The Urban Mountains of the CRD
Victoria, the capital of British Columbia, Canada, is located at the southern tip of Vancouver Island. The city is grouped together with several other municipalities and together the whole conurbation is known by the rather grand title of the Capital Regional District - or CRD - and is home to almost 350,000 people.
The CRD is surrounded on three sides by water and on the fourth by a series of low mountain ranges up to a height of 600 metres or so. As a consequence of such convoluted terrain, there are just 3 paved roads out of the city: northeast up the Saanich Peninsula to the BC Ferry terminal at Schwartz Bay, west on highway 14 to the road end at Port Renfrew (and the famous West Coast Trail) and northwest on the Trans Canada highway over Malahat Mountain to the north Island. A happy consequence of the terrain is the limit the landscape imposes on building. The city is growing but growth has been slowed by the difficulty and expense of installing housing and services in the rugged hinterland. Given such a unique urban environment, and mindful of the mistakes made by Vancouver, local interests have lobbied hard and relatively successfully for the preservation of green space around the city.
Some lost battles are apparent, such as the dreadful golf course and sub division on Bear Mountain right opposite Mt Finlayson.
By and in large, however, both the province and the CRD have behaved with admirable civic responsibility and established a series of parks and protected space around the city that should be the envy of similar sized cities anywhere in the world. The latest development in this ongoing effort is the recent (May 2010) establishment of the long awaited Sea to Sea Park encompassing most of two watersheds east of the Sooke River to just east of the Harbourview Road corridor and north to Crabapple Lake and beyond.
Long abused by logging and by motorised recreationists the Sooke Hills are not all pristine wilderness. In establishing the new park, however, the CRD has reaffirmed and now established in law its continuing ban on motorised access and the area should now be allowed the respite it needs to recover fully from these excesses.
This presentation illustrates the beauty of the Sooke Hills but also the areas that have too long been subject to illegal and abusive motorised use.
Some of the parks have well developed trails right up to the summits. Others, just 30 minutes or so from the city centre are undeveloped, trackless and one would be well advised not to forget map, compass and GPS when venturing, say, into some areas of the Sooke Hills. Even the developed areas have carefully guarded routes to the summits rarely accessible to visitors without local knowledge.
The hills fall into two main areas divided by the Goldstream River watershed. To the east of Goldstream is the Gowlland range plus the lower hills on the east side of the Saanich Peninsula and to the west the Sooke Hills run up to and beyond the boundaries of the CRD. Both areas were extensively logged at the turn of the century and before but the second growth itself is now mature enough to be a worthy mantle for the lower slopes. Here and there, such as at the base of Mt Finlayson, some old growth has been preserved and is mightily impressive. Higher up the big trees generally give way to native species such as arbutus, hairy manzanita bushes, alder, fir, cedar etc with lots of dense west coast salal in the sunnier spots. Travelling off-trail, the going can be up open slopes one minute and into dense bush the next. It's part of the uniqueness and charm of the area. Rock bluffs are common and present the climber with all the sporty diversion he/she can handle. There are developed rock climbing areas on Mts Wells, McDonald and Sugarloaf as well as others that the local rock jock community keeps to itself. Summits are usually broad granite platforms and almost all offer extensive views of the surrounding hills and across the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the Olympic Mountains of Washington State
The mild marine influenced climate of southern Vancouver Island means that the mountains are accessible year round. This in turn means that they're a tremendous winter training ground. It's as common to see folks toting big packs up Mt Work on a Sunday morning in January as it to see dad and the kids walking up with Fido.
By July the annual summer draught is regularly apparent and everything gets tinder dry. At these times the authorities are on the lookout for anything and anyone that may pose a fire hazard.
As early as mid-March the first spring flowers appear: camas, shooting stars, ladies slipper, larkspur and many many more. The shows are particularly good on Mt Wells and Mt McDonald and around Holmes Peak and usually peak in late April or early May.
Tick activity can be unpleasant in the early spring - April and May - so remember to wear long sleeves and pants during these times. Fauna more welcome than ticks are also in abundance everywhere. Black footed deer, native red squirrels, bald eagles (and the occasional golden eagle), humming birds in season; all may be seen. I've even seen feral peacocks on Mt Work! The presence of local ravens, particularly on the thermals above Mt Work and Lone Tree Hill, make visits to these locales worthwhile just to watch their antics.
There are assuredly wolves, black bear and cougars in the Sooke Hills. I've seen scat from all three species frequently although live sightings this close to the city are a rarity. Two black bear sightings is my total to date.
The compilation that follows is very much a work in progress. I will be adding more detail and new peaks as and when I cover old and new ground alike. Check back every so often, particularly in winter when I'm usually tramping the local hills. In the meantime, if business or pleasure brings you to Victoria and you'd rather be out hiking than traipsing round all the tourist kitsch in town, there should be more than enough here to keep you happy.
Getting ThereVictoria can be reached directly by air from Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver and Seattle.
Several ferry operators offer service. BC Ferries sail hourly from Twassen near Vancouver. Washington State Ferries offer service from Anacortes via San Juan Island to Sidney. Black Ball Ferries run a single ship, The MV Coho, back and forth between Port Angeles and downtown Victoria twice daily in summer and once per day in winter. Clipper Navigation Inc runs a passenger-only fast catamaran service between downtown Seattle and Victoria.
Summary of Peaks by AreaGovernment of Canada 1:50 000 topographical maps required: 92 C/9, 92 B/11 and 92 B/12. Note that I have placed the lat/long reference in the article header in the rough geographical centre of the area.
All coordinates given in the table and in the following descriptions are based upon the NAD83 datum - the basis for the government maps noted above.
1. Sooke Hills area and west of Goldstream
|Bluff Mountain||534||N 48° 25.9' W 123° 45.5'|
|Peden Ridge||530||N 48° 27.2' W 123° 42.7'|
|Empress Mountain||682||N 48° 27.9' W 123° 40.4'|
|Emperor Mountain||625||N 48° 28.2' W 123° 41.1'|
|Monument Mountain||463||N 48° 26.6' W 123° 40.9'|
|Sooke Mountain||524||N 48° 26.6' W 123° 39.8'|
|Ragged Mountain South||550||N 48° 25.9' W 123° 38.7'|
|Ragged Mountain||578||N 48° 26.4' W 123° 38.2'|
|Pinnacle Peak||520||N 48° 27.3' W 123° 37.7'|
|Mount Manuel Quimper||546||N 48° 25.2' W 123° 39.6'|
|Sugarloaf Mountain||363||N 48° 24.9' W 123° 36.2'|
|Mount Braden||479||N 48° 26.8' W 123° 35.9'|
|Mount McDonald||439||N 48° 26.5' W 123° 34.1'|
|Mount Wells||352||N 48° 26.3' W 123° 33.4'|
2. Gowlland range and east of Goldstream
|Mount Finlayson||419||N 48° 29.0' W 123° 32.3'|
|Holmes Peak||329||N 48° 31.0' W 123° 31.8'|
|Jocelyn Hill||434||N 48° 32.2' W 123° 31.7'|
|Lone Tree Hill||364||N 48° 31.2' W 123° 30.8'|
|Mount Work||449||N 48° 31.8' W 123° 28.8'|
|Partridge Hill||295||N 48° 33.3' W 123° 29.1'|
|Mount Douglas||213||N 48° 29.6' W 123° 20.8'|
|Mount Newton||305||N 48° 36.7' W 123° 26.7'|
|Horth Hill||136||N 48° 41.0' W 123°25.9'|
|Mount Tuam||606||N 48° 43.6' W 123° 29.1'|
Individual DescriptionsApproach directions in each case assume the reader starts from Victoria.
