This large and wild coastal area is considered one of the nicest parks on the Island. It has a wide variety of forest, coastline and old farmland. It is home to a large number of trees, plants, flowers, animals, birds and marine life.
Most of the park is made up of Metchosin volcanic basalt rock that is 45 to 57 million years old. The area was attached to the southern tip of Vancouver Island through plate tectonics, the oceanic plates of the Pacific Ocean and Olympic Mountains dipped below Vancouver Island. The T'Sou-kes (who took their name from a small fish, the stickleback) reef-netted salmon around Becher Bay, and collected shellfish, berries and roots for winter months spent at Pedder Bay. Spanish Explorer Manuel Quimper was the first European to sail into the Sooke Inlet in 1790, he named the area Puerto de Revilla Gigedo. Within 5 years the British and Spanish governments signed a treaty at Nootka by which all lands north of the Juan de Fuca Strait became British. 3 years later Vancouver Island was granted to the Hudson's Bay Company. Settlers began arriving in the Sooke area in the late 1860s. Prospectors, miners, loggers and fisherman plied their trades in what is now the park. By the late 1800s East Sooke had large sailing ships and dugout canoes running supplies to and from Fort Victoria as well as a steam-powered sawmill providing lumber for the community. The CRD began purchasing the lands for the park in 1970.
There are 3 parking lots at different points of the park. Take either Happy Valley Road or Metchosin Road to get to Rocky Point Road and then East Sooke Road. You can also access East Sooke Road from Kangaroo Road or Gillespie Road off of Sooke Road.
Aylard Farm (off Becher Bay Road) is the closest point in the park to Victoria. A short walk through the open meadows and remnants of apple orchards of the old farm brings you to a sandy beach to be enjoyed by all family members. This is an excellent spot for ocean swimming. Creyke Point is the southernmost tip of the park offering views of the inhabited coastline from Metchosin to Victoria. Nearby Alldridge Point has some interesting petroglyphs by the local Coast Salish native band, the T'Sou-kes. There are also some native middens along the trail. Beechey Head is a little farther out the coast, a 1/2 to 1 hour hike depending on which trail you use. It is a well-known fishing spot whether by boat or casting from the shore (just be careful you don't get swept off the rocks by waves). It is also one of the best viewpoints at this end of the park. Babbington Hill (228 m, 750 ft) is about an hour's hike from Aylard Farm offering incredible views of Juan de Fuca Strait and the Olympic Mountains. Below Babbington Hill and back out on the coast is Cabin Point. There is a very strong fishing history here. The T'Sou-kes fished in this area. After the Europeans settled here fishing was also very important. The restored Trap Shack has been around since the early 1900s. It was used by the watchmen who tended the traps which were also built on this spot starting in 1904. The waters in this area literally teemed with fish in those days, in July of 1918 over 30,000 kg of salmon were taken from a trap at Otter Point. Near the Trap Shack is a gorgeous sheltered bay that is one of the nicest picnic spots in the park. It has a large pebble beach and an island sitting right in the middle of the bay leaving 2 "water paths" out to the ocean. A combination of the shelter and shallow water makes the water quite warm for swimming.
The Anderson Cove parking lot sits on the left side of East Sooke Road. There is a small piece of the park on the right hand side of the road with a picnic area right on Anderson Cove which is a sheltered nook off the Sooke Basin on the inner edge of the East Sooke arm. A number of paths lead from this central parking lot to all sections of the park. Heading left on the Babbington Hill Trail will take you to Babbington Hill, Aylard Farm, Cabin Point or the Pelagic Cormorant Roost Viewpoint which is located at about the halfway point of the Coast Trail. Heading right will take you to Mt. Maguire, the Iron Mine Trail, Iron Mine Bay and Pike Point. Mt. Maguire (282 m, 891 ft) offers more great views of the whole area. The remnants of an old "copper" mine can be found about halfway down the "Iron" Mine Trail.
The Pike Road parking lot is located at just about the tip of East Sooke (where the ocean heads into Sooke Harbour and the Sooke Basin inside East Sooke), near the end of East Sooke Road. Even though it is a long drive to this end of the park it is definitely worth it. The path is an old logging road that makes for an easy stroll to the beach that takes less than half an hour. There is a very short downhill stretch at the end of the easy, level trail which leads to Iron Mine Bay. This is one of the most beautiful places in the park. A small pebble beach is a great place to admire the bay, isthmus, the Strait, nearby Secretary Island and Pike Point. Another small trail takes you out to Pike Point for a whole different perspective of amazing views. The remains of another old mine site can be found out here. Back above Iron Mine Bay, there is a small shelter at the end of the Coast Trail.
The 20 km Coast Trail follows the coastline of the entire park. The estimates for the time required to hike this trail range from 5 to 7 hours (it took me 7 hours, 5.5 hours of hiking and 1.5 hours for eating and resting - Larry). The only way to really do this hike is to bring 2 vehicles, leaving 1 at the Aylard Farm lot and the other at the Pike Road lot, hike in whatever direction you like. As with a lot of the hiking in this park, you should make sure you have good hiking boots, appropriate clothing, lots of water, food and a map of the park's trails.
Text, background image and photo by Larry Moss