Difficulty: Goldstream Park has a variety of hiking trails to suit all fitness levels. There are easy walking trails by Goldstream River, moderate trails to Niagara Falls, and challenging coastal hiking up Mount Finlayson.
Goldstream Provincial Park represents the BC coast so well - it showcases rugged terrain, lush forests and fertile rivers. Located 20 kilometers west of downtown Victoria, British Columbia, Goldstream Park is a natural refuge where the enduring cycle of life continues as it has for thousands of years. The annual salmon run, which normally occurs between October and early December, is an amazing spectacle.
Goldstream Park is a local jewel. Thousands of families and tourists visit the park, especially during the autumn salmon run, but most miss the most spectacular time of all. During the winter - ordinarily from November through to January - eagles travel hundreds of kilometers to feed on salmon carcasses. During the Eagle Extravaganza, the 'Quiet Zone' near the Goldstream estuary becomes a huge feeding ground for eagles, other birds of prey and even the occasional black bear. Up to 200 eagles have been recorded in one day!
Goldstream Park is located at the end of Finlayson Arm, a deep fjord on the eastern shores of Vancouver Island. The Goldstream River empties into this long, narrow inlet and its gravel bottom makes for excellent spawning grounds for Chum, Coho and Chinook salmon. These fish spend 4-5 years in the Pacific Ocean (no one knows their migration route) and then return to the same tributary from which they hatched. After laying and fertilizing the eggs, the mature adults weaken and die within a few weeks. This miracle of life can be witnessed every autumn from the walking trails in Goldstream Park (their return varies by a few weeks year to year).
The park is 388 hectares large and has over 16 kilometers of trails. Driving into the park, you'll pass giant Red Cedar trees over 400 years old. The old-growth forest is home to Douglas fir, Arbutus, Garry oak trees and plenty of small plants that flourish on the rich forest floor. A vicious winter storm in 2006 blew down a few of these monster trees which have been left lying where they fell to help nourish new saplings.
There are five parking areas in Goldstream Park. The first is the main parking lot that leads to the Lower Goldstream Trail. This path follows the Goldstream River where you can see Chinook, Chum and Coho salmon up close. The trail is well-groomed and wheelchair accessible all the way to the Visitor's Centre. Bikes are permitted only on the paved path. The walk takes only 15 minutes one way but plan on spending more time wandering along the river, viewing animals near the wildlife lookout (bring an umbrella and telephoto lens) and admiring the size and age of the trees. Be prepared for pungent smells during during the salmon spawn!
Upper Goldstream Trail can be found near the campsite off Sooke Lake Road and Golden Gate Road. This hike is about 30 minutes long and takes you through a forest with 600 year old trees! At the end, the 8 meter high Goldstream Falls is your reward. This trail is rated as easy.
The Gold Mine Trail is a moderate trail since it follows a narrow path that eventually leads to Niagara Falls. At 47.5 meters, it's taller than it's more famous Ontario counterpart but is significantly narrower. A bridge spans the Niagara canyon and the surrounding slopes can be slippery when wet. Hiking boots are recommended throughout the year. The trail continues along narrow, steep embankments. This is not a loop trail so plan on returning along the same trail. Don't return along the side of the TransCanada Highway - the curvy road and high-speed traffic just isn't pedestrian-friendly.
The Mount Finlayson Trail is one of the most strenuous hikes on southern Vancouver Island. The steep trail heads up to the summit of this coastal mountain (419 meters) and has one of the best view points in Victoria (when the weather doesn't obscure the views). Bring extra clothing and rain gear even if rain isn't in the forecast. Hiking boots are an absolute necessity as you'll be doing some scrambling on loose rock and passing close to steep drop-offs. Please do NOT take this trail on the way down -- instead, follow the signs for the 'safe route' which leads to Finlayson Arm road.
Finally, there is the Prospector Trail that leads from the Goldstream Park campsite to the more difficult Mount Finlayson Trail. You'll pass exceptional Douglas Fir and Garry oak trees as well as old equipment used for copper mining. There's a great viewpoint on this seldom-used trail.
Near the mouth of Finlayson Arm is an excellent educational centre with exhibits and travel information. The Freeman King Centre, named after a local Vancouver Island environmentalist, overlooks the Goldstream Estuary and provides education and history on the area and it's people.
Be sure to visit the wildlife viewing platform near the Visitor's Center. The platform looks out on the Goldstream Estuary where you may spot deer, mink, river otters, eagles and shorebirds feeding in the fertile waters of the Goldstream River. Please note that there is a quiet zone near the Goldstream Estuary so as not to disturb the natural balance of the area. Bring binoculars!
The park is about 30 minutes from Comfort Cove Cottage. These directions will take you to Goldstream Park along the main roads through the suburbs of Victoria.
There is a scenic short-cut from Comfort Cove Cottage to Goldstream Park along a windy, narrow road through the rural hills outside of the city. The forest is thick, the pavement is in good condition and it's fun to drive! But please go slow... even though the locals don't.
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