Bluff Mountain(Last revision September 2010)
Bluff Mountain is one of the westernmost summits in the CRD, lying just north of the town of Sooke and to the west of the Sooke River. Unlike most hills in this area, Bluff and its neighbour, Trap Mountain lie outside the CRD’s water catchment area and access is consequently relatively unrestricted. Several routes lead to the forested summit of Bluff Mountain, the easiest of which starts on good trail from Scouts Canada’s Camp Barnard on Youngs Lake and goes up to an overlook at the south end of the summit ridge. A flagged route continues from this point approximately 2 km to the true summit.
Views are very restricted from the summit but occasional glimpses are possible from odd points along the ridge hike to the true summit if you keep your eyes peeled.
Access is through Scouts Canada’s
To reach Camp Barnard approach on highway 14, the west coast road, via Langford and Metchosin to Sooke. Roughly in the centre of the village find Otter Point Rd and turn right. Drive 5 km to Youngs Lake Road and turn right. Drive through the camp past the reception shed and park in a large gravelled lot on the left side of the road.
From the parking lot walk 300 metres north on the road you entered the camp on and find an open grassy picnic area on the right. Go right to the back of this area and find the (unmarked) Bluff Mountain trailhead at N48 24.605 W123 45.622. Hike the wide well marked trail 30-45 minutes up onto a high open bluff at N48 24.970 W123 45.176 where the trail ends.
The onward route from this point used to be quite a bushwhack. The sparsely flagged route travelled to the west of a swampy pond in the neighbourhood of N48 25.204 W123 45.321 and crossed half dozen or so salal and deadfall choked gullies en route.
In spring 2010 a new route was cleared and flagged to the east of the swamp and travels north towards the summit much closer to the ridge edge thereby avoiding many of the gully crossings. A use trail is already beginning to appear in quite a few places along the way.
Pick up flagging just north of the end of the Scouts trail and follow it north all the way to an open area at N48 25.836 W123 45.443. The new route sometimes gets close to the old one and older flagging can occasionally be seen off to the left (west).
From the open area continue north 50 metres to a cairned high point and then NW across one last gully to arrive at the summit cairn at N48 25.960 W123 45.527 and about 520 metres elevation in 5-10 more minutes. There’s a tin can in the cairn but I don’t think it’s the summit register :-)
Little more than an hour is required from the end of the Scouts’ trail to the summit versus 1.5-2 hours for the old route.
There’s not a shred of a view from the summit but you can walk to the edge of the bluffs just to the east of there to get quite extensive views north and east from this part of the mountain. Or across quite a steep gully 100 metres to the west is an open bluff with limited views north and south.
If you feel that no trip into the Sooke Hills would be complete without a good bush thrash I have retained the old route on the tracklog/map included the "CRD Tracklogs" section at the end of this page. This is meant as a guide only and should not take the place of in situ use of the correct navigational tools.
Alternatively, eschew the Scout’s trail altogether as follows.
Walk 650 metres past the trailhead noted above – past the disk golf area and archery butts -and find another picnic area on the right. Walk across the field to the biffy on the edge of the woods and find a grassy road. The road isn’t on any maps. Walk 800-900 metres up this road to the neighbourhood of N48 25.024 W123 46.035 and head off NE into the bush. Follow your map and/or GPS directly to the open area noted above at N48 25.836 W123 45.443. This isn’t as bad as it sounds in that, although steep on occasion, there are lots of open phases to enjoy and not too many gullies to cross.
Retrace your steps from either upward choice OR make the trip a loop hike as follows.
From the view bluff 100 metres to the west of the summit make a steep descending traverse SW and find a VERY old road right in the valley bottom. The road is barely discernible in most places and absent in others. Deadfall is everywhere. Thrash your way down the “road” and in about an hour make the welcome discovery that it’s the same one you left on your way up the mountain. Walk down the remainder of it and back to your vehicle.
Peden Ridge(Last revision January 2011)
Peden Ridge is a high, bluffy east/west ridge found between the valleys of the Sooke River to the west and Maryvine Creek to the east. To the north of the ridge crest is a summit known locally as “Black Bear Mountain” that may be reached across a connecting ridge and plateau.
Approach on highway 14, the west coast road, via Langford and Metchosin to Sooke. Just prior to reaching Sooke village take the marked right turn onto Sooke River Rd at the sign for Sooke Potholes Regional Park. Drive right to the top of the road and park in the last lot. There may be a parking fee from May-October.
There are many ways to reach the top of Peden Ridge and Black Bear beyond. Within the intended scope of this page, I will deal with three routes and two starts. Refer also to the collection of tracklogs at the end of this page.
Start 1 From the parking lot at the top of Sooke River Road walk north across the Galloping Goose cycle path and on to a good dirt path on the right. Follow the path north along Maryvine Creek for 600-700 metres at which point it turns northeast and meets the old flowline after a further 200-300 metres. A well travelled left branch in this path just below the flowline leads to a lovely waterfall.
Start 2 At the point you entered the parking lot is an old hut on the Galloping Goose. In days gone by, this had to do with the rail line whose disused road bed is now the basis of the Goose. Across the cycle path from the “waiting room” is a flagged route leading up through the trees. Take this to arrive in less than 10 minutes at the flowline. Turn left and walk ~ 10 minutes along the pipeline itself to the neigbourhood of N48 26.764 W123 42.940 where the route along lower Maryvine Creek described above comes in from the left.
Route 1 From either of the start options find a well flagged and very well used trail leading off the flowline northeast. This follows upper Maryvine Creek all the way up to Peden Lake, a distance of about 1.5 km.
Cross Maryvine Creek at its outlet from Peden Lake and follow continuing well made trail first north and then west to the top of the ridge. The point is marked by a substantial cairn atop a large boulder.
Route 2 Continue along the pipeline from the Route 1 start point roughly 150 metres to a wooden platform built below the pipeline. Go just past this point – 20-25 metres – and look for another set of flags going up to the right.
Follow good flagging and sometimes trail on mostly open slopes to a well cairned route junction at N48 27.058 W123 42.912. Beyond this point the easier option lies to the left and follows a forested gully NNW to meet the ridge crest in the neighbourhood of N48 27.425 W123 42.913, roughly 500 metres to the northwest of the cairned high point. Turn right and follow flagging along the ridge to the cairn. This route is known to some as the “tin can route” in that you will see red tin can lids nailed to trees as markers.
Route 3 This route takes a right turn from the junction at N48 27.058 W123 42.912 and heads almost directly to the summit cairn. Follow flagging and mostly open hillside due north up to the foot of the bluffs. Scramble through the bluffs bypassing difficulties by traversing first left and then back right and onto the ridge crest at about N48 27.256 W123 42.752. Turn right and make the brief walk up the remainder of the ridge to the summit cairn. Note that there is a little exposure in one or two spots on this route.
