With four hundred and seventy seven hectares to explore, Goldstream River Provincial Park of British Columbia lies within the City of Langford, B.C. The park is about sixteen kilometers north of Victoria, B.C., along the Trans Canada Highway (Hwy1). The highway bisects the park, north to south, as it follows the river bed. As a large park in your backyard, there are several trails for short or long walks through a variety of terrains and flora.
The Goldstream River drains a forty-eight square kilometer watershed that includes three tributaries: Langford, Waugh and Niagara creeks. There are six lakes: Langford, Jack, Mavis, Butchart, Lubbe and Goldstream that lie within the watershed area. Other than Langford Lake, these lakes are used as water reservoirs (and have earth dam berms) and lie within the Greater Victoria Water Supply Area or within the Sooke Hills Wilderness Regional Park Reserve. Both the area and reserve have restricted access. Other water sources that are part of drainage area of Goldstream River are the Japan Gulch and Humpback Reservoirs. Emptying into the end of Saanich Inlet, part of the Salish Sea, the estuary of the Goldstream River forms a large shallow mud flat that hosts local and migratory waterfowl and fish, as well as small animals like snakes, salamanders, raccoons, otters and mink. This area is part of the Finlayson Arm section of Saanich Inlet. The site is accessible by boat although there are no trails or dock within the park to the shore and it is a quiet no access zone, both by water and land.
In Goldstream Park, there are seven nature trails of varying lengths. Six hundred year old western red cedar, Douglas-fir, grand fir and large big-leaf maple trees can be seen along the Lower Goldstream or Nature House Trail. This eight hundred meter stroll from the main parking area, beside Hwy1, to the nature house is along a gravel and asphalt pathway. This riverside pathway is in the lower section of Goldstream Park and passes near the river where, in the autumn months, pacific salmon spawn. Natural history information boards are seen along the route. The nature house is both an educational center and store with a fine selection of natural and cultural history items. The center is open seasonally. A wildlife view point is accessed along the boardwalk near the nature house. A small gazebo provides shelter while observing eagles, gulls and other wildlife. The picnic area, near the main parking area, has toilets as well as benches and picnic tables. This is a busy area especially during the spectacular salmon run in late October to November.
The Lower Goldstream Trail, as well as Mount Finlayson Trail, Gold Mine Trail, Niagara Falls Trail, Arbutus Ridge Trail and Prospector’s Trail can be accessed from the main parking area of Goldstream Park. Upper Goldstream Trail is on the west side of the TransCanada Highway and best accessed from the Golden Gate Road that leads to the campground. Arbutus Ridge Trail and Prospector’s Trail also traverse the west side of the parkland.
Mount Finlayson is a four-hundred and seventeen meter high peak to the east and is part of the Highland Range on Southern Vancouver Island. The one and half kilometer long trail to the summit is a study in switchbacks. There are several hairpin turns through the Douglas-fir and cedar forest on the lower west slope of Mount Finlayson. Once clear the forest, the wark gneiss bedrock face is marked with discrete metal orange flags to indicate the trail as it crisscrosses the mossy terrain. This section is rocky and steep; it is not particularly dog or child friendly terrain. Although this trail has been compared to North Vancouver’s Grouse Grind, the exposed rock section of the trail is unique to Mount Finlayson.
The view from the summit of Mt Finlayson includes the Salish Sea, Juan de Fuca Strait, and the Olympic Mountains in Washington State as the distant backdrop to the golf course and housing area directly below. Victoria and Esquimalt harbours are in the middle distance. The summit of Mt Finlayson can also be reached a trail that starts along Finalyson Arm Road. This trail is an old fire access route up the northeastern side of the mountain and is about two and half kilometers. Groves of arbutus trees mix in with large Douglas fir trees throughout the north slopes of Mount Finlayson. Where the understory is well shaded and damp, large sword ferns cover the forest floor otherwise snowberry, salal and Oregon grape plants are seen. The occasionally edible fungi in this area are frequently removed by foragers.
Gold Mine Trail branches off the nature house trail at the pedestrian bridge over Niagara Creek. This trail includes the short two hundred meter trail to Niagara Falls. Stroll under Hwy1 using the underpass tunnel designed for the creek; Niagara Creek is a seasonal creek with low flow in summer and early autumn. About one and four fifths of a kilometer long, the Gold Mine Trail continues along the north side of the creek and passes over the forty seven meter high ephemeral Niagara Falls. The falls are quite spectacular in the winter months. The trail is initially steep with fence lies along some of the ridge sections. As you stroll up the ridge lines toward the western border of the park look for sites of old-time resource extraction and the small gold mine. Salal, sword ferns and snowberry plants line the trail under the tall Douglas-fir and western red cedar trees. Eventually the trail branches with one section heading to railway track. The railway track forms the western border of the park and has a remarkable wooden trestle that crosses over the ravine of Niagara Creek. Continue southward along the footpath which follows the ridge line about a kilometer to connect with Arbutus Ridge Trail. Look for signs for the Miner’s Spring and Hidden Spring Falls.
