Welcome to a new series on What The Sooke?!: Sooke Parks In Profile. Sooke has some amazing parks – and I want to tell the world about it. From East Sooke to Port Renfrew, our region is dotted with pockets of green space and vast swaths of wilderness, and I’m sure there are even parks you never knew were there. This series is dedicated to profiling our region’s parks.
East Sooke Park will always hold a special place in my heart. It’s the first place I went hiking when I moved to the Island nearly six years ago and I can remember how it felt to drive 20 minutes from my house and be in complete wilderness. East Sooke Park is one of the largest regional parks in the Capital Regional District, with over 1400 hectares (nearly 3500 acres) of mountaintops, rainforest, coastline, and beaches. There are nearly 50 km of trails through and around the park.
There are three entrances to the park – Aylard Farm (eastern end of the park, near the Metchosin border), Anderson Cove (somewhat in the middle), and Pike Road (at the far west end and furthest from other communities). Aylard Farm is probably the most popular entrance due to its proximity to other communities and its large parking lot. It also features a huge, grassy meadow, an old orchard, and a short stroll to one of the best sandy beaches in the region.
When my family and I went out to East Sooke on Sunday, the sun was shining, and the parking lot was packed. Once again I was reminded of one of the reasons I love East Sooke Park so much – even if the parking lot is packed, the park is so huge you’ll feel like you’re all alone. We did a fairly familiar hike for us – the Coast Trail. The Coast trail is approximately 10km from end to end, and a popular day hike. The best way to do the Coast Trail is to take two cars, parking one at Aylard Farm, and the other at Pike Road. On Sunday, we did the most popular portion of the trail, which goes from Aylard Farm to Beechy Head. The terrain is varied, from forest paths to clambering over the rugged rocky shoreline. Overall, it’s not too challenging – we had our 7-month-old with us.
I’ve never hiked the Coast Trail very far past Beechy Head. As it is a popular turnaround, the trail is easy to lose past this point. We opted to turn inland and take the trail back to Aylard Farm. Our total distance was probably about 4km, and we hiked at a leisurely pace, spending about 3 hours in the park.
Besides the Coast Trail, there are many other sights to see in East Sooke Park. Remnants of the park’s resource-economy-based roots are evident in the park – areas like Iron Mine Bay, The Copper Mine Trail, and The Trap Shack at Cabin Point have many stories to tell. Babbington Hill and Mount Maguire have good views and are challenging inclined trails.
There are pit toilets at each of the parking areas and at the end of the Pike Road Trail. East Sooke Park is considered a wilderness park, so please go prepared and let somebody know you’re gone and when you’ll be back. Cell phone service is sketchy in the park, but you may be able to pick up a U.S. tower (turn on roaming) in an emergency. If you find yourself stranded in the park, your best bet would be to get to the coastline as the Strait of Juan de Fuca is busy with fishing boats and whale watching just off shore, especially in the summer. There are also shelters at Cabin Point and Pike Point.
What’s your favourite part about East Sooke Park? Share your stories and pictures in the comments!