It’s Brr out there. After a glorious summer and magnificent fall with warm days, cool nights, and lovely sunsets, we have had a cold winter. Two cold snaps in December and then January have left us hibernating, but this is a wonderful time to get out and explore the trails. Whereas the sidewalks have been icy, the trails on the whole have been crisp underfoot. The cold leaves form a carpet when I run, the crunch under my footsteps often the only sound I can hear – besides the happy panting dog beside me!
So as the seasons turn once more, I think of the many trails we can explore on foot – either as a brisk walk, hike or a run. We can choose to run by lakes, the ocean or through residential areas where rural trails are in abundance so let’s start with Mt Doug. It is the largest park in Saanich and has a myriad of trails at its base. All of the trails have excellent markers and there are maps at some intersections, so getting around is fairly easy even if you are directionally challenged. If you hike to the top you have a 360° view of Victoria. For runners keeping to the lower trails can still offer a challenge with many undulations and tree roots. It provides a good workout and your dog will love you for it.
The 10k trail that circumnavigates Elk and Beaver Lake is a gem in Victoria. On a warm day it provides shade and on a rainy day: shelter. It is ideal for running or walking as there are many places for your canine friend to cool off. Just beware of the algae warning signs. It has been particularly bad this past summer and your pet could get sick if exposed to it. The trail is marked every kilometre so you can explore by distance or minutes. Watch for others enjoying the trail, in particular horses. Dogs can be off leash as long as they are under control. And keep an eye out for the National rowing team who train on Elk Lake year-round.
Another beautiful place to exercise is Thetis Lake. Rated moderate to challenging by the CRD, this 834 hectacre park has an abundance of trails that intersect to you can make your journey as short or long as you like. Arbutus trees are a feature of this lake trail as is natural wildlife on the water. Like Elk and Beaver Lake there are areas for your four-legged friend to enjoy a cooling swim. The all-year round doggie beach is a particular favourite allowing your best friend to socialize with like-minded canines. If you like to run or walk early then you will see triathletes training as the main beach is a popular spot for swimming.
Victoria has two great urban/rural trails that intersect – Lochside Trail and the Galloping Goose Trail. Lochside Trail is a 29 km trail from Swartz Bay to Victoria and even though there are paved and road sections, the Royal Oak Drive to Sayward Road and beyond to Island View Road has some off road and is surprisingly quiet. It is a favourite for cyclists so if you are running with your dog then it is advisable to leash up. Ocean views are a feature of this trail.
Lochside meets the Galloping Goose trail at the Switch Bridge. It is 60 km of sheer delight for recreational athletes with many cyclists also enjoying the Goose. The pathway is now paved all the way to Colwood. However, beyond Colwood it is still mainly trail and stunning to explore – particularly around Roche Cove and Matheson Lake and all the way to the Sooke Potholes. This part of the Goose is surprisingly quiet and largely undiscovered so ideal for a quiet, solitary run or walk. It is marked every kilometre so you can choose to join the trail at a convenient spot and venture forth for as long or short as you like.
Other areas worth exploring are Horth Hill Regional Park near Sidney, Durrance Lake in Mount Work Regional Park, Francis King Regional Park in the Highlands, Goldstream Provincial Park and John Dean Provincial Park on the Saanich Peninsula.