Hikes in Sooke – Bluff Mountain Ridge Trail
What a beautiful day we had in Sooke this past Sunday. Sunny, warm, and still just mid-February. It’s no wonder my Saturday was spent showing folks from Alberta around our gorgeous region! My wife (who is 8 months pregnant), our 2-year old daughter and I decided we’d get outdoors and do a hike. Having lived in the Demamiel Creek Estates neighbourhood for a couple of years, I’ve often looked out my window at Bluff Mountain, on the opposite side of Demamiel Creek and wondered what the view was like.
I learned of the trail up to Bluff Mountain quite some time ago, and I’m really not sure why it took so long to go explore it. The trailhead is located inside Camp Barnard, a Scouts Canada camp at the end of Young’s Lake Road. This is private property, and many have suggested that it is common courtesy to call the camp caretaker at 250 642-5924, or 250 415-1619. When we arrived it was clear there were quite a few people at the camp, so we parked in the gravel lot just past the camp office and walked to the trailhead. Just head past the parking lot to a grassy clearing with a couple of outhouses and picnic tables:
Having a 2-year old on my back and a pregnant wife, I wasn’t into getting too adventurous and we didn’t go all the way to the top. The Scouts trail takes you along a well marked path, with lots of sunlight filtering through the forest canopy above. The trail is pretty much a climb the whole way – there are very few flat parts. The grade is moderate, with a few “stair-master” sections where you’re climbing up rock or root stairs. Overall, I’d call this an easy to moderate trail. If you can hike Mount Finlayson, you can definitely hike this (I’d say it’s a little easier).
The trail snakes around, over a mixture of terrain including gravel, dirt, a little mud, rocks, and tree roots. There are directional arrows (blazes) on trees and orange flagging tape to help keep you on the trail. We found a cool shortcut but weren’t about to attempt it in with our daughter on my back and a bun in the oven:
After about 30-40 minutes of hiking, you’ll come to a bit of a fork in the trail. You will see a more obvious trail going to the left – this is the summit trail and it will take you further up the ridge. To your right, you can scramble on to the lower ridge which still has some amazing views. I would recommend going to the left up the summit trail – about another 10-15 minutes of hiking will get you to a much nicer vantage point, and the trail is more defined and easier to follow. Just look for this tree:
The forest is a mixture of Douglas fir (including one particularly enormous specimen) and other conifers, arbutus, salal, ferns, moss, and of course Scotch broom. We didn’t see any wildlife, but we did see several large birds soaring above (too far away to identify). The views are simply spectacular. You can see all of Sooke from as far east as Sunriver Estates and as far west as Sheringham. Bodies of water visible were Young Lake, Poirier Lake, Mckenzie Lake, Sooke Harbour, Sooke Basin, and the Juan de Fuca Strait. Obvious points of land include East Sooke, Whiffen Spit, and more. Stunning.
We had a nice picnic lunch and descended from there. I would love to climb to the top some day, and I’ll definitely return here soon. The trail was just challenging enough to be interesting, but easy enough that I felt safe with a 2-year-old on my back. Below is our route from the GPS app on my phone.