The Coast Trail in East Sooke Regional Park is the most spectacular coastal day-hike on Vancouver Island! We absolutely adore hiking in East Sooke Park, and have wanted to complete the official Coast Trail together for almost three years. What makes this day-hike incredibly special is the feeling of wilderness that it invokes. Even though East Sooke Park is relatively close to urban centres, the endless views, abundant wildlife, ocean fresh air, and pounding waves immerse you deep into the natural world. Once you leave the busier trailhead zones, a true sense of remoteness can be experienced. Our windy adventure on the Coast Trail was the perfect way to spend a Saturday. We took our time, enjoyed lots of scenic breaks, practiced photography, watched for whales, had an excellent workout, and recharged our minds.
Allow approximately 60 minutes to drive from Victoria. Because the Coast Trail is a thru-hike, trailhead transportation requires extra logistics. If you wish to hike westbound (WEBO), start at the Aylard Farm Trailhead. If you wish to hike eastbound (EABO), start at the Pike Road Trailhead.
- Take two cars (requires at least two people). Drive to desired trailhead in two vehicles. Leave Car 1 at desired trailhead, then drive Car 2 to opposite trailhead. Start the trip. You will finish with Car 1 waiting for your group. Drive Car 1 back to collect Car 2.
- Hire a shuttle (can be done solo). Drive to desired trailhead. Get shuttled to the opposite trailhead, then start the trip. You will finish with your car waiting for you.
Aylard Farm Trailhead: Follow the Trans-Canada Highway from Victoria, and take the #14 exit. Follow the Island Highway, which turns into Sooke Road. From Sooke Road, turn left on Gillespie Road. Turn left on East Sooke Road, then right on Becher Bay Road to access the Aylard Farm Trailhead. Google Maps
Pike Road Trailhead: Follow the Trans-Canada Highway from Victoria, and take the #14 exit. Follow the Island Highway, which turns into Sooke Road. From Sooke Road, turn left on Gillespie Road. Turn right on East Sooke Road, then left on Pike Road to access the Pike Road Trailhead. Google Maps
Of course, you can always park at one trailhead and “yo-yo” out-and-back to your car along the Coast Trail, or return via one of the interior trails. This plan makes for a way more strenuous day…bring extra nibbles
Location: East Sooke Regional Park
Route: Aylard Farm to Pike Road
Date: May 14, 2016
Distance: 13 km
Duration: 7 h 44 min
Peak: 77 m
Gain: 563 m
The Coast Trail was a gorgeous, challenging, winding, single track. The route repeatedly climbed high onto dry, windswept bluffs and plunged deep into rainforest ravines. Beautiful shoreline features constantly observed from the Coast Trail included pocket beaches, rocky bays, tide pools, sheltered coves, and thunderous surge channels. There were only a few short sections where hiking on the beach was possible. The uneven trail was a mix of dry soil, rock, conifer cones, pine needles, roots, and creek bed crossings. Some Class 2 scrambling was required up and down the rocks. A few stretches of trail had some decent cliff exposure (tripping would be a really bad idea). The section from Aylard Farm to Parkheights was extremely dry, while a few moist creeks appeared on approach to Iron Mine Bay. We left our hiking boots at home and wore lighter trail runners with good, grippy soles. We did not use trekking poles as there was no slippery beach hiking and it was better to have our hands free for scrambling. The rocky bluff trail sections were marked with yellow squares anchored to the rocks, often with arrows. The CRD East Sooke Regional Park has recently added colour trail maps to many of the junctions.
Aylard Farm to Creyke Point
After leaving our car at the Iron Mine Bay Trailhead, we hired a shuttle to the Aylard Farm Trailhead (0.0 km). The morning was cool and breezy, with high scattered clouds. The Pacific wren sang his typewriter song and the conifer boughs roared overhead. Aylard Farm is a heritage apple orchard, and a popular spot for picnickers. The zone can be a serious gong show on weekends, with parked cars overflowing onto the access road. We recommend an early start if you want a parking spot at Aylard Farm. After sorting out our instruments, we hiked through the orchard field and swung left to include Creyke Point (0.9 km). This detour is worth the short extension to the Coast Trail for its great viewpoint.
