Victoria Hiking Trail ChallengingVictoria has no shortage of challenging hiking trails.  From the steep, yet relatively short hikes in Goldstream Park and East Sooke Park.  To the tough and often brutal hiking along the West Coast Trail.  Juan de Fuca Trail is a wonderful taste of the West Coast Trail.  Less remote, less brutal, yet still takes you along Vancouver Island's spectacular coast.

Victoria Hiking Trails

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The West Coast Trail is incredible.  Everything about it is amazing.  From its wildly, incomprehensibly enormous trees to it's endless jaw dropping views.  And it's tough.  Very tough.  It is a trail that shouldn't exist.  Trails always form out of the easiest route worn down over the years.  This trail was formed out of necessity.  And the route is the only route.  Hemmed in by steep cliffs on one side and the ocean on the other, the route evolved where it shouldn't have.  Always wet, always up and down, thousands of creeks and canyons.  Even with all the construction of suspension bridges and ladders it's brutal.

And yearly, winter storms blast down impossibly enormous trees.  It's difficulty can be measured by its relatively short distance of 75km yet it takes 4-7 days to complete.  This is for two wonderful, spectacular and telling reasons.  First it is a jigsaw of a trail, up and down over endless chasms tangled with rainforest.  It just takes a long time to snake through.  The second reason is just too good to be true.  It's so beautiful.  Wildly beautiful.  And this is a phenomenon that the West Coast Trail is alive with.  It's unbelievably beautiful at every glance.  Everywhere you look. This alone would secure this hike as one of the worlds best.  But there is another thing that combined with its beauty, makes it what it is.  The West Coast Trail.

This is a phenomenon that is seldom understood or explainable.  It's tough.  The trail is brutal.  It's invariably raining.  So you are always wet.  This makes you soggy and crabby.  Tired and exhausted.  The treacherous trail in this wet is muddy, slippery and requires your full attention at every step.  This mesmerizes you as you hike.  You focus completely on your next step and your mind relaxes into a meditative state.  This is when it happens.  You look up, catch a glance of what's around you. And it's marvellous. This is it.  The West Coast Trail is a perfect combination of brutal difficulty and spectacular wildness and beauty.  The West Coast Trail, originally called the Dominion Life Saving Trail was built out of necessity because of the enormous number of shipwrecks that gave this stretch of ocean from Tofino to Victoria the brutal name, The Graveyard of the Pacific.  With at least 484 shipwrecks, this trail formed to facilitate survivors walking to Victoria and rescuers hiking to help them.  It inevitably became a recreational hike in the last few decades.  It's difficulty, once it's worst trait, now it's defining feature.  It lies within the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve which represents and protects three beautiful, coastal lowland forests.  Long Beach, the Broken Group Islands, and the West Coast Trail.  The West Coast Trail is one of the most amazing hikes in the world.  It has an extraordinary history.  It is brutally challenging and the trail and coastline is constantly changing.  Everyday is tough, yet always a surprise.  Climbing rickety, decades old, slippery and wet ladders that are frighteningly high and certainly dangerous gives you a sense of adventure that you don't get just walking a trail.

Mt Finlayson & Goldstream Train Trestle

Goldstream Provincial Park is an amazing place to see for several reasons.  Huge coastal rainforest trees all around.  Scenic trails, cute golden stream, an abandoned gold mine, spectacular waterfall, incredibly frightening train trestle, and one of the highest mountain viewpoints in Victoria.  As soon as you leave your car you can feel the wonderful forest alive around you.  Goldstream Park is home to the annual salmon spawning run in October.  The rest of the year the park is a world of centuries old Douglas Fir and Western Red Cedars.  Trails run all over the park, but the challenging trail to Mount Finlayson takes you up to beautiful views of Victoria.  It's a relaxing trail that only gets tough and challenging near the summit.  The trail is only 2 kilometres, about an hour from from the parking lot to the top.  Across the highway there is still more to this beautiful park.  Spectacular waterfalls are just a short hike away and the amazing train trestle is a challenging, but short hike up above the falls.  Getting across the highway to Niagara Falls is half the fun.  An ancient tunnel under the highway takes you to the Lord-of-the-Rings style forest valley that leads to the falls..  Finding this tunnel is easy, though it is not marked on Goldstream Park mapboards as it is not officially for hikers.  It is a tunnel to channel water under the highway, however, it is an amazing and beautiful way to get to the falls.  From Niagara Falls to the train trestle involves hiking up past the top of the falls.  If you backtrack to the tunnel under the highway you will see trails on both sides of the valley you are in.  If you have your back to the tunnel and are facing the falls, look to your right and you will see a trail that goes up then branches left and right.  Follow the left branch as the other trail takes you to the highway.  Follow this very steep trail for about 5-10 minutes to the top of the falls, then another 10-20 minutes to the train trestle.

