5 Good Places to Walk and Explore in Victoria This Weekend

We all know there is terrific hiking around Victoria but maybe you just want to discover good places to walk. The 5 spots identified below range from flat and paved to slightly hilly packed trail - all very doable for the average walker.

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Gorge Waterway Park

For those of us who know the area well, any talk of good places to walk will always include The Gorge Waterway Park. It is a 3.4 km paved walking path that follows the edge of the Gorge Waterway between Tillicum Road and Admirals Road. The scenery is spectacular - especially when all the rhododendrums are in bloom!

Parking can be found at 3 or 4 small lots along on Gorge Road as well as some on-street parking on Admirals, near Craigflower Elementary School.

If you want to really explore the Gorge, you can rent kayaks and stand up paddle boards at the Fairway Gorge Paddling Club.  Washroom facilities and a small park with children's play equipment is also available at Gorge Waterway Park.

This park is also the site of the annual Gorge Canada Day Picnic. 

View Royal Park

View Royal Park is one of those neighbourhood parks that you probably have never heard of unless you live nearby. But, there are some terrific reasons why it is worth your time to come out and discover this surprising little gem located just off Helmcken Road near the elementary school.

It is not only a good place to walk - it is a great place to explore!

As you enter the park, you will immediately sense the tranquility of the area, which comprises a migratory bird sanctuary.

 The path follows the edge of Craigflower Creek and passes lovingly maintained community gardens. On any given day you are likely to see one of the many gardeners tending to their crop of fruits, vegetables and flowers. The gardens started with 30 plots in 2014 and now have close to 50. In 2018 pollinator beds with bright colourful flowers were added to attract bees and pollinating insects.

Bird sanctuary sign at View Royal Park

The town has plans to expand the garden area to include irrigation, a greenhouse and a common market garden in addition to more beds in the coming few years. 

Beyond the gardens is the recently updated children’s playground. Playgrounds sure have come a long way from a swing set and see-saw! This play area has enough activities to keep your little ones busy for as long as you’ll let them stay. Cross the little foot bridge and you enter the off-leash dog park and outdoor fitness area. It is a wide-open area where your fur friends can run loose but be sure to keep them out of the estuary in order to protect the wildlife. Both migratory and resident birds call this region home. 

Community gardens at View Royal Park
Community gardens at View Royal Park
Community gardens at View Royal Park
Community gardens at View Royal Park

Surrounding the large green space you'll see why I included this park in my list of good places to walk - a well-packed crushed gravel flat walking/running path – approximately 625m in length.  With no traffic to contend with, this path is the perfect space to walk laps. I am personally out there several times a week (there is something about laps that I like better than in-out trails) and I can't say enough good things about walking poles. I was fairly sedentary for many years and they have given me the confidence to get up and walk. They help with balance and provide an upper body workout as well. I love them!

At each end of this section of the park are four pieces of outdoor fitness equipment for users of all ages and fitness levels, designed to focus on cardiovascular, strength, flexibility or balance. 

In 2019 a beginner/intermediate bike pump track was added to the list of amenities and kids from all over the region have been coming to check it out ever since. 

Not only did I promise you good places to walk but also to explore and View Royal Park delivers!

Francis King Park

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.  

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 good places to walk 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.

francis king

Portage Park

I have included Portage Park in my list of good places to walk in Greater Victoria for a couple of reasons. It is conveniently located in View Royal just off Island Highway between Admirals and Helmcken (beside the 4-mile Brewpub & Restaurant).

The park is very small, which is great for small kids, but it doesn't feel that small when you are plunged into the forest canopy moments after entering the park. It gives you the sense that you have been transplanted into a wilderness oasis - in the middle of the city!

Within 10 minutes of entering the park you will discover a small oceanfront beach that is the perfect spot for a little beachcombing.

Be sure to bring a towel for your furry friend because they are likely going in for a splash!

After your forest exploration, there is a small, newly updated playground for the kids to enjoy.

I like this park because going for a walk with the family does not always have to be a 2-hour adventure. Portage Park is a good place to walk for anyone who wants to enjoy the tranquility of nature, even if only for 20 minutes or so. 

Thetis Lake Regional Park

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 - and the reason this park is on my good places to walk list - 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!  My son loves his inflatable boat and some days there are so many kids on the lake in their boats, it looks like a commercial for them!

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 are no lifeguards at Thetis 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. 

Warning signs at Thetis Lake

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. Be sure to check any signage before taking the plunge!

Amenities at Thetis

  • accessible toilets
  • fountain
  • change rooms
  • sandy beach 
  • grassy picnic area
  • boat launch
  • fishing area

There is no children’s playground. 

Motorized vehicles, smoking, alcohol, camping and open fires are all prohibited at the park.

Pets in 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 hot summer 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 are looking for good places to walk, consider Thetis Lake.

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