Added by Rumon Carter
Distance: 20 km (12.4 miles) loop (multiple routes)Minimal elevation gainExplore a gem of southern Vancouver Island,Diverse habitats - see different faces with each visitUnique and challenging Coast Trail, clinging onto the edge of Vancouver IslandPicturesque interior trails and two small mountain summitsSite of an old homestead, the pioneer's meadows and remnant fruit trees still in attendanceArtifacts of copper mining in days gone by in the heart of the parkPetroglyphs on the rocks next to the oceanClose to the main parking lot
Sitting very close to the southernmost point of Vancouver Island, facing west towards the mouth of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the open Pacific Ocean, East Sooke Park is a unique and magical place for a hike or trail run. Your first visit will spark the desire to keep returning, to keep exploring further.
50 kilometers (31 miles) of trails travel through forests, marshes, up two small mountains and along the rocky coast, but the two main trails are the aptly named Coast and Interior Trails - each of these is approximately 10 km (6.2 mi) long, making for a full day loop if you wish to take in the entire park in one go. (Allow 3-4+ hours to run the loop, 5+ to hike it.)
Three spots provide access to the Park: 1. Aylard Farm (the main entrance, closest to Sooke and Victoria, and that which is identified on the map here), found at the end of Becher Bay Road; 2. Anderson Cove; and 3. Pike Road. Detailed directions for each of these, plus a park map, can be found at the regional parks' website.
For your first visit, go to Aylard Farm. As the name implies, this is the site of an old pioneer farm, the remnant meadows and fruit trees of which are adjacent to the parking lot. A short (800m/0.5mi) walk from the lot takes you to a lovely sandy beach. A further 2km (1.2mi) west along the coast, in and out of forest and over rocky bluffs, will take you to the site of petroglyphs created by local First Nations during times long since past. Your options from here are to continue and then reverse your tracks, or head a little further west and then turn onto the trail north (at a small bench and gazebo) to complete a loop. For the more ambitious, the hike to Cabin Point will gain you quadriceps-full of elevation, incredible views and the eponymous cabin porn at your destination. From the Point you can again take a trail north back towards Aylard.
The Anderson Cove parking is your best bet for easy access to Babbington Hill and Mount Maguire, within the forested heart of the park. These two hills can of course also be accessed from either end of the park via the Interior Trail. By way of expectation management, it is worth noting that views from these "peaks" are limited - though definitely still worth the effort.
The westernmost access at Pike Road provides level access via an old logging road out to Iron Mine Bay, a rocky crescent beach ripe for exploration, with headlands to climb on either end. From the Bay, the Coast Trail heads east towards Aylard Farm, 10 km away. Alternatively, hikers can enter rich cedar hemlock forests along the Interior Trail, accessed a short distance east from the Bay.
As mentioned, this is a park that will make you keep wanting to return. Over the course of your exploration you can come across all kinds of wildlife and, within a matter of minutes, transition from coastal rainforest, to barren rocky coastline to dry arbutus groves. Keep your eyes open - both for these changes and so you don't fall along the sometimes uneven footing - and they're sure to be filled with wonder.
- Sturdy walking shoes or hiking boots
- Trekking poles helpful
- Binoculars for spotting seals, sea lions, otters, eagles and the occasional whale
- Food and water if planning a longer hike (distances are covered slowly once beyond a mile or so of the main parking lots
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