Added by Rumon Carter
Visit the last remaining forest watchtower in the regionGet expansive views of East Sooke, the Olympic Peninsula, and the Sooke WildernessClimb the most accessible mountain in the Sooke Hills Regional Park, whetting your appetite for further and deeper explorations, opportunities for which abound10.3km roundtrip loopElevation gain: 504m
The Sooke Hills is a geographic region of low hills with elevations between 350m (Mt. Wells) to a high of 682m (Mt. Empress), located in the area bounded on three sides by Highway 1 to the east, Highway 14 to the south and the Sooke River to the west. Though heavily logged 100+ years ago, in the intervening years a patchwork of regional and provincial parks have been pieced together to set aside the rewilded land base and to protect the region’s drinking water reservoir contained within it. These parks include the Sooke Hills Regional Park Reserve, Sea to Sea Regional Park Reserve and Sooke Mountain Provincial Park.
Within this area, Mt. Manuel Quimper is, apart from Mt. Wells, the easiest mountaintop to access - most others have no route marking and indistinct access. It is certainly the more rewarding climb when compared to its shorter cousin to the southwest. As a trail run it takes ~ 1.5-2 hours; allow ~ 3-3.5 hours to hike it.
Access to Mt. Quimper is via the parking area at the end of Harbourview Road, which is located on the north (right) side of Highway 14, 4.2km after the 17-Mile Pub. From the parking area, which services a great little network of mountain bike trails with a washroom and bike-wash station, start your route at the obvious yellow gate across the immediately upward sloping former logging road (60m elevation). Ignore the spur heading off the the right almost immediately. Stay on the relatively steep, well graded former road, bearing right at an obvious fork at ~2.5km until you reach the less-than-obvious intersection to the Mt. Quimper trail on your right at ~ 3.3km (320m elevation). At the time of writing this intersection, and the rest of the route to the summit, were marked with pink flagging tape.
From this intersection the trail gets decidedly more interesting and aesthetic, climbing steadily along a singletrack trail (be aware that mountain bikers use this trail as a down-track) weaving through beautiful second growth coniferous forest. Views are limited along the route to the summit, but more than worth the wait when you reach the old forest fire lookout at ~ 6.5km from your starting point. As would be expected for the location chosen for this former watchtower, views from the 564m summit are extensive: east to the City of Victoria; south to the Sooke Basin, East Sooke Park, and Cascade Mountains in Washington State; and north deeper into the heart of the Sooke Wilderness.
This is a year-round route that can be hiked with relative ease in the winter, subject to snowfall levels.
- Water (there is no water along the route in summer months, which can be very hot and dry along the often exposed route)
- Hat and sunscreen in summer
- Warm layers and rain gear in winter
- Light hiking boots or trail runners
- Hiking poles would be useful
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