One of the biggest reasons to live in Victoria is that there is quick and easy access to so many hikes and trails that surround the city and extend up Vancouver Island. Lots of these trails and hikes can be family friendly as well, and range a large variety of skill levels from beginner for younger kids, to intermediate for more experienced hikers.
On this list are some of my family’s favorites, ranked from easiest to more challenging. Try them out in the summer heat or bundle up for the colder seasons. There is something on this list for every type of hiker!
1. Mystic Vale
Nestled in the middle of the city on Uvic Campus, Mystic Vale trail is a relaxing and gentle walk that is suitable for younger children and can take a few hours if they are really into exploring. You’ll have access to multiple smaller trails and some stairs, so it is flexible on the level of intensity. It is free and always open and there is ample parking along Cedar Hill Cross Road.
Elk/Beaver Lake is a viable option if you want to walk a trail that is more well defined and flat. It is a longer trail (about 10k) and it is popular for joggers and bikers as well because of the nice loop that brings you back to the parking lot while exposing views of the serene lake wildlife. I have walked this trail many times with the pups on a leash and the younger kids riding their bikes. It is far from the road and safe. You might even run into the occasional horse back rider!
A great spot for a forest walk or a picnic on the beach with family and friends. Keep in mind there is a long set of stairs to get access to the beach so it is not the most stroller or wheelchair friendly. There is lots to see, do, and explore including finding tidal pools with anemones and tiny crabs, watching the many species of West Coast birds, and trying your luck at skim boarding. You can even see a small waterfall amongst the beautiful Arbutus trees. Tip: Plan to go when the tide is out...you won’t be sorry!
I have great memories of going to Goldstream park with my parents as a child. The trail was deep in the woods and there was so much nature to see; the most exciting and memorable part was the waterfall with a large pothole beneath it that my sister and I would swim in. Now I go with my own young family and explore the tunnel and various trails. My 4 year old likes to stop in the museum/gift shop that is a short walk from the main parking lot trail. The park is known for the annual fall salmon run that attracts lots of bald eagles. A great spot to expose kids to wildlife!
5. Thetis Lake
Thetis Lake has been one of my favourite trails for many years. Located in View Royal, it is the perfect length to walk around (5km) with a varied terrain of flatter areas mixed with hills. It is suitable for all ages and you will find leisurely walkers and joggers alike, many who have brought their dogs because it is one of the few places in Victoria that allows pets off leash. During the summer months be sure to bring a bathing suit and hop in lake for a cleansing post walk refresher!
6. Mount Tolmie
Located close to Uvic, Mount Tolmie is easy to access from many parts of Victoria. You have the option of hiking from the bottom for a more challenging exercise or driving to the top and walking around on the various small trails. It is pet friendly and hosts great views of downtown Victoria from the main parking lot side. From the opposite side you will find a large concrete slab that is often used for games or learning to bike/scooter/rollerblade, from here you will see views sweeping across Saanich. Fun fact: the concrete slab was actually created as part of a defense system during World War Two! Pack a picnic and bring your pet while enjoying the views of the city.
Mount Doug park has been a staple in my family for 20+ years. The vast variety of options for skill level range from beginner to more advanced just within this park alone. For smaller children, exploring around the base of Mount Doug, or walking the easy trail that leads to Mount Doug beach can be winning options. If you crave more of a challenge, there are some set trails that lead to the top of the Mountain or you can simply walk the steep face on the road for a 30 min power walk to the top that will leave you out of breath and burn your glutes!
In conclusion, exploring hikes and trails as a family is, in my experience, one of the best ways to get fresh air, exercise, and be constantly entertained. Pack a picnic, bathing suit, and even the family pet. Check out one or all of these 7 spots listed, they always leave my family with a stronger bond and an overall “feel good” experience.
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