This 6-8 hour hike (one-way) is considered one of the premier day hikes in Canada. The Coast Trail is located just 40 minutes from downtown Victoria, BC (20 minutes from the town of Sooke, BC). The trail skirts the southwestern corner of Vancouver Island, about 2 hours south of Port Renfrew (where the famous West Coast Trail starts in Pacific Rim National Park).
The trail follows the rugged coastline of East Sooke Park which covers most of the bulbous peninsula. The grand views of the Juan de Fuca Strait are framed by the majestic Olympic Mountains of Washington State. Take a break to sit and watch the cruise ships, cargo ships and even submarines travel between the open Pacific Ocean and Seattle & Vancouver, BC.
The rainforests of East Sooke Park are thick, second-growth, and are mainly Douglas fir, Hemlock and Arbutus (indicated by the peeling bark). The lush forest along the Coast Trail covers the rocky shores right down to the crashing ocean. If the winds pick up off the water, you can dart into the thick green canopy where you'll find much more protection in the thick growth.
Some parts of the trail are large and wide, enough to accommodate 4 people across. In other sections it narrows so much that hikers have to squeeze through in a single file. There are sections where you'll be scaling a rough rock face - pick your steps carefully! Look for yellow, metal markers to guide you along these sections.
Like most trails in East Sooke Park, the Coast Trail is well-marked with signs at most trail junctions. Direction markers name the off-shoot paths which bring you to the interior of the park if you would rather not do the entire trail.
Begin your hike at Pike Road. The path is wide and open here and the forest is thick. As you approach the shoreline, you'll come to a semi-circular, pebble beach. Iron Mine Beach is a quiet oasis looking out at the Olympic Mountains across the strait. Here you'll see eagles, herons and even osprey & turkey vulture. At low tide, you can scale a rocky outcropping for a high view of the area. Heron, cormorants and geese frequent this quiet cove.
The Coast Trail winds along the shoreline, winding in and out of the forest. Good hiking boots are absolutely essential for grip on the slippery rocks. There are lots of up and down sections that can be difficult for people with knee problems.
Near Beechey Head, the wild coastline is jagged with rocky bluffs. Watch your step here as some of the footings are quite widely spaced. The path is closely surrounded by thorny blackberry bushes.
From mid-September to mid-October, you'll be able to see the great Turkey Vulture migration at Beechey Head. Hundreds of these large raptors congregate overhead and in the towering trees. They are preparing for their lengthy crossing of Juan de Fuca Strait. The best time to see this phenomenon is on clear, sunny afternoons.
As the Coast Trail swings to the east, you'll come to Alldridge point where you'll find an ancient petroglyph of a seal. It's located on a large boulder on the rocky outcropping that's just off of the path. Signs will lead the way.
At this point, there's a junction in the pathway. You can continue along the shore on a rocky, jagged path. My dog & I were able to complete it slowly. However, an interior path that's wide and well groomed offers a shortcut to the end.
The hike ends at the Aylard Farm parking lot. This area was once a farm. A small apple orchard still exists near the back of the meadow. Relax at the sand beach or rest at the manicured picnic area as you wait for your ride back to the city.
This is what the rocky outcroppings look like. Enjoy the beauty and solitude but watch your step!
East Sooke Park is one of the largest nature reserves around Victoria, BC. The entire area has become known as 'Nature's Gallery' because of its thick rainforest, natural seashore and amazing wildlife. The Coast Trail is one of the best ways to witness all of the beauty Vancouver Island has to offer. For those looking for less strenuous hikes, there are plenty of shorter hiking trails in East Sooke Park from which to choose.