This non-motorized vehicle and pedestrian route covers 55 km from downtown Victoria to beyond Sooke. By combining the 29-km Lochside Trail, it is possible to ride the length of southern Vancouver Island between Swartz Bay and Sooke. It also connects with the Trans-Canada Trail through to Cowichan Valley and Nanaimo, minus the broken spots slowly being filled.
The trail begins at the east side of the Johnson Street bridge, then heads north along the harbour to the wooden Selkirk Trestle, a 300-metre span across Selkirk Water. The trail then follows several urban roadways to Switch Bridge, the junction for the start of the Lochside Trail. The Galloping Goose leg turns west and parallels the busy Island Highway for 5 km until it crosses the highway and comes out at the parking lot at Atkins Avenue. This is a popular commuting route. At Atkins Avenue the asphalt ends and the trail begins to follow a former railway right-of-way, then parallels Happy Valley Road for about 7 km through Metchosin towards Sooke. This is a fairly rural stretch through a great deal of farmland along a former railroad bed. It isn't paved, but for the most part it is pleasant without concern for traffic - an uncommon opportunity.
The route then travels through Matheson and Roche Cove parks before heading around the north end of Sooke Basin to the Sooke River and uphill to the river’s potholes and parks. At Todd Creek, adjacent to Sooke Potholes Provincial Park, the original iron and wood railway trestle remains in place for foot and cycle traffic.
North of Todd Creek the trail gains elevation for the next 12 km to end at Leechtown, a former mining townsite and now Kapoor Regional Park. Within it are other old trails and roads, about 2 km of which follow the riverside. Look for remnants of 19th century logging and gold mining that took place here.
Given the length of the trail, portions tend to make ideal day trips. If you're new to this area, find an access point west of Atkins Avenue and pick your end target: Roche Cove, Sooke Potholes, or maybe a pub near Sooke for those so inclined. There are numerous options for a scenic and relaxing outing for just about any level of cyclist.
Horseback riding: Horses are not allowed on the paved portions of the trail within Victoria, Saanich and View Royal, but the trail west of Atkins Avenue is unpaved and suitable for horses. The Luxton Fairground is a common starting point for those using a horse trailer. It is found off the south side of Sooke Road just west of the Happy Valley Road intersection.
Photo courtesy Capital Regional District.