Mill Hill Regional Park

Mill Hill stands two hundred and two meters above sea level and has most of its parkland in City of Langford, B.C. Part of the park also lies within the Town of View Royal, B.C. This park is about seventy one hectares in size and encompasses a second growth forest of Douglas fir, arbutus and Garry oak trees. The terrain is mostly rocky and steep although Mill Stream flows through the southwestern edge of the park where its narrow flood plain lies. The Capital Regional District for British Columbia has administration over this parkland which hosts several buildings, used as headquarters, within a chain-linked fence area. There is limited access to this part of the park. The main parking area and trails are in Langford, B.C., where the formal trails, Auburn Trail and Calypso Trail, to the top of the hill skirt the south and western slopes. The Auburn Trail is the most direct route up to the summit and is about two thousand meters long. The gravel trail is wide and has several switchback sections though rocky Garry oak meadows. The meadows contain wildflowers that bloom in the spring. A minor trail, The Mill Pond Trail, is found a short distance along the Auburn Trail. This trail leads to the right and heads downward   toward a small pond and the playground at Crystalview elementary school (with separate write-ups). The Auburn Trails also passes through groves of arbutus trees near a rough rocky area just before the summit. You may notice that some rocks show signs of glacial striations. As this pathway was the original road to the fire watch tower keep an eye out for small paved sections. Near the summit the trail branches to the left and right. The left branch leads to the cairn and concrete foot posts of the fire tower while the right branch leads to a bench with a wooden platform that overlooks Esquimalt Harbour, Portage Inlet and the communities to the south. On a clear day Mount Baker in Washington State, USA, can be seen to the east and the Olympic Mountains to the south across the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Salish Sea. Flowers that are found in this park include the common camas, white fawn lilies, tiger lilies and calypso orchids.

There are benches, a privy and picnic tables found near the parking lot.

The Calypso Trail has three sections. A lower section, accessed from the parking lot, includes a route on the floodplain of Mill Stream while the upper section provides an alternative route down from the summit. This trail also continues down the northeast side of the hill with a trail access near Thetis Lake, which can be read about here (include link to page). The east side of the park is bordered by Edwards Park and several large private properties.

Geographical location N48° 27’ 10” W123° 28’ 55” parking lot; consult the CRD website for a map of the trails and facilities in the park

Mill Hill Regional Park can be accessed from the Trans Canada Highway, Hwy1. Exit onto the Island Highway and turn right onto Six Mile Road. Turn left onto Atkins Road and continue along to reach the park entrance on the right. There is a large gravel parking area near the park building’s chainlink fence. City buses travel along Atkins Road.

There are many articles and papers written about Mill Hill Regional Park.

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Thetis Lake Park – Panhandle Trail

Thetis Lake Panhandle trail view hill Thetis Lake Panhandle trail stumps (2)

At the junction of Barker Road and Highland Road is the Panhandle Trail of Thetis Lake Regional Park. This one and half kilometer long old fire road is gated with a yellow metal barrier. The trail heads east along the north border of the parkland to branch into two pathways that lead to the corridor under the hydro-electric towers and into Francis King Regional Park. The Panhandle Trail is frequented by cyclists and equestrians as well as some hikers and dog walkers. This is pleasant stroll through some tall Douglas fir, big leaf maple and arbutus trees. The snowberry bushes, oceanspray plants, Oregan grape shrubs, salal and ferns as well as the many moss covered rocks add to the peacefulness of the area. The initial five hundred meters of the pathway is along relatively level ground with several bends and curves around wetlands and tree stumps. At the junction with the trail with High Ridge Trail into Francis King Park, the Panhandle Trail becomes slightly steeper though the second growth forest of Douglas fir trees. There is a good view point to the north from hill along this section. The pathway then descends with a few curves to reach Munn Road. This is an excellent place to explore in your backyard.

 

Geographical position N48° 28’ 54” W123° 27’ 48”

 

Thetis Lake Regional Park – Panhandle Trail can be reached from the Trans Canada Highway or Hwy 1. Turn off at Exit 10 to reach Burnside Road West. Stay right as the road branches toward the junction with Watkiss Way. Turn left onto Watkiss Way and then right onto Highland Road. Follow Highland Road as it narrows into Thetis Lake Regional Park and continue where the roadway curves to become Barker Road. The trail head is near the junction of Barker Road with Highland Road. There is limited parking along the roadways although there is a small parking area at the trailhead. City buses travel to the junction of Highland Road and Watkiss Way.

 

For a map of the hiking trails in Thetis Lake Regional Park, see the CRD Parks brochure.

