Mt Braden is possibly the most popular objective in the Sooke Hills, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada. This likely derives from it being one of the closest hills to downtown Victoria and from the variety of hikes that it has to offer. It makes an ideal first foray into what the Sooke Hills have to offer for those just beginning to explore this unique resource.
The mountain is well described in the parent "Urban Mountains of the CRD" page. However, this covers only the standard route to the summit. Considering the popularity of the area I considered it highly appropriate to give Braden its own page.
Getting ThereVictoria, the capital city of British Columbia, can be reached directly by air from Toronto, Vancouver, Seattle, Calgary, Edmonton, San Francisco and other cities and by ferry from Port Angeles on The Coho and on BC Ferries from Vancouver.
There is bus service from downtown Victoria to Sooke that passes by the “mailboxes” approach and it might be feasible to use this to access the routes described below. Car rental is available everywhere, of course, and affords flexibility and simplification of logistics in accessing the trailheads.
Mt Braden can be approached from many start points but I will concentrate on two and the onward routes from there. As may be obvious any of the routes can be combined into loops or point to point trips if two vehicles are available. Use your imagination within the time available. A simple out and back could be done in 3 hours whereas I’ve often combined multiple routes into day long excursions.
ApproachDirections assume approach from Victoria.
Approach on Highway 1 and take the Veterans Memorial Parkway exit through Langford to the junction with Sooke Road. Drive 5.5 km and note Humpback Road on the right. Drive a further 300m and pull into a cleared space at the bottom of a gravel road that leads to a quarry. Note: This approach requires you to cross private land. Decide if you’re comfortable with this or not. Proceed up the road, round to the right through the quarry and find a flagged track at the back on the left leading to the old flowline. Turn right on this and walk through to the old road known locally as the “Aggressive Road”. Turn left and hike 2 km to a red gate. Go through this into the valley below and to the south of Mt Braden.
Continuing from the Aggressive access drive a further 1 km to a wide parking area by a set of community mailboxes and park here.
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 and other detritus almost immediately. Go ahead for 5 or 6 minutes and cross Veitch Creek. A newer path also leads off the road just before the power lines and crosses the flowline a minute later before joining the original route. Either is fine.
There is sometimes a log bridge over Veitch Creek depending on whether high water has washed it out or not. It’s well supplied with cleats and roof tile for grip but may still be slippery in wet or frosty weather.
RoutesIt is not the intention of this description to report the following routes in excruciating detail. Most are well marked and booted in and need nothing more than sufficient information – along with the map supplied - to get the reader to the start of each hike.
1.The Standard Route.
The route described in the CRD parent page and the one most use to climb Braden for the first time.
Best approached from the mailboxes. From the junction on Veitch Creek proceed up the left hand fork – following the creek – for 200 m to find the route start on the right. The route runs roughly due north and crosses a number of minor gullies before turning east and then north again up open slopes to the summit. Very well travelled and easy to follow. Magenta on the map.
Named for a friend who travelled and flagged this route on his 66th birthday. Back then it was sparsely marked, bushy in places and hard to follow. Nowadays it’s a booted in highway. Best done as the descent part of a loop hike combined with any ascent route. This way you get to enjoy the great views south on the long final ridge back down to Veitch Creek.
From the junction proceed past the standard route for about 600 m to the confluence of the Veitch and a little stream flowing down from the east. Cross the little stream and find the path heading north. Follow this up the long open ridge until it turns east and crosses 3 significant gullies before finally heading south to the top. After the second gully the path climbs to a high point known as Castle Peak. The North Route joins here. Grey on the map.
In the past this was the standard route up Braden. It’s not so often travelled now which is a pity because if offers some lovely open views. It’s also faster than the currently most popular route. Together with 3 other routes on this part of the mountain, it can be approached from either the Aggressive or mailboxes approaches since it lies roughly equidistant from the junction - turn right and the red gate – turn left.
From your choice of approach, walk 400 m from the junction or 300 m from the red gate and find the flagged trailhead on the north of the path.
Head up quite steeply for 5 or 6 minutes to a junction at 10 U 455805 5365195. This may not be well marked so note these UTM coordinates. From the junction your route lies to the left along the main path. Follow this across a lovely open meadow and up some steep bluffs. Continue north up mostly open hillside to a junction with the standard route at 10 U 455724 5365807 and on to the summit. Mostly easy to follow. A reasonable boot path plus flags and some cairns. Red/light green on the map.