A route is possible from the top of the bluffs to the summit of a ~570 metres high point known locally at “Black Bear Mountain” at N48 27.990 W123 42.867
Go a few metres east of the large boulder on the summit adorned with lots of cairns and pick up a flagged route heading northeast. After ~50 metres the flagging assumes a generally north heading and crosses several gullies and two intermediate high points to a lightly forested plateau. Continue north across the plateau to a swampy pond at the foot of a short steep step to the top of Black Bear. Go around the pond on the left then turn right through a short patch of salal to the foot of the bluffs. Scramble through the buffs to a nice open viewpoint at N48 27.910 W123 42.793. The summit lies 200 metres to the NNW but is in the middle of a large patch of blown down trees and offers no views.
As may be obvious from the foregoing as well as from the tracklog, any of the above suggestions except Black Bear can be combined into a loop hike starting and finishing at the old flowline.
Empress Mountain(Last revision September 2010)
Empress is the highest point in the CRD. The usual route is mostly on old, disused logging roads along Todd Creek. Don’t think of this is a simple road walk though. It’s quite a long way and the roads are little more than rough trails with one potential river crossing. No maintenance of the route takes place other than by local volunteers.
Allow about 6 hours car to car including a half hour for lunch on top.
Approach as for Peden Ridge and set your odometer to zero as you turn off Highway 14 onto Sooke River Road. At 4.70 km look for a gated old logging road leading off to the right. It’s marked with a redundant sign “No Motorized Vehicles” but there’s no indication that this is the way to Empress. Park here by the side of the road. Starting altitude is about 50 metres.
Go up the old road and in 5 minutes cross the Galloping Goose cycle path. The route now slowly gains 500 metres in altitude over the next 2.5 hours as you negotiate what remains of the road. Side trails lead off to the left and right but the main through route is largely unmistakable.
For the first 30 minutes the road follows Todd Creek and offers easy going. At 40-45 minutes note the wreck of an old red car on the left above the river and shortly thereafter cross Todd Creek. After heavy rain this might have to be waded.
Proceeding north from the creek crossing, two trails lead off to the left – to the south and north ends of Peden Lake respectively, before at about 90 minutes from the car and at 355 metres, a well-flagged trail leads off to the right. This goes SE to the north end of Grassie Lake. Your route lies straight ahead.
At about 120 minutes and 415 metres the route reaches a fork at N48 27.893 W123 40.907. This is the only place where you might go wrong. Look carefully and there is an arrow indicating the correct right fork carved in an alder at the junction.
Walk up the road until, at about 150 minutes from the start and at 585 metres, just before the road reaches its high point and begins to descend to the east, you can see the open, mossy slabs of Empress’ south slopes on the left. Go through the small break in the trees here and out onto open hillside. Make your best choice of route north to the summit in about 15 minutes. There is a path in places.
The summit of Empress is unfortunately crowned with a communications tower but it’s easy to ignore. There is also a F.C Swannell's 1937 BC Control Survey bolt right on the summit.
The flat rock summit area is quite large, mostly open and offers superb views over the Sooke Hills in all directions, east to downtown Victoria and south across the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the Olympic Mountains of Washington State.
Return to the car by reversing the above.
Empress may also be approached via a long walk up Harbourview Road, round the north end of Crabapple Lake and down to join the road described above at its east end. Walk up from there west to the same high point and the start of the same 15 minute walk to the summit.
It’s also possible to approach from the southeast along the ridges north of Grassie and Sheilds Lakes and thereby avoid any walking on crumbly old roads. This approach, however, requires patience and navigational skills and is outside the intended scope of this page. Contact me if you like thick bush and copious deadfall!
Note. Empress Mountain now has its own separate and detailed page on SummitPost. Click the link for more details.
Emperor Mountain(added February 2011)
Approximately 1 km to the northwest of Empress Mountain as the crow flies is a twin summited hill that is only a few metres lower than the queen of the Sooke Hills herself. Curiously the hill has no official name but being close to Empress and quite impressive in its own right, it’s generally known as “Emperor Mountain”.
Emperor can be approached via Todd Creek as described above for Empress Mountain by keeping left at the junction at N48 27.893 W123 40.907 where the arrow is carved in the alder. Walk 200 metres up the old road to N48 27.977 W123 40.849 and find a well flagged and booted-in route heading up northwest through the trees. The route soon breaks out onto open hillside and continues northwest and then north to the cairned summit in 20-25 minutes from Todd Creek.
Most people regard this as the main summit of Emperor and it does offer nice views east across the valley to its higher consort over there. However, better views to the north and south are available from the north summit which my two altimeters measured at the same elevation as the south summit.
There is no trail from this point and only the occasional flag but the 10 minute/300 metres bushwhack is very reasonable and the diversion well worthwhile. Just head north off the south summit and then swing round to the northwest after crossing a 20 metres deep gully. The north summit sees far fewer visitors but also has a cairn and, as mentioned, lovely views particularly north to Sooke Lake and Survey Mountain.
For more fun and challenge approach Emperor via Peden Lake and climb the trackless ridges north of the lake direct to the north summit. This route is rarely, if ever, travelled so make sure your navigational skills are well honed for this one!
Approach via the Maryvine Creek trail as if heading for Peden Bluffs on “Start1/Route 1” described above. At the lake outlet keep right and walk along the east shore of the lake on the old road and around to its north side. At the time of writing, there’s nothing to indicate that any one spot is preferable to another, so make your best guess at where to leave the old road and head north into the bush. Try N48 27.426 W123 41.979 – about 1 km from the point you left the Maryvine Creek trail.
Take an initial course due north for about 800 metres. The ridge is quite well defined and, once beyond the first bushy phase, quite open. After 800 metres on this initial course, swing round to the northeast and cross a bushy flat-ish area. Beyond this area is a very old road. Turn right on this for 50 metres to where you can leave it on the left and cross a small stream. Climb northeast from this point and scramble out onto a lovely open ridge with the summit ridge now in view. From here it’s just a matter of continuing another 800 metres northeast keeping to open ground wherever you can find it. This course puts you on the summit ridge 250 metres west of the north summit. Turn right and stroll up the last bit in less than 5 minutes.
A nice loop is possible by continuing across to the south summit, down to Todd Creek and then carrying on south past the “arrow-in-the-alder” junction. At a junction at N48 27.196 W123 41.757 turn right, walk down to Peden Lake in 5 minutes and rejoin your up-track there. Allow about 4-5 hours for the complete circular route and and a further 1-2 hours from the parking lot at the top of Sooke River Road to reach and return from the route start.
Mt Manuel Quimper(Last revision May 2008)
Manuel Quimper is, perhaps, the easiest hill to access in the Sooke Hills Regional Park Reserve. An easy trail up and plenty of options to make a loop out of the hike make it an increasingly popular destination in the CRD. Allow about 3.5h for the following.
Walk out of the lot and around the gate barring vehicular access to the gravel road beyond. The road is well maintained and clear of brush. After about 25 minutes note a spur road on the right. This is marked by blazes on several trees. This will be your return route.
At about 35 minutes the road arrives at a fork. Bear right on the main road.
At about 45-50 minutes from the start and at 320m look for an obvious trail on your right. It's located right in the middle of a patch of blown-down but brushed-out alders. Sometimes there are flags in place to indicate that this is the route up Manuel Quimper but mountain bikers keep taking them down. Co-ordinates are N 48.424° and W 123.674°. Head up the trail to the summit in 45-50 minutes from here. The grade is very gentle most of the way and only steepens in the last 10 minutes to the top. The summit is crowned with an old fire watchtower. This is no longer in use but it's in pretty good shape and would make a perfectly adequate emergency shelter.
