To those who have called it home their entire lives, Sooke can seem to be a bit of a dull town. So many Sookites have lost sight of the beauty that surrounds this sweet little seaside town, or maybe they’ve just grown accustomed to such stellar scenery. Either way, those of us who come from Elsewhere and chose to call this funny little hamlet home have a deep appreciation for the beauty all around, probably enough for everyone (and we’ve probably pointed it out before, too).
If you’ve ever been to Sooke, chances are you’ve probably heard of Potholes. Hell, even if you haven’t been here, you may have seen viral videos of the park or the mention of it on lists of the world’s best natural swimming pools. Regardless, Sooke Potholes Regional Park becomes cluttered with tourists March through September while the water warms and fill the parking lots, making summertime adventures here nearly impossible and significantly less fun – the summer months + tourist attraction means paying for parking – so Potholes gets neglected by many locals, ourselves included.
When the wet season starts and the mud thickens, adventurous island hikers from near and far know that this park has so much more than just Potholes to offer. Waterfalls, foggy hills, research cabins and canoes for public use, all live in this park, and together, they make for a beautiful day hike.
The trail is incredibly easy to follow once you find it – it’s pretty tough to get lost or turn the wrong direction. It’s not clearly marked, but there are various brightly-coloured vinyl tie-offs along the way. The tricky part is figuring out where the trail actually starts.
There are quite a few parking lots to choose from once you enter the park, a few of which are not really marked at all, but 3 of them are clearly labeled Parking Lots 1, 2, and 3. Parking lot 1 you have to turn around to enter from the back side of the lot, while Parking Lots 2 and 3 are almost side by side. All the way at the end of Parking Lot 2 is your preferred trailhead (though you could easily start from any point on the Goose once you know where the trail is).
A small path leads into the forest, almost immediately crossing the Galloping Goose Trail. Cross the wide, level, comfortable multipurpose trail, and keep dreaming: you’re going up the narrow, rocky, single-track footpath up into the Sooke Hills.
The trail runs parallel to Mary Vine Creek for much of the hike up. Hearing the sounds of the rushing waters was comforting whenever I thought I had navigated us off track. Not too far into your journey, you’ll reach the old Sooke Flowline, which is apparently a trail in and of itself.
Cross the pipe and continue up the trail on the other side. Not long after, you’ll hear the powerful Mary Vine Falls from the trail, and if you’re curious, there’s a short detour across the steep grade of the hill, though it’s not well trodden. Less experienced hikers may opt to back-track to the main trail after viewing the falls. You’ll meet two more smaller cascades on the way to Peden Lake, and all of them make for a great place to take a water break.
There’s only one major decision point during this hike, where the Mary Vine Trail splits off into two paths. In order to continue following the creek, you’ll want to follow the steep path east up into the hills.
I personally found a map of the trail to be a huge help. Though there’s no service this deep in the park, AllTrails has the path mapped out and available online.
During the wet season, the trails get pretty muddy the closer you get to the lake, and thus, it becomes amply harder to find the actual trail. After you see Peden Lake from the path, the trail steers you away from the lake for a short section, but there’s a tangled web of footpaths as you approach the research cabin. Navigate your way through puddles and across logs to point yourself in the right direction. I promise, I make it sound worse than it really is- trust your instincts and at your first opportunity, walk towards the lake.
When Conor and I hiked out here for the first time, all our gear was completely soaked – and so were we – so we took the opportunity to dry off in the cabin. Beware, though, the cabin is used fairly frequently but still has a slight musty smell to it.
Round-trip, this hike shouldn’t take longer than 2-3 hours, not including stops at the falls or the lake if you take the trail out-and-back. The trail can be done in a loop around the lake, though I wasn’t confident enough in my navigation skills to lead us that way. Come prepared with a compass, a decent pair of boots and snacks for the trip up, and be sure to share your stories below!