East Sooke Regional Park

East Sooke Regional Park is a convenient and easily accessible way to experience the wild, west coast of Vancouver Island.  Weather blasted rocky cliffs, sandy beaches and deep coastal forest trails run throughout the park.  Every few minutes along the coast you come to another startlingly desolate ocean vantage point.  Everything about East Sooke Park is just great and should not be missed on a trip to Victoria anytime of the year.  The sheer size of this park and number of trails, over 50 kilometres of them.  The Coastal Trail, almost 12 kilometres long, stretches out linearly in an array of pocket beaches, rocky viewpoints and fantastically alive tide pools.  It hugs the cliff, ducks into the forest and back out to another stunning ocean viewpoint.  It does this over and over again.  Dozens of times, and not once does it get boring.  The Strait of Juan de Fuca and swirling mass of green and blue stretches out toward the Olympic Mountains in the United States.  East Sooke Regional Park has three main access points and trailheads.  This allows the huge park to be divided up into three manageable parts, each one with very different attributes.  The Aylard Farm trailhead is the easy, family friendly and relaxing way to see East Sooke Park.  A few short, 5 minute trails take you down to beaches, tidal pools and picnic areas.  The Anderson Cove trailhead is popular with hikers tackling the more challenging trails to Babbington Hill and Mount Maguire.  The Pike Road trailhead is the furthest west access to East Sooke Park with an easy, 1.5 kilometre trail leading down to Iron Mine Beach.  East Sooke Regional Park is a rugged and remote park that takes you along a beautiful stretch of Vancouver Island's coast.  Numerous, well laid out trails interconnect several sights in the park, allowing for a staggering variety of hiking routes.  For an easy family outing to a nice, sandy beach, East Sooke Park is perfect.  For a challenging trail run or long coastline hike, this park is hard to beat.

The Juan de Fuca Trail

The Juan de Fuca Trail is an incredible part of Vancouver Island.  Wild, beautiful and accessible.  All along the 47km length there are convenient access points.  It's wild, and beautiful, and varied, and deep in the wild rainforest of the coast.  From the beautiful flowers of Victoria to the wild and majestic forest of the Juan de Fuca Trail, the drive just to get to it is beautiful.  There are four main trailheads for the Juan de Fuca Trail.  Driving from Victoria, the first trailhead you come to is to China Beach(70k from Victoria), Sombrio Beach is the next at 95k, then Parkinson Creek at 100k and finally Botanical Beach in Port Renfrew at 110k.  The trail can of course be hiked from either end or in parts.  Starting at Botanical Beach and timing the tides correctly allows for a great way to start the trek as you can see the first five or so kilometres at the wonderful beach level.  There are several nice campsites along the route.  There is an excellent BC Parks trail map here.  For the most part the Juan de Fuca Trail is designed for short and only moderately challenging day-hikes.  If you want to do larger sections or even all of the trail it becomes much more challenging.  The section of trail from China Beach to Sombrio is one of the most challenging sections.  From the trailhead to Mystic Beach is pretty relaxing, but the further you hike beyond that the more difficult the terrain gets.  29 kilometres of trail separate China Beach and Sombrio Beach and most do it in 3 days/2 nights.  Bear Beach campsite and Chin Beach campsite are strategically located along the route.  Well laid out and organized sections of tough and beautiful wilderness hiking.  You can hike a section of the massive 47 kilometre trail as a day-hike, or over several days via the different trailheads.  Each section is wonderfully different.  Suspension bridges, waterfalls, deep wilderness, tidal pools and endless, beautiful ocean views make the Juan de Fuca Trail an amazing place to hike.

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