The summit is fairly heavily forested and offers uninterrupted views only to the south - down to the Sooke Basin and across the Strait of Jan de Fuca to the Olympics. Look around, however, and you'll soon spot Mt McDonald to the east and Empress Mountain to the northwest through the trees.
Make the trip a loop hike as follows. Walk off the summit looking for a path that leads due south. Again, it's not marked but is well traveled and easy to find. Go down steeply for 15 minutes to meet an old logging road. Turn right and walk the road - washed out in quite a few places - to meet the original approach road in about 30 minutes. Check for the blazes on the trees to make sure you're on the right path. Assuming you are, turn left and return to your car.
Mt Manuel Quimper is named after an 18th century Peruvian naval officer in the service of the Spanish crown. He was part of an expedition sent north in 1790 to explore and chart the Pacific Northwest in order to assert Spanish sovereignty in the face of increasing British and Russian incursions. Manuel Quimper is credited with being the first European to see Mount Baker. His eventual namesake mountain, however, turned out to be much more modest.
Ragged Mountain South(Last revision November 2008)
The easiest approach to the twin summits of Ragged Mountain is via trails from the YMCA Camp Thunderbird at the end of Glintz Lake Road. This probably explains why the south summit is also known locally as Thunderbird Mountain. However, this is privately owned land and access from this (east) side is with the permission of the YMCA. It's not usually given.
The mountain can also be approached from the west after a long hike up Harbour View Road. Readers should be aware, however, that once off the gravel road, the route is quite convoluted with many "sucker" options to both left and right of the correct route. What follows is as accurate as I can make it but I would strongly advise anyone trying this for the first time to go with a knowledgeable local.
Park in the lot at the end of the public section of Harbour View Road and proceed as for Mt Manuel Quimper. Walk the road for 60-70 minutes to a flagged trailhead at N 48° 25.6', W 123° 39.4' and 380 metres altitude. Follow flagging east to a junction at N 48° 25.6', W 123° 39.1' in about 15 minutes. Ragged can be seen through the trees to the left. However, turn right and go down and around the knoll on your left then back up to another critical junction at N 48° 25.5', W 123° 38.7' also in about 15 minutes. Turn left.
The next section has some dense salal in places and little deadfall to negotiate but is well flagged and a use-path can be followed most of the way. If you've got it right, after about 15-20 minutes you will suddenly arrive at a 4-way junction with a wooden signpost erected by the YMCA folks. You're now on the route in from Camp Thunderbird.
Follow the direction for Ragged Mountain/Sheilds Lake for 5 minutes to the point where these destinations diverge at another signpost. Turn right and head up steeply.
You're soon right under the high bluffs on Ragged South's south side. Good trail weaves a nice line through them to the summit in 20-30 minutes.
There's quite a bit of bush right on the summit but a few seconds to left or right brings you to the top of the bluffs and uninterrupted views in all directions except due north. The views of Manuel Quimper, Sooke Basin and the hills to the west of Harbour View Road, particularly Empress Mountain, are very fine indeed.
Retrace your route back to your vehicle. Round trip time 5-6 hours with breaks.
Ragged Mountain(Last revision April 2011)
As with Ragged Mountain South, the easiest approach to the main summit of Ragged is from Camp Thunderbird. In the absence of permission to approach from this direction it’s a long way in from any of the allowable alternatives and this means that the mountain is less frequently visited than many of its neighbours.
Seen from most aspects the summit would appear to be heavily forested with little prospect of views to reward the effort of getting there. This is not the case. The summit is privately owned and, as evinced by a sign on top, is being offered for sale as a microwave tower site. The owners have partially cleared the north side of the summit area, which, as a result, opens up views to the north and east, which encompass a more or less unimpeded panorama from Empress Mountain to Mts Work, Finlayson and Newton. I know of no other point in the Sooke Hills from which these summits can be seen from the same spot.
Prospective buyers for the site clearly don’t make the long hike in here. The sign referred to above points skyward so that it can be read by any passing helicopters!
The easiest route to the summit follows an excellent trail from the southeast. Reach this point most conveniently from the Veitch Creek area as follows.
Park at the mailboxes on Sooke Road and proceed as for Mt Braden. Go past the flagged point at which the Mt Braden route heads off the old road, carry on up Veitch Creek for another 10-15 minutes and cross the river. Carry on northwest for 10 minutes to a T-junction with another old road. Turn left. Follow this old road for just over a kilometer SE up to the swampy high ground between the Veitch and Ayum Creek drainages and then NE down to the latter and a sign post at N48 26.706 W123 37.371. Turn left and walk down the track for 1.2 km crossing Ayum Creek on a slippery log bridge in the process. Find the very well flagged trailhead for Ragged Mountain at N48 26.105 W123 37.622.
Follow the well marked trail NW through a short section of blow-down and out onto open hillside. The track ascends steeply NW before turning SW up to a subsidiary high point. It then carries on NW up less steep ground and over a couple more high points before swinging south and up to the broad summit.
Reverse the above to return to your vehicle (~16 km, 5-6 hours).
Alternatively approach via Ragged Mountain South/Thunderbird. Some bushwhacking is required on this route and a GPS might be advisable. Better still, go with someone who knows the way, especially if it’s your first time.
Reach the summit of Ragged South via Harbourview Road as described above. From the top of the gully between the two summits make your way down in a northeasterly direction. There are some flags to follow but no path after the first 30-40 metres. Reach an old road at N48 26.032 W123 38.548. Go straight across the road and up over the shoulder in front of you. Carry on mostly east and down to another old road at N48 26.029 W123 38.416.
Turn left on the second road – very overgrown in places – and walk down it for 250 metres to N48 26.114 W123 38.497 where you will find an even older spur on the right. Go up this spur for 40-50 metres to where you can see good flagging and pick up a boot path heading up east and shortly thereafter northeast. Follow the path and flagging to the summit in 20 minutes or so.
Avoid going over the summit of Ragged South on the return leg by continuing south on the first old road you came to whilst descending. Follow flagging at first then bushwhack off to the right down a gully directly underneath the south bluffs of the mountain above and intersect the upward trail at the sign where the Ragged and Sheilds Lake trails diverge. A GPS is a good idea if you want to try this. Otherwise go back over the summit of Ragged South.
For a trip from Harbourview Road taking in both summits of Ragged Mountain, allow 7-8 hours from cars.
Another excellent option if you can arrange a car shuttle is to leave a vehicle at Harbourview Road, take another to the mailboxes on Sooke Road and follow the above directions to the summit of Ragged Main. Thereafter, traverse Ragged South and down to the Y-Camp 4 way signpost. From there pick up further Y-Camp signs for Mt Manuel Quimper, follow these to the top and then back to Harbourview as described in the Manuel Quimper section above. About 16 km, 6-7 hours.
Pinnacle Peak(added March, 2011)
Continuing almost due north from Ragged Mountain, along the ridges on the west side of the Ayum Creek valley is, by the standards of the Sooke Hills at least, a steep sided and mostly forested hill known locally as Pinnacle Peak.
Pinnacle is not visited very often and consequently there’s not much more than a flagged route to the summit. The initial climb up from Ayum Creek is not too steep but there are few open spots and the route lies through several bush and deadfall choked areas. The final phase to the summit is the steepest part of the climb and is mostly through salal.
Approach from the mailboxes on Sooke Road as described above for Ragged Mountain and walk over the drainage divide between the Veitch and Ayum Creek valleys to the signpost at N48 26.706 W123 37.371.
