Today we’re going to be enjoying one of my favourite hikes on Southern part of Vancouver Island. This is the Mount Work Summit Trail. Mount Work is about 40 minutes from downtown Victoria and happens to be one of the largest regional parks in the area as well as one of the dominant hills on the horizon that you see from most vantage points.
The park was established in 1970 and covers 743 hectares. There are three fresh water lakes- Killarney, Durrance and Pease- for walking and swimming, and apart from Killarney, you can canoe and fish (Durrance is stocked with catchable Rainbow Trout). There are 11km of trails through the forest to the summit. The area also features some of the best mountain biking on the lower part of the island at Mount Work-Hartland which is a separate area of multi-use trails on the east side of the park. The trails cover a range of terrain from gentle rolling hills, to black diamond trails only for the most advanced mountain bikers.
The Summit trail is a 5.5km out-and-back trail that’s considered moderately challenging, approximately 400m of elevation and about 45-60 minutes each way, depending on how fast you like to hike. The trailhead is at the parking lot opposite the head of the McKenzie Bight trail on Ross Durrance Road. There are some steep and technical parts of the trail, but depending on how comfortable you are hiking this can also be a family friendly trail for older kids to enjoy. Conditions in the park vary with the weather and your fully exposed to the elements, so plan accordingly.
Today I’m hiking with my 16 month old son, he usually likes to hike for about the first kilometre, then once he’s tired himself out he gets comfy in my hiking backpack and we start to move at a bit of a quicker pace.
This is a beautiful trail on the north side of the park where you start out in a darker part of the forest that’s dominated by cedar and Douglas fir trees, then opens up into an area of abundant arbutus trees, where it then meanders upwards over glacial rocks. Fun fact- Arbutus trees are found only on the west coast of North America, and only grow close to the Pacific Ocean.
The trail is well marked and maintained, although it does interact with lots of unmarked mountain biking trails. It’s important to keep an eye out for mountain bikers, though hikers technically have the right-of-way. The trail has some steep inclines, making it a great cardio workout. Shortly before the summit there is a picturesque view of the Saanich Inlet. Once you get to the main summit, there isn’t an actual marker saying you’re there, but it’s clearly the end of the line with great views of Bear Mountain and Mount Finlayson.
Once you get back down, you can cross the road and do a quick hike down to the ocean on the McKenzie Bight trail which is part of Gowland Tod Provincial Park. This is a beautiful inlet where you can go for a swim, nature-watch, or explore the beach and rocks.
The only downside to this trail is that it can be quite busy. There is a large parking lot, but during the summer and on weekends it can fill up quickly, with both hikers and mountain bikers. A word of caution, people will often park on the road if the parking lot is full, but do so at your own risk- your car might get towed! Last summer we got a call from the police saying if we got to our car before the tow truck came we would be free to go. Safe to say, we ran down the mountain even while I was seven months pregnant! Luckily we made it in time but learnt a good lesson.
Peak season 9/10
Off season 3.5/10