I first learned of Francis King Park when I volunteered with the 3rd Arbutus Scouting Group and took some beavers and cubs for a nature walk. I hadn’t been back in a few years but during a recent heat wave, I was looking for a cool, shady spot to walk our black-coated furry friend and decided to re-discover the park. I was not disappointed.
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Francis King Regional Park is located on Munn Road in Saanich, close to the borders of View Royal and the Highlands. The park features over 11 kilometres of woodland trails that connect to nearby Thetis Lake Regional Park. I love the varying lengths of the different trails because you can really “mix and match” choosing one single trail or a combination of several trails and loops to find the best match for your time and abilities.
The main reason for including Francis King Park in my list of gems worth exploring is for the accessible Elsie King Trail. The Elsie King Trail is an 800-metre loop of crushed gravel and cedar boardwalk suitable for persons with mobility concerns. There is also a lovely lookout point to stop and sit and enjoy the spectacular views of lush greenery.
If you are up for a longer walk, be sure to review the map at the trailhead to plan your route before you start. Otherwise, if you just follow the path off the parking lot near the Nature Centre and washrooms, you’ll be on the Elsie King loop. The only other trail that connects with this one is the Shooting Star Trail which is a 1 km trail that will take you back to the parking lot.
Because much of this park is under the canopy of towering trees and its trails are surrounded by lush ferns and mosses, it is noticeably cooler than some other parks in the region. It really is the perfect spot to get out and enjoy nature on a warm summer day. Bring some snacks or a picnic lunch and enjoy the tranquil surroundings. I love my picnic backpack for days like this. It holds everything you need with an insulated area for food.
Of course, you don’t have to wait for a day when you are trying to escape the heat - the park is open year-long for your enjoyment.
Be sure to stop by the Nature Centre located just off the parking lot from noon until 4 pm on Saturdays, Sundays and holiday Mondays where volunteer naturalists are available to answer questions and point you in the right direction. If you want to learn more about the flowers and trees of the region, two very popular books are Wildflowers of Coastal BC and Vancouver Island and Plants of Coastal BC.
To get to Francis King Park, take the Trans-Canada Highway (Hwy 1) to the Helmcken exit (same exit as Victoria Regional Hospital). Turn right off the highway, take a left at the second set of lights (Burnside Road West) and follow to Prospect Lake Road. Turn right on Prospect Lake Road approximately 300m then left on Munn Road which will take you right to the entrance. The park has 17 parking spots with 4 accessible stalls and room for full-size buses. It will take you approximately 20 minutes to get here from downtown Victoria.
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