Turn right (north) at the signpost and walk 250 metres up the remains of the old road to N48 26.810 W123 37.407 where you should find the first flag. Thereafter follow the well flagged route first northwest and then north to the summit platform.
Views are somewhat limited from the summit cairn but walk a few metres to the east where an open mossy bluff offers good views east to Mt Braden and the City of Victoria beyond.
From the mailboxes allow about 6 hours return for the above.
Sooke Mountain(Last revision October 2010)
“Sooke Mountain Park” was established in 1928 by the government of BC to protect the area from encroachment by industry. It now lies roughly in the centre of the CRD’s new (2010) Sea to Sea regional park but, of course, retains its provincial park status.
Sooke Mountain is a rather un-spectacular moss covered knoll but since it’s the highest point within the provincial park, you have to visit it at least once. The mountain is situated roughly in the centre of a triangle defined by Monument Mountain in the west, Empress Mountain to the north and the Ragged twins to the east. Shields Lake lies at the foot of the mountain to the immediate north.
The usual and most direct access is via a long walk up Harbourview Road. Approach as for Mt Manuel Quimper and the Ragged twins by parking in the lot at the end of the public section of Harbourview.
Walk up the road for 80-90 minutes past the access points for Mt Manuel Quimper and the Ragged twins to a faint spur road on the left at N 48.434° W 123.652°. As an indicator, 5 minutes before reaching the spur you cross a the Charters River on the remains of an old wooden bridge.
Follow what is left of the old road for 5 or 6 minutes first southwest and then northwest until you come across flagging heading off the right side of the road. Follow the flags northwest over a flat-topped subsidiary hill known as “East Clapper”, down and around a swampy area and finally up to the indistinct (but cairned) summit of Sooke Mountain. It’s about a 45 minute hike from the turn off Harbourview Road. The flags continue for a further 200 metres to the north to a second high point with a cairn. The true summit is the first you come to.
Summit views are principally to the west, particularly to Peden Ridge. However, there are nice views east across the valley to Manuel Quimper and the Ragged twins on the way up to “East Clapper”.
Make the hike into as loop by finding a new (2010) well flagged route that leaves the north summit west and then north down to the old roads on the west side of Sheilds Lake. Follow the roads around the north shore of the lake and down to their junction with Harbourview at N48 27.057 W123 39.024.
Walk back to your car down Harbourview passing the point at which you began your hike up Sooke Mountain en route.
Monument Mountain(Last revision February 2010)
Above Grass Lake and roughly 1.5 km due west of Sooke Mountain is the long north-south ridge known locally (but not officially) as Monument Mountain.
Seen from most angles the hill is a rather non-descript knoll that seems to offer nothing much in the way of making a visit worthwhile. What is not immediately apparent, however, is a long open ridge that descends more than 200 vertical metres over almost a kilometre from near the high point of the ridge right into the forest and which gives splendid views south to the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Olympics the whole way down. A loop hike can be made which combines a visit to tranquil Grass Lake with a hike up and over Monument Mountain.
As with all the hikes in this area, start from Harbourview Road. Hike 35 minutes to a prominent junction with an old road at N48 24.996 W123 40.769 and turn left. Walk 15 minutes down the old road to the Charters River and ford the river. Go up the trail on the opposite bank 150 metres to another prominent old road junction. Take the right fork.
About 500 metres up this road note an old wrecked car and an isolated river rock chimney - all that remains of an early attempt to homestead the area.
Walk another kilometre beyond the old chimney and note a well flagged and obvious trail on the left at N48 26.300 W123 40.762. This is the start of the brief climb up to the ridge of Monument Mountain above. Head that way immediately if time is short or carry on for another 500-600 metres on the old road to Grass Lake at the site of the old Alpine Club of Canada hut. The cleared site where the hut once stood is still apparent but nothing remains of the structure. A rocky promontory juts out into the lake at this spot and makes a great place for lunch
Returning to the trail junction noted above, turn right and make a brief climb of just 40 vertical metres on excellent trail to a prominent cairn. This is not the summit of Monument Mountain however. The trail you are on heads left and down to a salal choked flat area on the ridge. The true summit is 50 metres higher than where you are and about a 1 km bushwhack almost due north. If you're a purist, head over that way but be aware that there's almost no view.
If bushwhacking isn't your thing, turn left, follow good trail down to the flat area, through the salal, up the other side and out onto the open ridge. Those lovely southern views advertised above soon open up and it's a stunning walk down the ridge and back into the big trees.
Just after starting this phase of the walk you will pass right by a memorial plaque lying by the trail which, obviously, gives the hill its local name.
Once back in the trees look to make 2 left turns in order to close the circle at the junction 150 metres northeast of where you crossed the Charters River as noted above. From this point retrace your steps to your vehicle.
In winter or early season the Charters River may be in spate and the crossing above may prove dangerous. If this turns out to be the case, and if it’s open, you can walk the “Waterboard Road” which approaches on the west side of the river and avoids the crossing.
Approach as if for Peden Bluff or Empress Mountain and find the Waterboard Road 3.5 km up Sooke Potholes Road at N48 24.835 W123 42.621. There’s good parking on the road just before the Water Board’s offices.
Mt Braden(Last revision April 2011)
Mt Braden makes a fine half-day excursion and can be combined with summits such as McDonald and Sugarloaf to make a longer trip.
Approach from Victoria on Highway 1 and take the Colwood exit in the direction of Sooke. Soon after leaving the main highway you will pass Six Mile Pub on your right. Set your trip meter to zero here. Continue towards Sooke and at exactly 12.4 km pull off the highway into a large cleared area with a set of community mailboxes. Park here. Starting altitude is about 110 metres.
Walk back along the highway for 6 hydro poles (about 300 metres). Immediately past the 6th pole - at the point where the power lines cross the highway - you should find a path leading into the woods. Take it. If you've got it right, you'll come across an old blue wrecked car almost immediately. Go ahead for 5 or 6 minutes and cross Veitch Creek.
Go up the far bank of the creek to an old logging road and turn right. Walk along the nicely brushed out and pleasant road until, about 35-40 minutes from the car, it re-crosses the creek on an overgrown bridge. Just beyond the crossing - about 200 metres - Veitch Creek Road takes a left turn off what appears to be the main route as it continues to follow the creek. Proceed up the turn off for 2 minutes and look for a worn and sometimes flagged path leading up and right. Altitude at this point is about 200 metres.
The route heads generally a few points east of north and used to be copiously flagged all the way to the summit. However, it was becoming a bit overdone and the local zealots had clearly had enough. A boot path guides you most of the way and there are enough remaining flags and a few cairns at critical places to make route finding not too much of a problem. You're mostly out of the trees in 5 minutes anyway and thereafter the way is open and obvious enough. Although the summit comes into view quite quickly, the route frequently seems to divert from the intuitive direction as it crosses 3 gullies on the way to the summit ridge.
The final leg to the summit cairn is up a rocky ridge that is open on all sides and has the feel of being in the alpine rather than at less than 500 metres.
Braden occupies a central location in the Sooke Hills and offers views over many neighbours both greater (eg Empress) and smaller (eg Sugarloaf).
Reverse the foregoing to return to your car. Allow 3.5-4 hours including breaks.
Sugarloaf Mountain(Last revision April 2011)
Sugarloaf Mountain is located approximately 2km SW of Mt Braden. Access is as described above for Mt Braden.
