9 Top-Rated Hiking Trails near Victoria, BC
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Surrounded by ocean and mountain views, Victoria is one of Canada's most scenic cities. Hiking trails in and around the city take advantage of the area's natural beauty and allow for quick escapes to mountaintops, waterfalls, and even historic sites. Most of the trails are located within 20 to 30 minutes of downtown Victoria but they will quickly transport you from the hustle and bustle of the city to the peace and serenity of the wild. The trails range from seaside or lakeside jaunts to forest walks and mountain hikes. Different trails offer different experiences, but hikers of all levels of ability can find what they're looking for. Trailheads are well signposted, usually with maps, and trails are very well maintained. Most hiking trails are open year-round and are dog-friendly as long as they are on a leash. Plan your day with our list of the best hikes around Victoria.
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1. Coast Trail, Sooke
While many of the trails around Victoria take you to peaks or inland attractions, hiking along the coast is spectacular. The Coast Trail near Sooke is one of the most beautiful areas for hiking, with outstanding views to the snow-capped Olympic Mountains and soft-sand beaches to relax and take a break. This is a 10-kilometer one-way trail, but most people only complete a section of it. The most popular area is accessed from Aylard Farm. Here, the trail begins at a lovely beach area, which is very popular on warm days, and then leads along the coast, meandering through trees and popping out onto rocks here and there.
One popular site along this hike is the petroglyphs. Out on a point overlooking the Juan De Fuca Strait, you'll see ancient images of a seal and a whale inscribed on the rocks. It's easy to miss, but a plaque marks the area.
The hike is located in East Sooke Regional Park, set on a peninsula about 25 minutes from downtown Sooke or 45 minutes from downtown Victoria. If you've worked up an appetite, you can stop in at the Smokin Tuna Cafe, located just a few hundred meters from the park entrance, below a trailer park. You can enjoy a meal on the outdoor deck and watch the harbor seals at play around the docks.
2. Mount Work Hiking Trail
For scenery and a modest workout, look no further than Mount Work. From the top, views to the south look out to the spectacular Olympic Mountains, and views to the north extend down Saanich Inlet. This is a wonderful 4.5-kilometer trail, which winds its way up through assorted large fir, arbutus, and cedar trees to two lookout areas. The summit view provides the big vistas, where on a clear day, you can see beyond the ocean to the Olympic Mountains. The second view, just short of the top, looks in the opposite direction to Saanich Inlet and Mount Finlayson.
The lookouts offer wide-open areas of exposed rock, perfect for having lunch or just relaxing on a nice day. The trail is a fairly steady climb with the occasional steep section followed by a mellow area of gentle inclines. Total elevation gain is 230 meters. The trailhead is at the Ross Durrance Road Parking Lot in Mount Work Regional Park.
3. Thetis Lake Hiking Trail
Thetis Lake Regional Park is another multi-use area. Some people simply come to enjoy the beaches near the start of the trail, and others lace up their hiking boots and hike around the lake, which is divided into Upper and Lower Thetis Lakes. While there are several trails in the area, the longer trail takes you from the water's edge up to high rocks that offer fantastic lookouts over the lake and loops around Lower and Upper Thetis Lakes.
Unlike the ocean, the water here is warm and wonderful for swimming. Many people swim off the rocky shoreline along the hike. Arbutus trees add to the scenery. The five-kilometer loop trail is well maintained and gains and loses elevation as it circles the lakes. One of the most scenic parts of the trail follows along the east side of the lake, where you ascend to the top of a rocky bluff.
4. Trestle Bridge Hiking Trail, Goldstream Provincial Park
If you've done the Niagara Falls hike and are looking for a longer hike with a bit more challenge, just cross the river and head up the trail to the Trestle Bridge. At the top, you'll find a massive, towering metal bridge dating from 1910 spanning a deep chasm. The bridge is still in perfect condition and was in use up until 2015. The hike gains 170 meters of elevation and is steep in some sections but well marked and easy to follow, Near the top, the trail forks, but you can see the bridge off to the right. The train bridge is off limits and on private property. Despite this, you will see hikers walking out onto the bridge deck between the rails to get better views of the gorge below and of Mount Finlayson across the valley. There are no railings on the bridge. Although the hike is called Trestle Bridge, the actual bridge is not a wooden trestle but a bridge and deck in the cantilevered design.
5. Niagara Falls Hiking Trail, Goldstream Provincial Park
Niagara Falls is an unexpected treat in Goldstream Provincial Park, which can be done on its own or on your way up the Trestle Bridge Trail as a side spur. It makes a good fallback option if you find the Trestle Bridge Trail a bit too steep. This is an easy hike to a spectacular 47-meter waterfall tumbling off a sheer cliff face, surrounded by lush vegetation. Depending on how nimble you are, you can walk and scramble right up to the deep pool at the base of the falls. The falls can be accessed from two parking areas, although one is small and unmarked, making it difficult to find. Most people begin at the day use area on the north side of the highway. This short hike follows a path through a large but short tunnel under the highway, and then continues up the usually dry riverbed towards the falls. If the river is flowing due to recent heavy rains, you'll need to park at the small unmarked parking area on the south side of the highway. From this parking area, it's just a few hundred meters to the falls.