4.South Route Direct.
The fastest route to the summit of Braden – but not that well marked.
Approach as for the SW Route to the junction at 10 U 455805 5365195. Turn/bear right here up through some spindly trees. Head due north following flags and signs of travel where you find them. Eventually the route breaks out of the trees and heads up open bluffs directly to the summit joining the Standard and SW routes at the large arbutus just below the rocky ridge to the top. Light blue on the map.
A newer route on Braden but, in my opinion, the best. This probably explains why it’s already well marked, cleared in places and obviously established. It’s also one of the longest routes on the hill in that it detours right out to the top of the east bluffs and offers lovely views in all directions from this point on. Combined with Route 66 it offers a great 6-7 hour day-long excursion.
Approach from either the Aggressive or mailboxes. Find the route start 50-60 m east of the start for the SW and S routes – at the bottom of the hill if coming down from the red gate.
The path heads generally NE and, after a brief bushy phase, soon breaks out onto a series of open bluffs with forested sections between. After 20 mins or so the path makes an abrupt right turn at the bottom of a high bluff and proceeds initially across the bottom of this before zigzagging up to the top. Continue from here up to a second slightly higher bluff and find the remnants of an old cabin. See if you can find evidence of where the biffy for this was located.
The route now breaks out onto open slopes at the top of Braden’s steep east bluffs. Walk along these then bear NW to the subsidiary high point know as Plateau Peak. Here you join the East Route.
From Plateau Peak head NW on well marked and travelled trail and across three gullies to the top. This route passes across the top of the true summit of Braden rather than the open ridge that most people think is the top. Light green on the map.
6.Dave’s Route Direct Variation.
This newly established option goes directly to the summit from the top of the high bluff rather than detouring over Plateau Peak. The route is flagged but not yet established well enough for a boot path to appear.
From the top of the high bluff head NW towards the gully below. Descend along a series of ledges until a narrow crossing point reveals itself. Cross the gully and go up the other side onto open slopes. Continue NW through a mix of forest and open slopes to the junction with the route across from Plateau Peak and the true summit. Just prior to reaching this a flagged route heads left to the north side of the popular summit. Dark blue/black on the map.
Best approached from the Aggressive or as part of the McDonald to Braden Traverse from Humpback Road (black or dark cyan routes on the map may be taken). Not as popular as once it was after everyone starting travelling Dave’s route. Nevertheless, easy enough to follow. Unrelentingly steep all the way to Plateau Peak.
From the red gate turn right and follow the Waterboard Road between Braden and “The Bumps” for 1.2 km to 10 U 456576 5366111 and the route start off subsidiary Road 3J.
Proceed south initially across a seasonal stream before turning east and up to Plateau Peak. Follow the flags across to the summit from here as per Dave’s Route. Black on the map.
Perhaps the least travelled route to the summit of Braden. Not much of a boot path and generally lacking in other route marking.
Approach from the Aggressive or over the Bumps from Humpback Road as part of a long day.
Proceed as for the East Route but continue past spur 3J. Hike 600 m on the well travelled Water Board Road and find an overgrown but perfectly serviceable spur road at 10 U 456344 5366660. Walk the spur for about 1 km around to the north side of Braden until it peters out. Near the end see if you can find the remains of one of the Bloggs’ cabins in the area. There’s little left beyond some rusty wire and the well.
Red Tape etcThere are, as yet, no parking fees nor other formalities to worry about.
Although close to a major urban centre, Mt Braden and most of the other Sooke Hills are well off the beaten path. Make sure, therefore, that you have left a detailed intentions plan with someone responsible. The RCMP and the appropriate SAR agency will respond in an emergency but it is up to you to have the mechanism in place that will initiate the call-out process if it becomes necessary.
There is cellular service available from the summit and many of the other high points along the way but not from the valley bottoms.
WeatherNearest points current conditions and forecast.
Useful LinksThe Alpine Club of Canada Vancouver Island Section runs regular trips into the Sooke Hills
CRD Bus Services
CRD Parks - Sea to Sea Regional Park Reserve