I can only assume it was named for its shape when viewed from the northeast - see the photographs in the Mt Braden section above. Like Braden, Sugarloaf enjoys a central position in Sooke Hills Regional Park Reserve and offers great views of the whole area. Being closer to the coast it also enables the climber to look into the east end of the Sooke Basin.
In addition to a hiking route to the summit, Sugarloaf has a developed rock climbing area on the impressive 50 metres high bluffs on the south west side of the mountain. Both trad and sport enthusiasts are catered too. For more information follow this link.
Like many trips to the Sooke Hills, a walk up Sugarloaf can be made into a circle hike. Allow about 3-4 hours for the following including breaks.
Approach as described for Mt Braden. Approximately 30-35 minutes from the car along the old road by Veitch Creek, just after the road meets the creek and then climbs up a small hill, look for a spur road off to the left at N48 25.736 W123 35.874. Take this spur into the valley between Sugarloaf and a lower, unnamed knoll to its northeast. The route is well flagged and has been recently brushed out. Follow the trail for approximately 25 minutes almost to the end of the valley where it makes a sharp turn left (roughly south) and heads up. Many different coloured tapes around several prominent trees indicate this point.
Follow the flagging up to the summit from here in about 15-20 minutes of steep going. As you arrive in the summit area, the top of the rock climbing bluffs is to your right and the actual summit to your left. The summit is marked by a cairn and a couple of metres away is a BCS survey marker.
Complete the circle by going off the summit to the south between two rock walls. The entrance to these "gates" is mid way between the top of the bluffs and the summit and is flagged with a single red tape. Descend steeply on the left (climber's right) of the climbing bluffs and right to their base to intersect the climbers' path. The right fork goes to the bluffs and the left leads out to the road. Follow the climbers' trail down to the Veitch Creek road in about 35-40 minutes and turn left. Join your outward route where you crossed Veitch Creek about 10 minutes later. This map may prove useful for the return leg, although the trail is pretty easy to follow. When choices appear the wrong turn is "blocked" by branches or rocks.
Follow the Trans-Canada Highway from Victoria, and turn left on West Shore Parkway. Turn right on Amy Road and left on Sooke Lake Road. Turn left on Humpback Road. At the intersection with Irwin Road, stay right. Follow Humpback Road to the entrance for Mt Wells Regional Park on the right and park here.
Leave the parking lot and walk south along Humpback Road which runs between Mts Wells and McDonald. After approximately 500-600 metres you may notice cars parked beside the road. These belong to folk playing on the developed rock-climbing areas on Mts Wells or McDonald. In this vicinity watch for a path leading off to the right and marked by a "no public access" sign. There may not be anyone climbing that day to mark the spot, or ask, so keep your eyes peeled. I have also included the photo opposite to help you find the right spot. Mt McDonald (and everywhere else in the Sooke Hills) is not officially open to the public, so the "trailhead" is deliberately not marked. After a minute of flat going through the big trees the route heads west and up steeply. There are several Class 2-3 sections to negotiate up rocky gullies and bluffs. Two fixed handlines are in place to assist on the descent. The route is not flagged but is well booted-in in most places. The hardest part of the route finding is locating the right trailhead.
On occasion you may notice flagging heading away from the obvious line of ascent. This marks various alternate routes that locals have put up over the years. Take these if you're comfortable travelling off-trail. All involve some Class 2-3 scrambling but nothing more difficult than the main route.
The summit is mostly clear of bush and offers lovely views across to Mt Wells and south to the Olympics.
A well flagged route leaves the summit in a northwesterly direction and leads down open mossy slopes to the service road for the transmitter station on McDonald. Once at the road turn left and wind back down the mountain, walk around the gate and back onto Humpback Road about 500m south of where you left it. If you can't find this route retrace your upward path.
Mt Wells(Last revision February 2007)
Approach and park as for Mt McDonald. Follow the sign out of the parking lot to reach the well signed trailhead on the left and follow the good trail to the top in less than an hour. Descend the way you came up or make your way off the summit following a faint path to the southwest before looping back north down bluffs, ledges and gullies to regain the big trees under the rock-climbing area. This is not a maintained route and the faint path soon gets even fainter as it disappears into deadfall etc. First timers many need some patience and the willingness to backtrack a few times before they get this one nailed. Once under the climbing cliffs follow the climbers' trails out to the road to emerge 100m south of where the route up McDonald takes off to the west.
McDonald to Braden Traverse(Last revision July 2010)
Mts McDonald and Braden can be connected as part of a 5-6 hours traverse. The route is flagged right across from the summit of McDonald and involves over 1,000 metres of total ascent as well as a bit of bushwhacking.
Leave a vehicle at the mailboxes as described in the Mt Braden section above and drive back down Sooke Road to Humpback Road and turn left. Park as near as you can to the Mt McDonald "trailhead".
Go up McDonald and then find the flagged route described in the Mt McDonald section above that heads northwest, down and back into the forest to the transmitter station road. Go straight across the road and find the continuation of the flagging heading roughly west up onto open hillside once more.
The bluffy east aspect of Mt Braden soon comes into view. Traverse several high points as you proceed west with some noticeable loss and gain in altitude as you travel between them. The highest is known locally as "Stick Bump" - there's a stick in the summit cairn. Finally you arrive at an obvious dropoff down into a deep valley between the last bump and the foot of Mt Braden.
Go down steeply into the bottom of the valley where you will meet a road. Turn right and walk 100 metres to a junction with another road labelled "3J". Turn left and walk a further 50 metres on 3J until you find a faint trail and then the continuation of the flagging that heads left off the road and southwest up into the trees. At this point you have descended almost to your starting altitude.
Climb up through a lot of deadfall and bush and out onto open hillside once more. There is one bump to cross with a hanging valley on its west side across which you can see the summit of Braden. It looks close but takes a good half hour to negotiate.
The approach to the summit of Braden from the north is all in the trees very unlike the ridge-like approach from the south described in the Mt Braden section above.
From the summit of Braden follow the reverse of the route described above down to the old Veitch Creek road and then out to the mailboxes and your second vehicle.
If you're feeling fit and if time permits, add the Sugarloaf loop from Veitch Creek to the itinerary.
Mt Finlayson(Last revision April 2011)
A favourite local hiking destination of Victorians for generations. People also come from miles around to watch the annual salmon spawning run in the Goldstream River from October into November.
Leave Victoria on the Trans Canada Highway 1 and drive ~20 km to Goldstream Provincial Park. Being a provincial park and having a government as parsimonious as they come, we now have to pay a $3/day parking fee. Many people object to this and park on the highway where there is certainly lots of room. Make your choice then walk out of the lot, over the Goldstream River and find the well-signed trailhead 200m down Finlayson Arm Road on the right.
SPer CharlesD has written up this splendid description of the standard route on Finlayson. There are, however, other ways to go up and down.
1. Alternate descent route
Walk off the summit northeast and into the trees following the continuation of the orange plates that mark the way up and find the "back side" descent route. The path goes down old fire roads to arrive at a trailhead on upper Finlayson Arm Rd in about 3km. Walk back 5km on the road to Goldstream. Boring but at least this offers a circular route. It's also possible to go up this way of course, including driving to the upper trailhead.
2. Alternate ascent route - the West Face
A steep and uncompromising scramble with exposure and loose rock. NOT for the beginner or faint of heart. I've known people carry a rope on this one.