Arbutus Ridge Trail lies on the west side of the park and has two loop trails. It is best accessed from the campground on the end of Golden Gate Road. The main trailhead is at campsite forty which lies at the end of the first road to the right from the campground gatehouse. There are toilets near the trailhead. Additional routes to Arbutus Ridge Trail are found in the campground. The trail is about two and half kilometers one way on a narrow forested pathway. The noise from the traffic can be heard through the trees. The park map is shown at main junctions along the route. The Arbutus Ridge Trail climbs up to the ridge line where groves of arbutus trees are seen shading the moss covered rocks and ground. There is a concrete staircase with fourteen steps just before the cairn marking the junction of four sections. There are several foot bridges along the trail that cross over small ephemeral creeks along the loop route. Salal, snowberry and oceanspray bushes fill in areas where the sun reaches the forest floor. In other areas large ferns thrive. The route can be shorted by taking the Arbutus Ridge Loop or lengthened by continuing north ward to connect with the Gold Mine Trail and see Niagara Falls. The railway track is up the slope to the west. A longer route would incorporate the Prospector’s Trail which starts on the west side of the park and passes under the tunnel with Goldstream River to reach the eastern portion.
About four kilometers round trip, the Prospector’s Trail links the campground area to the day-use area of the park. The route has a couple of branches and connects with the Arbutus Ridge Trail on the west side and Mount Finlayson Trail on the east side. Garry oak, arbutus and Douglas-fir trees provide shade along different parts of the Prospector’s Trail. Leaving the camp ground the Prospector’s Trail and Arbutus Ridge Trail head down a gully near Goldstream River. There is a small watering hole near the trail which looks good for swimming. The path leads up the north side of the gully climbing steadily to reach the junction. Prospector ‘s Trail heads east while Arbutus Ridge Trail continues up the hill. Heading down the trail, there are views of Goldstream River and the retaining walls for Hwy1. A wooden foot bridge allows easy passage over the river. The trail continues on the other side of the Hwy1 so either wait for a good moment to race across the road or wade in the water to go through the underpass. Once across the trail is discretely tucked under the shrubs near the river. Continually along the trail for about a hundred meters to reach the junction to the trail that leads to the group campground and park headquarters. About seven hundred meters further is the junction with Mt Finlayson. There is staircase that leads toward Finlayson Arm Road and to the day-use area.
Upper Goldstream Trail follows the upper section of the river. The trail starts to the left of the campground gatehouse. The paved road leads to the campground with one hundred and fifty sites; a second group site is near the park headquarters on the east side of Hwy1. The rough trail follows the creek along a ridge line about ten meters above the water. The trail about eleven hundred meters with moderate slopes. Eventually there is a wooden view point and series of staircases down to the pond forms by the eight meter tall waterfall. This is a nice spot for a dip. The forest is green year round with the tall conifers like Douglas fir, western red cedar and hemlock. Seasonally leaved trees like big-leaf maple, alder and black cottonwood are seen along the path. Numerous ferns, salal, blackberries and ocean spray survive in the ground beneath these six hundred year old trees. The occasional arbutus tree is also seen along this pathway. Further upstream above the water fall is the Howard English Hatchery, established in nineteen seventy one. The hatchery rears chum, coho and chinook salmon for help maintain the fish in the river. There are also series of dams, built by Esquimalt Waterworks that formed the decommissioned Lubbe Hydroelectric Plan. This hydro dam operated for sixty years from eighteen-ninety seven. The seven lakes that were incorporated in this water supply are part of the secondary reservoir system forming the Greater Victoria Water Supply Area.
Goldstream Park was donated as parkland by the Greater Victoria Water Board in nineteen fifty nine and became a provincial park in nineteen ninety four.
Geographic location N48° 28’42” W123°32’53” for main parking lot
Goldstream Park can be reached from the Trans Canada Highway also called Hwy1. Continue north on Hwy1 for about seventeen kilometers. As the roadway narrows into Goldstream River valley, look for signs to indicate Finlayson Arm Road and the main parking area for the park. It is to the right of the highway. There is parking on both sides of the Finlayson Arm Road. There is no public bus service to this area. A nominal charge is expected for parking.