Sooke Hills Wilderness Trail
Humpback Reservoir to Cowichan Valley Regional District boundary, the Sooke Hills Wilderness Trail
The Sooke Hills Wilderness Trail bridged across what had long been called the ‘Malahat Gap’ in both the Trans Canada Trail and Vancouver Island Trail. It lies within Capital Regional District and merges with the Cowichan Valley Trail to the north as it enters the Cowichan Valley Regional District.
Although suited to hiking, biking and equestrian use throughout its length, horses are not permitted on the trail between the Humpback trailhead and the upper service gate because of proximity to the Greater Victoria Water Supply Area (watershed). Camping is not permitted along the Sooke Hills Wilderness Trail. Water is only available at the trailhead and Goldstream River bridge. Outhouses are provided only at the trailhead and near kilometre 6. This is a high standard, well signed trail, 3-5 m wide throughout its length, with mostly gentle grades but some short, steep sections. It passes through managed forest lands with a wide range of forest ages including young plantations, immature and maturing second growth forest and even some old growth forest representative of the summer-dry Douglas fir zone. At its higher elevations, it provides expansive views across the Saanich Peninsula, Georgia Straight and the Gulf Islands to the B.C. mainland and southwards to the dormant Mt. Baker volcano in Washington State.
It is divisible into three main sections:
- Humpback trailhead to the ‘lower service gate’
Crushed gravel path, 2 -3m wide through mature forest, rolling hills with a lot of short ups and downs. Just under 2 km from the trailhead is an interesting, scenic suspended bridge over the Goldstream River.
- ‘Lower service gate’ to ‘upper service gate’
A service road (former Niagara Main logging road) providing access to the Victoria Watershed climbs steadily as it passes through mature second growth forest with scattered old growth remnants. This section attacks most of the 325 m elevation gain, with a steady uphill grade for about 6 km. As this road is designated as part of the trail, it is no longer open to industrial traffic. Watershed service vehicles and emergency services are permitted, but rarely encountered.
- ‘Upper service gate’ to Cowichan Valley Regional District (CVRD) boundary
Crushed gravel path, 2-3m wide through logged cutblocks, plantations and second growth forest of varying ages. There is a good viewpoint and picnic spot about 700 m N of the upper service gate. As the trail approaches Finlayson View Road, it is twinned with a single track suited to hikers and a paved road route suited to bikes and horses to the crossing of Finlayson View Rd. At the CVRD boundary there are several directional and interpretive signs.