Walk along Finlayson Arm Rd past the standard trailhead 300 metres to a paved U-shaped pull-out/parking lot on the right. The park boundary sign is 50 metres past this spot, so if you reach this you've gone too far. Pick up a faint path leading out of the back of this area and straight up a steep scree-filled gully. Thereafter, make your way up as best you can following a boot path in places, by the path of least resistance in others and recently, (July 2007) yellow flagging. The steepness never relents until you step off the last mossy ledges onto a rock bluff at the top of the route.
After reaching the top of the dihedral by either choice, trend upwards and left on mossy slabs to reach a corner where you make a high step onto a last ramp to the top. Look down directly on the roof of the visitor centre 400 metres below you.
An alternate finish to the West Face route involves more Class 3 or 4 climbing.
At the top of the mossy slabs and a minute before reaching the finish above look for a ~ 30 metres high corner system and examine the right wall closely. If you've found the right place, you'll notice a weakness heading up and to the right with obvious signs of travel - but no marking. Take this at Class 3 or 4 up to the top of the bluffs. There is some exposure and, again, this isn't a route I would take alone. If in doubt go all the way left up the mossy slabs described above and exit that way. The advantage to the alternate finish, besides being enjoyable, is that it puts you on a well trodden path and within 5 minutes of the summit of Finlayson without the need for the bush bash described below.
To descend from the West Face route after the standard finish proceed as follows. From the exit point contour east through the woods, around the crown of the mountain and intersect the alternate descent route described under 1. above. There is no path and I don't believe I've ever trodden the same ground twice when going this way. Go down directly down the back side or up to the summit and down the standard route with the crowds.
The last choice, of course, is to descend the West Face route the way you came up. I don't recommend this and have never done it.
Holmes Peak and Jocelyn Hill
These two summits are high points on the ridgeline of the Gowlland Range which runs north from Finlayson Arm Rd and down the east side of Finlayson Arm itself. Spectacular views down the Arm to the outlet of Goldstream River and to the Olympics beyond.
Start from the trailhead at Caleb Pike. Approach from Victoria on Highway 1 and exit at Millstream Rd. At the junction with Millstream Lake Rd keep left and drive 1km further to Caleb Pike Rd. Turn left and drive into the parking lot at the end of the road. Walk the easy and well-marked trail to arrive at Holmes Peak in 20 minutes and Jocelyn in a little over an hour. Return the way you came with some minor variations possible as outlined on this map
Lone Tree Hill
Lone Tree sits right in the middle of the higher ridges of the Gowlland range and Mt Work. Approach as for Holmes Peak and Jocelyn Hill but at Caleb Pike Rd keep straight on to reach the signed parking lot in ~3km. It's an easy 15 minutes to the top. The local ravens love this place and it's a great spot to watch them playing. Unlike the higher points on the Gowlland Range and Mt Work, there are no trees to the east of the summit and this allows views as far as Mt Baker, Glacier Peak and even Mt Rainier on a clear day.
Mt Work(Last revision May 2007)
The subject of much wordplay amongst locals. As in "I like going to Work", "Work was fun today", "Work before play" etc. The mountain, in fact, is named after a John Wark. Everyone has always called it "Work" however, and at some point the incorrect appellation stuck.
Climb from either the north (Durrance Lake) or south (Munn Rd) trailheads. For Durrance Lake approach on West Saanich Road. From West Saanich Road, turn left on Wallace Drive, and left again on Willis Point Road. After 4km turn left on Ross-Durrance Road, which leads to the park entrance on the left in 30m. For Munn Road approach initially on the Trans-Canada Highway from Victoria, and take the Helmcken Road exit. Turn left on Burnside Road West, then right on Prospect Lake Road. Turn left on Munn Road, which leads to the park entrance on the right. If in doubt, refer to this map.
From either trailhead follow the occasionally steep but well built trails to the summit. For the odd occasions when the trail in under snow or otherwise obscured by windfall etc, the way is also marked by yellow metal plaques. This is the local ravens other favourite spot and I've also seen golden eagles from here. A bluff 3 minutes north of the summit plaque gives the best views north offered by any of the CRD summits with the possible exception of Mt Tuam, whilst a similar one 3 minutes south enables one to peer into (with binoculars) the Navy's yard in Esquimalt. It's an easy hour up fom the north and an equally leisurely 50 minutes from the south. The north route has a 10 minute flat section after the first 20 minutes or so that makes a nice breath catcher.
Partridge Hill(added February 2011)
Partridge Hill is the high point of a compact range of hills found due north of Mt Work directly above Durrance Lake between Willis Point Road to the south and Tod Inlet to the north. The usual access along the north shore of Durrance Lake lies within Mt Work Regional Park, while the bulk of the area is formally part of Gowlland Tod Provincial Park.
The range has unfortunately been badly abused by illegal ATV use in the lower areas and, equally illegally, by mountain bikers higher up. Their trails have made a veritable maze of the area and a few visits are normally required to learn all the various permutations and interconnections.
The summit of Partridge Hill itself is located in a picturesque but viewless arbutus and Garry Oak grove but unexpectedly lovely views to the south and north can be had on a circular walk around the range taking in the high points.
A secondary high point within the range, Cole Hill, is situated on Department of National Defense property and may not be approached legally. Warning notices indicate the limits of the area and sentries, I’m told, will warn you off, particularly when the firing range is in use.
Approach as for Mt Work as described above. Just before the left turn onto Ross Durrance Road and Mt Work north parking, turn right instead following the sign for Durrance Lake. Park here.
The following describes a 3-4 hour tour of the range that takes in all the best views whilst trying to avoid the worst of the ATV and MTB abuse. I emphasise, however, that many more possibilities exist within the area.
From the parking area at the northwest corner of Durrance Lake walk 550 metres southeast along the lakeshore and find the well used trail heading up into the hills on the left. Head up the wide trail 500 metres to a prominent junction at N48 33.122 W123 28.564 and turn left onto what is generally known as the “south trail”.
Follow the trail right around the southern periphery of the hills 1.4 km to a junction at N48 33.332 W123 29.333 and keep right. Proceed 200 metres to a second, much less prominent junction at N48 33.392 W123 29.231 and turn right again onto trail, as opposed to the ATV/MTB tracks you’ve been walking to this point. Climb the hillside generally south and after only a few minutes, you’ll break out into lovely open meadows. Make your way to N48 33.282 W123 29.221 and a superb view south across to Mt Work and the Gowlland Range.
Proceed east for 250 metres from the viewpoint to the true summit of Partridge Hill (marked by a cairn) and then generally north via one of any number of possibilities to N48 33.439 W123 29.002 and turn left.
Descend back into coniferous forest aiming for N48 33.479 W123 28.893 and turn left. Head 400 metres northwest from this point to the “Eagle Lookout” at N48 33.573 W123 29.070. From here you get the best views in the Partridge Hills. An expansive north to east arc from the Cowichan Valley to Mt Tuam on Saltspring Island, down to Tod Inlet and the village of Brentwood Bay and beyond to the distant Tantalus Range and the northern Cascades on the mainland.
Complete the loop by following your best choice of routes southeast and then south back to the junction at N48 33.122 W123 28.564 where you turned left on the way out. Retrace your steps to your vehicle from here.
In the "CRD tracklogs" section below, I have included GPS tracks covering the above description to help you navigate this route. Contact me for the actual field data if you need it.