Gonzales Hill Regional Park – Victoria

Gonzales and Ross bays Victoria Gonzales Observatory Gonzales Hill Park 7

This rocky urban wilderness park of the Capital Regional District has amazing views of the Victoria area like Clover Point, Government House, Craigdarrach Castle, Mt Tolmie, Mt Douglas and the Gulf Islands. The highest point of Gonzales Hill is sixty-six meters above sea level and has views of Trial Island and Lighthouse, McNeil Bay, Gonzales Bay and across the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Across the waters are the Olympic Mountains of Washington State, USA. Further east are Mt Rainer and Mt Baker. Part of Gonzales Hill Regional Park is in the City of Victoria who shares this hill top with Oak Bay Municipality. There are few benches throughout the park with one located near the summit. The views of the stars from Gonzales Hill once were further enhanced by the unique observatory that was built in nineteen fourteen for the Dominion Meteorological Services and used by Environment Canada for the next seventy five years. There are three trail accesses into the park. The main route, about a hundred meters to the summit or the observatory, is from the parking lot off of Denison Road. It connects with the thirty-five meter pathway up from Fairfield Place. The third pathway, about sixty meters long, is called Centennial Trail and zigzags down between the down the south side of Gonzales Hill to Barkley Terrace. There are stairs along the Centennial Trail access route. This area is frequented by dog walker, hikers and runners. Walbran Park is east along Denison Road and Gonzales Beach is down the hill.

Geographic coordinates N48° 24′ 48” W123° 19′ 30″

Gonzales Hill Regional Park can be reached from Blanchard Street. Turn east onto Fairfield Road and follow along to Fairfield Place or Denison Road. At the end of Fairfield Place there is a short trail up to the observatory with a limited roadside parking across from 1968 Fairfield Place. Along Denison Road there is a parking area near the observatory as well as the cairn for Walbran. City buses travel along Fairfield Road between downtown and the University of Victoria.

Coles Bay Regional Park, North Saanich

This four hectare neighborhood park is a great water front park with a south facing beach. It has a shallow tidal bay that warms up for swimming during the summer. You can see southwest down Squally Reach of Saanich Inlet toward the Bamberton area of Vancouver Island. The park was established in 1966 and named after John Coles, a midshipman aboard the HMS Thetis who visited this bay in 1851. There are two trails to the beach: a short 10 minute walk through the forest and grassy area brings you to a rock and cobble beach.  The second trail is longer allowing you to stroll under the Douglas-fir, big leaf maple and Western red cedar trees while crossing over Cole Creek on the wooden bridge. Both trails lead to the wooden staircases to the beach. Toilets and picnic areas along the first trail complete this park.  The beach area is rocky along the shoreline and when the tide is high there is a narrow beach area.

Geographic coordinates  N48° 37′ 53″ W123° 27′ 51″

You can get to Cole Bay Park from Pat Bay Highway.  Leave the highway at Exit 26, the McTavish Interchange, an unique and confusing series of roundabouts that make a multi-circle roadway overpass. Take the third exit onto McTavish Road then take the second exit to stay on McTavish Road. Follow McTavish Road past the East Saanich Intersection and continue until you reach West Saanich Road (BC 17A N) turn right onto West Saanich Road. Follow along this road until you reach Ardmore Drive and the golf course. Stay on Ardmore Drive and look for Inverness Road and signs that indicate Cole Bay Park. There is gravel parking area off Inverness Road. While you are here make time to visit Th-kaut, the 1100 year old Douglas-fir tree on the third green of Ardmore Golf Course.

For maps of this park see the CRD Park brochure.

Horth Hill Regional Park

Horth Hill Park inukshuk Horth Hill Park arbutusA Capital Regional District park since 1966, Horth Hill Park provides the opportunity to stroll through western red cedar, Douglas fir, sword ferns and into a Garry Oak meadow land near the summit. Broad leaf maple trees are seen along the edges of the parkland since the dense canopy formed by the boughs of the cedar and fir trees blocks light to the forest floor in many areas. The climb to 136 meters is made easier with the long sweeping switchback trails leading panoramic views of Saanich Peninsula, Salish Sea and Gulf Islands. This forest area has some great trails which are shared with runner, walkers, dogs and horses.  There are toilets near the parking lot.  The signs and direction markers help with navigating the trails in this thirty-one hectare parkland. A lovely and popular park.

Geographic coordinates N48° 40′ 58″ W123° 26′ 13″

You can get to Horth Hill from Pat Bay Highway. Before you reach near the ferry terminal in Swartz Bay, turn onto McDonald Park Road and circle up to the highway overpass. This takes you the junction with Wain Road. Turn left on Wain Road to reach Tatlow Road. Turn right onto Tatlow Road until you reach Willow Road. Turn right as indicated by the signage for the park  and look for the paved parking area on the right.

Alternatively this park can be reached from many trails in North Saanich. Littlewood Road via Wain Road provides access to the eastern end of the parkland. Hedgerow Drive via Lands End Road provides access to the northern side of this park. And Eagle Way has a trail that leads into Horth Hill. Bus 70 or 72 will take you only to the overpass from there it is about a 30 minute walk to the park.

For the trail map of the Horth Hill Park, see the CRD brochure.