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Goldstream Park

About Goldstream Provincial Park

Open year round, Goldstream Park is just 30 minutes drive from Victoria, BC. Given to the province of British Columbia by the Greater Victoria Water Board in 1958, this area of southern Vancouver Island is located on traditional fishing grounds of the local First Nations. Old mining shafts and tunnels remain froma mid-19th century goldrush, hence where the name Goldstream originated.

Located a short walk from the day-use parking lot, at the salt marsh, the Freeman King Visitor Centre offers displays and programs through all seasons. These displays feature the natural and human history of Goldstream Park. Also featured in the park are wooded campsites and a swimming area at the campground near the gatehouse. Hiking is largely an activity promoted in this park, as there are some 16 kilometers of hiking trails. For more advanced hikers, Mt. Finalyson is a good hour hike to the summit, one of the highest points in Greater Victoria.

Easy-going nature trails lead their way through the park, where 600 year old Douglas fir and western redcedar trees grow in the lowland areas and Garry oak and arbutus trees grow on the dry slopes of Mt. Finalyson. Wildlife viewing is a highlight of Goldstream park, where you can spot migrational birds, and watch the famed salmon spawning.

Salmon Spawning

Goldstream River is known as one of the major salmon bearing rivers on Vancouver Island, and attracts many visitors in autumn to watch the annual chum salmon spawning run. Three to four years before, these same salmon were born in the Goldstream River, then swam to sea to mature. Their return to spawn and die in their ancestral spawning beds is fascinating and the Visitor Centre offers special programs to allow visitors to learn and appreciate such an event. Learn more about Pacific Salmon.

Camping in Goldstream Park

Open from June to mid-September, 173 wooded and relatively private campsites are a short walk from the Goldstream River. A swimming site is also available near the campground, but please note, no lifeguards are on duty at BC Provincial Parks. Camping sites are booked on a first-come first-serve basis, but reservations are accepted. For reservations call toll free 1-800-689-9025 or visit Discover Camping

Public Access Points

Goldstream Park is accessible from the Island Highway (TransCanada Hwy #1), which it borders on both sides, the highway cutting through the park. The camp sites are on the south west side of the highway and the day-use parking and visitors information center is located on the north east side.

French Beach

About French Beach

French Beach Provincial Park is 59 hectacres of Vancouver Island west coast wilderness, situated on the Strait of Juan de Fuca half way between Sooke and Jordan River.

This park is a great place for a family to spend the day. A full playground will entertain the kids, as will playing frisbee or volleyball on the large lawns. Picnic tables and self contained fire pits located in various places around the park provide an opportunity to have a barbeque or marshmellow roast (unless otherwise posted due to fire hazard).

The beach itself is a wonder. With 1,600 meters of beach front, this park provides a fantastic venue to enjoy the Pacific Ocean. Sandy patches merge into pebbles, and driftwood of all shapes and sizes litters the beach. Here, sandcastle enthusiasts, or kids, can build their creations. Walk towards the right (or north west) and find the hidden treasures of the tide pools. Watch the sea anemones eat – this is most interesting, or watch the waves crash in against the rocks. Also note: due to strong undertow currents it is strong recommended that you DO NOT go swimming in the ocean at this location, however you can with some caution go wading.

French Beach is also a great place for observing Vancouver Island wildlife. Deer and ground squirrels inhabit this area of Vancouver Island. Seabirds, bald eagles and ospreys drift on warm air currents above the beach. Otters, seals and sea lions can also be seen playing offshore, and whales love to visit in the summer.

Walking trails wind their way through the second-growth forests lining the shores of French Beach, and provide an easy paced stroll through a natural west coast setting.

A 69 site campground at French Beach is open year round; however, there are not electrical hookups nor showers at this campground.

East Sooke Park

East Sooke Park Sign at Pike Road Access

East Sooke Park Sign at Pike Road Access

Hiking and Exploring

East Sooke Regional Park covers over 3500 acres of East Sooke, on southern Vancouver Island. The park is bordered on one side by the waters of the Juan de Fuca Strait.

Enjoy natural and protected coastal landscape. East Sooke Park features 50 kilometers of trails, which weave through second-growth BC forests to the rocky shores of west coast beaches.

Wildlife Observation

Observe wildlife in its natural habitat.

Three Public Access Points

Aylard Farm is popular with picnickers and those looking for easy excursions. A five minute walk though open fields leads to a pocket beach where you can discover inter-tidal life, or watch River Otters scurrying across the sand. Trails head inland to hilltop views, or along the rugged Coast Trail.

Anderson Cove, on the Sooke Basin, is the starting point for hikers heading to Babbington Hill and Mount Macguire. On these hilltops, Bald Eagles and Red-tailed Hawks join you for sweeping views of the Olympic Peninsula.

Pike Road is the most westerly access to the park, and to the Coast Trail. An old logging road winds through forest to meadow and beach. Here, at low tide, the beach is home to the most interesting sea creatures.

Galloping Goose Trail

Galloping Goose Trail

Galloping Goose Trail (photo by Linda Gordon)

About the Galloping Goose Trail

The Galloping Goose Trail is a favorite park among the locals of southern Vancouver Island, where the trail weaves its way through the communities of Victoria, Colwood, Langford, Metchosin, and finally to Sooke. The trail passes through all types of classic British Columbian terrain; coniferous forests merge to streams, rivers, and lakes as you walk, cycle, or horseback ride the trail. The trail passes close to beaches, above roaring rivers, and around prestine lakes.

Galloping Goose Trail in Sooke

Galloping Goose Trail in Sooke (Photo by Caprina Valentine)

Follow the Trail from Victoria to Leechtown

The first body of water that you pass in the west is Matheson Lake. Great for swimming on a summer day, this freshwater lake is situated in East Sooke. Go further west, towards Sooke, and circle part of the Sooke Basin, where picture perfect views entice you to stop and take a break to enjoy the beauty of Sooke. Benches along the way are dedicated to those people who loved the Sooke area, and provide nice break points in your travels of the trail.

The next ten kilometers of trail take you through the coniferous forests of Sooke, after which you emerge alongside the salmon-bearing Sooke River. Here are the famous Sooke Potholes where the locals go swimming in the hottest days of summer. After a good bike ride, you’ll want to cool off; here is your chance! Be warned: the further up the river you go to swim, the farther away from other people and the colder the water gets.

The parallel track of the Galloping Goose Trail and the Sooke River stretch the rest of the way to the abandoned mining village of Leechtown, where you can admire the tranquility and quiet of the woods. Advisement: As this area is very far from the public, do not go alone; it is best to visit this section of the trail with others.

History of the Galloping Goose Trail

The Galloping Goose Trail was once a railway line from Victoria to Leechtown, where gold had been discovered in the river during the gold rush days. The train’s first run in 1922 featured the noisy train car #15813, from which the name of the trail comes. It twice daily carried 30 passengers and offered mail delivery. At that time, Leechtown grew to a larger population than Victoria, but soon declined after the goldrush ended. The train for a short 9 years afterward, but with a deserted town as a destination it did not take long for the rail line to be closed.

Now, Leechtown is simply the site of the abandoned mining town; nothing remains, not even structures. The forest has grown in and grown over anything that once was the goldrush Leechtown. The rails were removed from the route around 10 years ago, becoming part of a Rails to Trails program in the province of British Columbia. The Galloping Goose Trail is also a part of the BC Trans Canada Trail system being constructed as an eco-adventure.