Hiking trails on the Saanich Peninsula can be arduous or can be a relaxed stroll, but all offer lovely views in the natural settings of southern Vancouver Island.
We’d like to suggest some favourite walks, all a short drive from our bed and breakfasts. The Saanich Peninsula is only 30 km / 20 miles north (Sidney) to south (Victoria) so you can include several activities in a day without spending much time driving. The three parks below all provide everything from easy walks to rugged or lengthy hiking trails.
Elk Lake and Beaver Lake Regional Park
It’s likely that you’ll have driven by this largest lake here, in the centre of the Saanich Peninsula flanking Hwy 17 which connects BC Ferries and Victoria International Airport to Victoria.
The whole lake (two in one since they are connected) has a flat 10km / 6 mile path around its waters edge. Apart from a short section by the highway it is an excellent wide cedar path. I enjoy the variety encountered from the open sunny east side to the cedar woodland of the eastern bank. Walking the full circuit will take 2.5 hours or so, assuming you are relaxing and enjoying the scenery (look out for old rail tracks in the SW corner). Alternatively, just walk a short distance and return to your car.
Its principal access for parking is at the southern end reached from delightful little Beaver Lake Road. Nearby is the Victoria City Rowing Club where the Canadian national team train. Hamsterly Beach, at the northern end, is popular with families for swimming.
Mount Douglas Park
Mount Douglas Park is just south of Cordova Bay on the east side of the peninsula. Here you take a short walk or a steep haul up the hill from the bottom parking lot: your choice. Either way, you are rewarded with a splendid 360 degree view of the Saanich Peninsula Victoria to the south and the Gulf Islands to the east. I confess to always driving to the small parking area at the top and then taking the short walk up to the summit. Mt Doug, as the locals call it, is a good choice for the beginning of your visit to Victoria since you’ll see everything in its context.
Gowlland Tod Provincial Park
For variety Gowlland Tod can not be bettered, with 25 km of hiking trails, from a stroll to the quiet waters of Tod Inlet to stiff rugged climbs up to vantage points over Finlayson Arm.
Above is our favourite family walk, from Wallace Road to the jetty of the old cement factory adjoining the Butchart Gardens (you can peek through fence to see the Ross Fountain). It’s an easy walk and delightful throughout, from old growth forest to flats near the inlet where boats moor and seabirds nest in boxes on jetty posts.
For a greater range of hikes the best parking spot is the McKenzie Bight access off Willis Point Road for the walk down Cascade Trail to the waters at McKenzie Bight or to climb up Timberman Trail. Views are memorable.