatively quick and easy access we have to an abundance of natural and wild spaces. Located a 45-minute drive from Victoria, and less than 15 minutes apart, are two great examples: the Sooke Hills and Sea to Sea Regional Parks. Though technically two parks, they cover a large area of the Sooke Hills watershed, and their respective boundaries share space in several locations. Along with providing a plethora of hiking trails and stunning viewpoints, both parks serve to act as a protective buffer for the Greater Victoria Water Supply as well.
But back to those trails! Leaving Victoria, one would first encounter the southern access point to the Sooke Hills Regional park, via a newly built parking lot with all the amenities (those being a clean and modern outhouse, ample parking, and a smooth-but-very-uphill trail to get started). Gone are the days of sketchily parking on the rough shoulder of Sooke rd., walking the drainage ditch while cars rip past at unnecessary speeds, searching for the loose rock pile and flagging tape that marked the entrance to a wonderland of rocky bluffs and temperate rainforest hiking. Seeing a need in the community for safer access to wild spaces, the CRD went to work and finished the installation of the lot, as well as a more accessible main trail (Veitch Trail) in late 2020. This followed several years of work on upgrading access points and trails throughout the park, opening the northern section access on Humpback rd. in 2017. Both the northern section and southern section boast their own unique features: the northern area connects with the very popular Goldstream Provincial Park and is where you will find a section of The Great Trail – the longest recreational trail in the world! While the southern area is your first real access to the bluffs and hills that give the Sooke region its very distinct geography and beauty.
A little further down the highway past the southern lot for the Sooke Hills is your access to yet another fantastic network of trails and vistas: the Sea to Sea Regional Park. Located at the end of Harbourview road, the main lot is your jumping-off point for a wide variety of adventure. Hiking, mountain-biking, canoeing, and horse-back riding; there are many ways to enjoy this space. Encompassing over 4000 hectares, this park was established in 2001 to create a “green zone” connecting the waters of the Strait of Juan de Fuca with those of the Saanich Inlet. Within its boundaries are several notable summits and lookouts, two of which are the tallest peaks in the CRD Regional parks system: Mt. Manuel Quimper at 550 meters and Empress Mountain at 660 meters. The view from Mt. Manuel Quimper is enhanced by the ability to take it in from the top of an old fire lookout tower, built in the 1950’s by the BC Forest Service! Another feature of the Sea to Sea Regional Park is the abundance of lakes contained within its boundaries. Crabapple, Grass, Peden and Sheilds lakes are locally famous for their cool waters and the hikes that bring you to them. You may even luck out and find an old but serviceable canoe on the shore of one of these lakes, there for you to use if you are feeling adventurous!
With scores of kilometers of trails to explore and viewpoints to take in, and with an accessibility unparalleled in many places, the Sooke Hills and Sea to Sea Regional Parks are home to many fantastic ways to get out and explore nature. And in that exploration, we can find an opportunity to create a deeper connection with ourselves, and with our place in the web of things. The humility and gratitude that comes from that is an important part of the human experience, perhaps now more than ever.
- Big-leaf maple
- Western red cedar
- Freshwater mussels
- Black bear
- Check the weather before you go and dress accordingly.
- Wear supportive footwear.
- Prepare to adventure safely with Trip Planning Tips.
Sooke Hills: Follow the Trans-Canada Highway from Victoria, and turn left on West Shore Parkway. At the roundabout, continue straight to stay on Westshore Pkwy. Turn right onto Juan De Fuca Hwy/Sooke Rd/BC-14 W. Destination is on the right.
Sea To Sea Regional Park: Follow the Trans-Canada Highway from Victoria, and take the Millstream Road exit (Exit 14) to Sooke. Follow Veterans Memorial Parkway, then turn right on Sooke Road Highway 14 and drive for 16km. Turn right onto Harbourview Road. Allow approximately 45 minutes driving time from Victoria.
This blog was written by one of Power To Be’s amazing Program Facilitators: Mike Milner. Mike has a Level 2 Lead Guide certification with the Sea Kayak Guides Alliance of BC; as well as certifications in wilderness first aid, marine radio operation, and Adventure Tourism.