Galloping Goose Hiking / Biking Trail
Victoria to Sooke
Times Colonist reporters Louise Dickson and Carolyn Heiman
Ever wonder what it's like to ride the Galloping Goose Regional Trail from end to end?
Times Colonist reporters Louise Dickson and Carolyn Heiman set out to ride from Leechtown, north of the Sooke Potholes Regional Park, to the Johnson Street Bridge in downtown Victoria. This is an account of their journey on the old rail that became a trail.
Photographer Ray Smith dropped us off at the Sooke Potholes campsite, the closest road access to the far end of the Goose. We rode four kilometres over a chunky gravel trail to Leechtown, the site of a gold-rush town that has left no trace.
At the 55-kilometre marker, we turned around and began our ride into town.
On our left, a forest of Douglas fir towered over us. To our right, the Sooke River rushed over waterfalls in the canyon, coming to a rest in clear pools.
We rode comfortably side-by-side on our hybrid bikes past rocky outcrops covered in moss.
This section of the trail, made from original railway ballast material, is noisy to ride on.
The sound from our tires drowned out birdsong and falling water, but the ride was easy (a mountain bike or hybrid is best for the trail).
The first 12 kilometres are a gradual descent, and by the 50-kilometre marker, our tires were humming over a smoother trail bed littered with pine needles.
Surrounded on both sides by forest, we cycled past ferns, shasta daisies, foxgloves and blackberry bushes.
Todd Trestle is stunning. Its open, cross-braced framework curves high above Todd Creek. We hopped off our bikes and stared down at the creek, hundreds of metres below.
At 46 kilometres, we rode by the potholes parking lot. A few minutes later, we were off our bikes again, admiring the view from Charters Trestle, a steel bridge decked with wood.
Sooke River Road brought us out of the forest and back to civilization. We made our first trail crossing on a narrow corner. We listened for traffic, then dashed across the road.
A few kilometres along, we scurried across a dangerous crossing at Highway 14, with poor visibility for both riders and vehicles, then followed the trail as it curved around the Sooke Basin. From Sooke harbour to Roche Cove to Matheson Lake, the forest changes. Maple gives way to rough-barked Douglas fir and crackling Arbutus. On our right, the trail slipped off to a fern-covered forest floor where moss-covered giant trees reach for the sky. Our tires squished through horse poop and narrowly avoided garter snakes and banana slugs. There are little ups and downs where the trail descends to road crossings.
The trail at Matheson Lake is the perfect place for a picnic, or if you've brought your bathing suit and a bike lock, a swim. This is, perhaps, the most scenic part of the trail. In some sections, it's bordered on both sides by rocky cliffs. By the time we arrive in Langford, we're thirsty and our knees and seats are starting to get sore. Luckily, we've brought a litre of water each although that turns out not to be enough, and plenty of food for lunch.
Until now, the trail has been well marked. But just after Belmont Secondary, near Westshore Town Centre in Langford, formerly the Canwest Mall, we lose the trail for several kilometres, ending up at a gas station on Goldstream where we can buy water. There are other locations to pick up food or a coffee en route, there's a coffee shop, bicycle shop and grocery store at Glen Lake, and if you want to venture further afield, there's the Metchosin Market and Westshore Town Centre.
Back on track, we cycle through Colwood, Royal Roads and across Ocean Boulevard, passing Thetis Lake. Finding washrooms at Atkins Road one of the only three next to the trail is a great relief.
Back in the saddle, we ride the final 10 kilometres into town, pausing for a look at the incredible view from Portage Inlet. The ride is quick and easy through the urban landscape. Cars yield to cyclists at the street crossing. First the Switch Bridge near Town and Country Shopping Centre, where the trail becomes congested with commuters, then the Selkirk Trestle.
Finally, the Johnson Street Bridge comes into sight. Our 55-kilometre ride is history.
We celebrate with a cold beer at Swans.
© Times Colonist 2007
Part of the Trans Canada Trail which traverses
the country, the Galloping Goose and Peninsula Trails form one of
the most picturesque trail systems in Canada.
Dedicated in 1989, the Galloping Goose
Trail is named for a gawky and noisy gas rail-car which carried
passengers between Victoria and Sooke in the 1920's.
The first rail tracks were laid on Island soil
in 1893, with the opening of the Victoria and Sidney line. That
was followed by the Vancouver Island section of the Canadian National
Railway dedicated in 1911, and by the B.C. Electric in 1913.
Built upon the abandoned rail beds and trestles
of that railway legacy, the Galloping Goose and Peninsula Trails
connect our transportation past with our transportation future.
You can travel for nearly 60 kilometers
on the Galloping Goose Regional Trail. You can cycle, walk, or ride
a horse along this former rail line past some of B.C.s finest
You can spot bald eagles. Or turkey vultures
floating on a thermal. You have time to watch a deer in the sword
Ride the Goose on horseback. You and your horse
get into a rhythm. A low Broadleaf Maple brushes your shoulder.
You ride past Nootka rose splashed with pastel reds.
The scenery flows by in slow motion. A quiet
cove. A dark, hidden lake. Rocky outcrops split by twisted Garry
From asphalt to rainforest to canyon... the Goose
knows every landscape on Southern Vancouver Island. Starting in
Victoria, it travels the back roads to Saanich. Then it slices through
the urban setting of View Royal, Langford, and Colwood. Yet in a
delightful surprise, ferns, shrubs, and rock outcrops shield you
from much of the concrete. At Metchosin, the trail moves lazily
past small farms surrounded by hills. Steep, rocky slopes march
down to the trailside. Occasionally the Goose drops into a creek
bed. You can stop on the bridge and watch cool water flow over igneous
reprinted from CRD Parks materials with permission