6. Mount Finlayson Hiking Trail
Mount Finlayson is a steep, four-kilometer round-trip hike with significant elevation but provides 360-degree views out over the surrounding areas, and on a clear day, even Mount Baker can be seen in the distance. There are two routes to the top. The route leaving from the day use area ascends 410 meters, weaving its way through the forest before it emerges onto an open and exposed rock. Some areas will require using your hands to help with the steep climb. The other route, leaving from Finlayson Arm, is a gentler, less busy route and more like a traditional hiking trail. It's recommended that you go up and back the same way in order to end up back at your original trailhead.
7. Kinsol Trestle Bridge Trail
This three-kilometer round-trip hike follows an old railbed. As you can imagine, it's flat and wide and a great trail for any level of ability. People bike, ride their horse, or push a stroller along the path. And while the trail might not be particularly dynamic, the wooden trestle bridge at the end of the path is. One of the world's tallest free-standing timber trestle bridges, it stands 44 meters high and is 187 meters long. One of the unique features of the design, apart from the size, is the seven-degree curve of the structure. You can walk over the bridge, which no longer has railroad ties but a flat boardwalk instead. At the far end of the bridge, a trail leads down the bank to the river, so you can walk below the bridge. Historical information boards at the start of the trail and on the bridge itself provide background and history of how the bridge was built and later restored.
8. Mount Tolmie
Mount Tolmie is a wonderful walking area right in the city. For hikers who don't want to venture out into the wilderness on their own, this is an attractive alternative. You can drive yourself to the top of Mount Tolmie for 360-degree views out over Victoria and then start your hike. The road twists and turns as it takes you through a beautiful neighborhood and emerges at the top. Short trails from the parking area and around the peak can be combined to make a 1.2-kilometer loop. You'll see benches and scenic areas along the way where you can relax and enjoy the views. One area of interest at the top is a huge concrete slab dating from WWII, once part of the Canadian defense system. Parking at the very top is relatively limited, however, a larger lot is located a short distance down the hill.
9. Durrance Lake Hiking Trail
Durrance Lake, in Durance Lake Regional Park, is an easy and short hike around a sparkling blue lake surrounded by tall trees. The trail passes by a picnic area and a small beach near the start and provides views of Mount Werk. The lake warms up in the summer, so bring your bathing suit or at the very least pack a lunch to have at the picnic tables set just back from the water. The 1.7-kilometer trail begins wide and then narrows as it loops around the backside of the lake. This trail is perfect for all levels of hikers. The parking lot fills up quickly on warm weekends and note that there is no parking allowed on the access road.
Where to Stay in Victoria
- Luxury Hotels: For the quintessential Victoria experience, staying on the Inner Harbour is the best choice. This is where you'll find the landmark Fairmont Empress. This historical hotel oozes charm, elegance, and luxury. Across the harbor from the Empress is the Delta Hotels Victoria Ocean Pointe Resort. This modern hotel boasts rooms with incredible views, a well-respected restaurant, and is within walking distance of restaurants and shops. Those looking for a boutique luxury hotel for a romantic getaway or relaxing retreat will enjoy Abigail's Hotel. This adult-only property is set in a 1930s Tudor Mansion in a beautiful residential neighborhood, and only a 15-minute walk from the harbor area.
- Mid-Range Hotels: Close to the harbor is the Huntingdon Manor, with a classic and elegant style that sets it apart from other properties in the area. You can choose from standard rooms or two-story suites with lofts, and some rooms offer views of the harbor. The eco-conscious Hotel Rialto is a boutique hotel in a convenient location in the city center. Rooms come with mini-fridge and microwaves, and staff members are happy to help arrange tours and activities. If you are more interested in long walks along the seashore than exploring the harbor, the Oak Bay Beach Hotel is a good seaside option. This hotel is located near the trendy shops of Oak Bay and is noted for its mineral pools and amazing views out over the Juan de Fuca Strait.
- Budget Hotels: Most of the budget hotels are back a bit from the Inner Harbour, however, this is not really a big issue as Victoria is a compact city, and nothing is much more than a 15-minute drive. With decent rooms and a good location, close to the harbor and near the Save On Memorial Arena, is the Capital City Center Hotel. The Days Inn by Wyndham Victoria Uptown is on the main bus route to downtown and has spacious rooms along with a pool and sauna. The Arbutus Inn is another decent budget hotel and close to an excellent assortment of restaurants.
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- Vancouver Island: You could spend weeks exploring this beautiful island from top to bottom. For a little inspiration on where to go and what to see, have a look through our article on the best of Vancouver Island. While many visitors arrive via Victoria, another popular gateway city with plenty of things to do is Nanaimo. On the west coast of Vancouver Island, don't miss the tourist town of Tofino, popular for surfing, hiking, whale watching, kayaking, and wildlife viewing.