Creyke Point to Petroglyphs
The official Coast Trail began after we descended from Creyke Point and entered the picnic area. We took advantage of a lowering tide and hiked along the pretty beach. Civilization had just disappeared from sight and it felt as though we were in a true wilderness. We kept our eyes on the Strait of Juan de Fuca to watch for gray whales, but didn’t have any luck. There were lots of robins on the beach, who reminded us of the ones we saw on the North Coast Route last spring. After encountering a headland, we climbed the bank up into groves of arbutus trees along the main trail. This section was nice and cruisey, with a warm, west wind making inky splotches on the dimpled grey ocean. We talked about how fast the snow was melting on the Olympic Mountains and formulated plans for future treks there.
Petroglyphs to Beechey Head
The petroglyphs (2.4 km) at Alldridge Point are a protected First Nations archeological artifact. Unfortunately, the petroglyphs have been spoiled with modern grafitti. The carved CRD sign reads: “What is a petroglyph? It is a picture carved into a rock. The word petroglyph mean “petros” – a stone, and “glyphs” – I carve. How is a petroglyph made? Usually by using one stone as a hammer. The historic artist pounded lines made of a series of small holes. The petroglyphs you see here, one possibly represents a seal in profile. The other, well, we will let you use your imagination.” This section of the Coast Trail was more open and exposed to the wind. We continued to hike in our warm puffy jackets. The stunted shore pines showed evidence of forceful winter storms.
Beechey Head to Cabin Point
Beechey Head (3.7 km) is definitely worth the short scramble. It was a quick diversion to the left of the main trail. We climbed to the top of the headland for grand views and drying sunshine. It’s usually an excellent place to watch raptors soar, but the skies were empty that moment. Because we are geeks, were were excited to learn that Beechey Head is a reference that marks “Turning Point 10 of the Canadian and United States Boundary between the 49th parallel and the Pacific Ocean.” After leaving Beechey Head, the trail descended back down towards the ocean. We found the trail junction that travels inland back to Aylard Farm. This zone had a desolate picnic table and a small rain shelter. We stopped for lunch at a pretty cove just before Cabin Point and watched aspiring rock climbers boulder to the tidal island.
Cabin Point to Parkheights
Cabin Point (6.2 km) a fantistic spot to stop and view marine wildlife. Once we watched a small humpback whale feed in the nearby bay. Sea lions frequent this area too. Cabin Point is named for a replica of a trap shack, similar to the type used by past fisherman. We had a brief look inside the cabin, then made our way up the hot, dry bluffs on the other side of a ravine. This section was probably the most strenuous of the day because of the longer ups and downs, scrambling, and exposure. The steep climbs to the higher viewpoints increased our chances of spotting whales on the horizon.
Parkheights to Iron Mine Bay
We insisted on a break at the Parkheights Viewpoint (7.8 km). Descending to the rocky shoreline rewarded us with a rustic bench rest on. The kelp forest was thick and golden in the green ocean. After leaving the dry bluffs at Parkheights, the trail leveled out and travelled through wetter temperate rainforest zones. A few creeks trickled to the ocean at last. Iron Mine Bay and the proximity of Donaldson Island marked the official end of the Coast Trail.
We’ve spent lots of time hiking in East Sooke Park. There are so many fun trails that interconnect with each other creating endless combinations of loops. Our first thru-hike of the Coast Trail was awesome!
- Westbound is best. Starting at Aylard Farm and hiking to Pike Road had it’s advantages. The busyness of Aylard Farm fell behind as we moved into the wilder zones. Finishing on the flat, lovely, green Pike Road Trail was the perfect end to a rigourous day.
- Excellent training. East Sooke Park is our preferred weekend training zone for bigger backpacking trips. The Coast Trail terrain was satisfactorily challenging. The constant ups and downs of the Coast Trail over many hours provided a great cardio workout and conditioning for summer backpacking.
- Gorgeous views. Views of the Pacific Ocean with a backdrop of the Olympic Mountains are plentiful. There is abundant marine wildlife to view in this vibrant coastal ecosystem.
- Bring lots of water. We brought only one litre of water each for our cool and windy day, with extra water stashed in the car. These volumes wouldn’t have been enough if the day was hotter. We were sufficiently hydrated before the trip.
- Start early. We took our time along the Coast Trail, taking breaks for fun and shooting photos. The whole trip took us over seven hours. It was better to start early and enjoy the day.
Adventurers who enjoy coastal hiking and backpacking will love the Coast Trail in East Sooke Regional Park. Even hard core West Coast Trail backpacking veterans or Cape Scott-North Coast Trail fans would appreciate this refreshing and challenging day-hike. It’s well worth the time and effort to coordinate a hike on the Coast Trail.