Finlayson to Work Enchainment
This makes a great day out particularly in winter when looking for things to do locally that keep the fitness levels up. It involves nearly 25km distance and over 1100m of ascent. Two cars are necessary of course. Allow 7-8 hours including breaks.
Start by leaving a car at the south (Munn Rd) parking lot for Mt Work and then make your way to Millstream Lake Road, then left on Millstream Road and finally right on Finlayson Arm Road. Drive this very narrow road 8km down to the Goldstream parking lot and pay your $3.
Start at sea level and ascend Finlayson by the standard route or the west face route described above. Go down the "back side" trail from either as far as the upper trailhead on Finlayson Arm Rd. Turn right and walk up the road for 300m to Rowntree Rd and turn left. Go up Rowntree to the end and locate a fire road on the right side of the cul de sac. Walk the fire road for 2km to the Caleb Pike access to the Gowlland range described above under Jocelyn Hill and Holmes Peak. Proceed along the ridge top trail to the top of Jocelyn Hill and then down the Timberman Trail 6 km to Ross Durrance Rd. Turn left and walk 200m north on Ross Durrance to the north parking lot for Mt Work described above. Go up Mt Work and then down the continuation of the trail to Munn Rd and the vehicle you left there.
East Side of the Saanich Peninsula
Of the three notable high points in this heavily populated area, you can drive to the top of two.
An early Victoria mayor, Bert Todd, had the foresight to see the tourist potential of the views from Mt Douglas and was instrumental is getting a road built up it. You can also walk up of course. Visit the Mount Doug website
Mt Newton is in John Dean Provincial Park right on the edge of a large subdivision. There are many options to get to the historic survey point near the radar dome on top. Refer to the trail map.
Horth Hill is the last high point on the Saanich Peninsula before the tidewater of Satellite Channel and the only hill in this area that you have to walk up. Drive up Highway 17 towards the BC Ferry terminal at Schwartz Bay and take the second last exit before the ferries signed for McDonald Park and Wain Road. Take Wain 500m to Tatlow Rd and turn right. The park entrance is 1km down Tatlow on the right. Take any of the signed options for the "summit loop". The summit is actually in the trees but there is a viewpoint on the south edge of the round top that is worth visiting. Refer to the park brochure for a map and the history of the area. It is also worth noting that this is a mixed-use park, so watch out for horses.
Mt Tuam(Last revision October 2012)
Immediately north of Satellite Channel, on Saltspring Island, the land begins to rise more significantly and the first high point encountered is Mt Tuam, a personal favourite of mine. On numerous trips over there over a span of many years I've yet to see another soul on the mountain. However, a small subdivision has appeared in recent years on the upper southeast slopes and another is beginning to take shape on the south-facing seashore at the base, so this may not continue much longer. Although the lower slopes are set aside as an ecological reserve, this is all private land, so tread carefully and respect property lines.
Approach initially by BC Ferry from the terminal at Schwartz Bay to Fulford Harbour on Saltspring. There are many ways up Tuam. The following is my favourite since, after just 15 minutes or so, you clear the trees and get views all the way to the top.
From Fulford Harbour take the road to Ganges. At the bottom of the hill 1.3km from the ferry, leave the Ganges road and turn left onto Isabella Point Road. There's a pub just before the junction. Drive south 3.7km along Fulford Sound to Mountain Road on the right. Set your tripmeter to 0 here. Mountain Rd becomes gravel immediately but is easily navigable with a normal 2WD vehicle. At 3.30 km watch for a grassy road on your right. There is some old logging cable dumped a few metres up the turnout. Turn up here for 20-30m and park your car. Go ahead up this old fire or forestry road, which almost immediately degrades to a washed-out track with lots of deadfall to climb over or around. Just after the track makes a right turn it disappears completely into undergrowth. There is a flagged bypass on the right which takes you round this area and back to the remains of the road just before it emerges from the trees at a pile of logging slash. Once clear of the trees take note of this spot for the return leg. Walk north across the flat clearing and pick up another grassy track running east/west. Turn left. Go ahead for 5 minutes until you can see the big open southeast facing bowl ahead of you. This is crisscrossed with old fast-disappearing logging roads and now with new gravel roads that will provide access for future housing. Make your way up and across the bowl in a northwesterly direction making use of any or none of the roads and aim for the top of the bowl. Once you've gained sufficient height look back down the sweep of the south end of Saltspring to Isabella Point, the ferry terminal on Vancouver Island and framing it all, Mt Baker. In my opinion, this is the best of the many views of Baker that are possible this side of the border.
As a result of the recent developments on Tuam, you will probably arrive at the top of the bowl at the dead end of the highest new road. The coordinates at this point are: N 48° 43.51' W 123° 28.61'. Look for a faint boot path heading up and slightly to the right at the back of the road-end. Follow this up through some mature growth and emerge 10 minutes later on another older gravel road. Turn left on the road and go right to its end. Carry on straight off the end of the road onto what must once have been a logging road. Go along this for 100-200m. It heads downhill for a little before petering out into a faint path that heads up and right. At some point all vestiges of path or flagging will disappear and you make your last 100m of vertical gain through some light B1 bush and deadfall and finally up open grassy slopes. Head up and northwest and you'll find the way with no problem. The trick is to look behind and note waypoints that enable you to find your way down the same way.
Try to ignore the large microwave station on the summit and instead enjoy the 300° views. The view used to be 360° until the trees to the east matured cutting off what was a nice aspect as far as downtown Vancouver. The remaining arc is fine enough however. To the south and southwest are most of the "Urban Summits" described above as well as the Olympics. To the southeast, Baker and, on a clear day, Rainier. To the north, the mountains of the Cowichan Valley and beyond as far as the conditions of the moment allow.
Descend by reversing the above. Note that no water is available anywhere on the route, so carry enough with you.
CRD Tracklogs(last edited April 15, 2010)
The compilation below illustrates what most people would regard as the standard and most direct route to the summits of the CRD mountains described in the foregoing. The maps therein should be used as guides only and used on your hike only in conjunction with in situ navigational tools – GPS and compass.
If you would like the actual accurate and field proven tracklogs used to produce the illustrations below, feel free to send me an email or PM.
CRD Benchmarks and Survey MonumentsNEW(added May, 2011)
Long before geocachers began hiding little treasures in the hills for folks to find, surveyors have been out there leaving monuments on the spots from which they conducted their measurements.
Most peoples’ first thought on reading this might be “nerd alert” and, once upon a time, I would have been in the vanguard of such reasoning. What could be less interesting than a metal disk? Look into the provenance of the artifacts, however, and you’ll uncover a wealth of history about the area in which the monuments are installed and about the surveyors themselves.
Usually metal disks bolted to the rock or cemented in place but sometimes nothing more elaborate than a spike driven into the ground, the evidence of surveyors work can be found in most places in the world and the CRD is no exception. Many of the hills above were used as triangulation points and have monuments on their summits but marks can also be found on benches and along old roadways too if you know where to look.
Click on the images in the following collection to learn a little more about the monuments I’ve found in the hills of the CRD. What is the history of that old, old mark on Empress Mountain? Why is the Jocelyn Hill mark missing? See what you can find out there yourself and attach your own benchmark images and their story and I’ll include them here.
WeatherNearest points current conditions and forecast.
Useful LinksCRD’s Sea to Sea Regional Park web page.
The Alpine Club of Canada, Vancouver Island Section organizes regular trips into the Sooke Hills.
An interesting history of events and characters in the Sooke Hills by Elida Peers an historian at Sooke Library.