If you want to escape the city without actually leaving, look no further than Thetis Lake Regional Park. Located just minutes from Hwy 1 in View Royal, the park has over 920 hectares of forest and lakes waiting for you to explore. A little-known fact about this regional conservation area is that it was established as Canada’s first nature sanctuary in 1958.
The park consists of two large freshwater lakes – Upper and Lower Thetis Lake, each with extensive trails surrounding them. All Trails has identified 19 different hiking, forest and trail running trails – with distances up to 18.5 km and elevations up to 270 meters above sea level. The most common trail for dog walkers and families with young children is the Lower Thetis to Trillium Trail 3.2 km loop. Refer to this CRD map for all the trails and their distance.
In addition to the hiking trails, water activities are very popular at this park, especially swimming, kayaking, paddle boarding and fishing. It is also a mecca for people and their inflatable boats, inner tubes and anything else that floats!
Thetis Lake is known to have a sudden drop-off with a slippery and irregular lake bottom. These features can be dangerous for children, non-swimmers and weak swimmers.
Wearing a personal flotation device is recommended.
I consider myself a swimmer of average skill and I recall being surprised at how quickly I was unable to reach bottom, seemingly just a few metres from shore.
There is no lifeguard at the lake.
Personally, I would like to see a couple floating docks installed or a floating barrier strung across to give people a place to hang on and catch their breath if they find themselves in trouble.
Sadly there seems to be at least one accident every summer.
The presence of Blue-Green Algae in the waters seems to be increasingly common here at Thetis and some other local lakes, causing Island Health to issue warnings and advisories about swimming and keeping pets out of the water. This was the case on my latest visit in the fall of 2020.
There is no children’s playground.
Motorized vehicles, smoking, alcohol, camping and open fires are all prohibited at the park.
In summer months, between June 1 and September 15th, dogs are not allowed to be on a designated beach, dock or picnic area unless they are leashed and passing through without stopping.
Dogs are permitted off leash throughout the trail system though you are asked to ensure to keep your dogs under control and of course, pick up the poop and dispose in a trash bin.
Parking at Thetis consists of three lots: the main lot off Six Mile Road, the lot at the West Beach and an overflow lot located near Atkins Road. Pay parking is in effect at all three locations between May 1 and September 30. The cost is $2.25 per day (loonies, toonies, quarters and credit cards accepted) or you can purchase a seasonal parking pass for $20. The seasonal pass is also valid at Sooke Potholes Regional Park.
Even with three lots, Thetis Lake can be very busy throughout the year as people enjoy nature so close to home. Finding a parking spot can be challenging, especially on weekends.
There is now seasonal transit (#53 Atkins) operating to the park; otherwise the closest BC Transit bus stop that operates throughout the year, is approximately 1 km away on Island Highway.
Next time you feel like getting out in nature for a hike, a paddle, a picnic or a swim, think Thetis Lake.
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