Goldstream Provincial Park is by no means a hidden gem here on Vancouver Island. Famed for its mountainous terrain and it’s yearly salmon runs (and all the wildlife that comes with it), the park boasts 937 acres of gorgeous greenery, waterfalls, trestles, mountains, and wildlife: something for everyone.
If you’re so bold, your first instinct upon approaching the park may be to bag that imposing peak in front of you. It can’t be that challenging, right?
Well don’t be fooled by Mount Finlayson’s small size. Despite being one of the tallest peaks in the greater Victoria area, Finlayson is in the Under 500 category, standing at 419 meters high. Access from the park requires going up what locals refer to as the “front side” of the mountain – the more challenging route – whereas a short drive down Millstream Road will take you to a less demanding path up to the same views.
Oh, you say you’re up for the challenge? Everything you need to know about access to Mt Finlayson from Goldstream Park is available to you here.
The parking lots at this park are full during peak hours and on weekends, all year round, so be sure to plan your trip accordingly. This weekend we lucked out, as we arrived just after lunch and still managed to snipe a parking spot right at the end of the parking lot on the left at the entrance to Finlayson Arm. This was absolutely ideal, as it minimized our walk to our favourite trailhead: the Visitor’s Center Trail. But don’t just follow the trail all the way to the end and back if you want to make the most of your visit to this incredible park.
The Visitor’s Center Trail is a family-oriented, wheelchair-accessible, (on-leash) dog friendly trail that leads you down to – you guessed it – the Visitor’s Center. The trail is wide and surrounded by a beautiful conservation area, though you’ll be able to hear the sounds of the Malahat highway just a few hundred meters away.
Before actually coming to the Visitor’s Center, you’ll reach a bridge over Niagara Creek, which flows through a large culvert under the highway. This is where you’ll want to divert from the gravel trail and meet the first and only real obstacle of this hike: the creek runs deep through the fall, winter, and spring, and without a good pair a rubbers you’ll be drying out your boots for days after. That said, there’s usually a (mostly) dry ledge along the sides of the tunnel, so those of us on the slimmer side have no trouble shuffling alongside the rushing water. Until you reach the other side, that is.
A few protruding rocks will be your only hopes of getting home dry. I strongly recommend a pair of water shoes if you choose to visit in the summer or fall- the water is usually still warm enough, and paired with some wool socks you’ll be ready for an adventure.
Once you reach dry land, it will be obvious where to go. Niagara Creek has carved out a canyon over the years, so follow the trails straight into the canyon, parallel the water. Your first sign of water will be a small, dribbling flow off a cliff straight ahead of you, but don’t be fooled! There’s more to come. Just a few steps away and you’ll get your first glimpse of the 47.5 foot falls.
The canyon is absolutely breathtaking. Doused in the spray of this cascade, every exposed rock and log is blanketed in lush moss and lichen.
If you don’t mind crossing the sketchy log bridge regularly rebuilt by park-goers, or navigating your way across the river, a peekaboo cave awaits you on the other side.
A network of trails lays beyond, too. Explore either side of the canyon or navigate your way up to the top of the falls and beyond to not one, but two towering trestles.
A lot of locals are well aware of the first, but not as many know of the second, and the old train tunnel nearby. To read all about the hike up to the second trestle, Bayley wrote all about it here.
An easy adventure for any level hiker, Goldstream Park has so much to offer. If you choose to visit this incredible park, bear in mind the bulk of it is a protected home for many species of flora and fauna alike. Stay on the designated trails – especially when you see the signs – and try to be respectful and quiet. You are in someone else’s home, after all. That said, the tunnel access to the other side of the park does seem to be an accepted part of the trail, so come prepared for a wet and wild adventure!
Can’t get enough of all the adventure? Here is everything you need to know about camping at Goldstream.