Sooke Potholes Provincial and Regional Parks are in the seaside community of Sooke, one of thirteen communities that form the Capital Regional District of British Columbia. Located on the southern end of Vancouver Island, the two parks are side-by-side and provide protection and access to the popular summer swimming destination. The provincial park is the lower section of the parkland. This park was established in nineteen seventy two although people have been coming here for swimming and camping notably since eighteen forty-nine. The parks border on the Sea to Sea Regional Park, the Galloping Goose Trail and are close to Sooke Mountain Provincial Park.
There are several swimming and hiking opportunities from the road in this seven and half hectare provincial parkland. This first section of the potholes in Sooke River, the Flats, is provincial maintained. From the parking area, it is short walk from your vehicle to the sandy bank of the Sooke River. This is a favorite place to take young children as the pond is large, shallow and the currents are slower. Immediately upstream is a short section of shallow faster water and another large pond. The provincial park is a terrific spot of swimming in the refreshing waters of Sooke River. This parking area is also close to the Harrison Trail in the Sea to Sea Park.
The deep potholes of Sooke River are more defined in the Sooke Potholes Regional Park. The Metchosin volcanic bedrock has been sculpted by the flowing river water and geological process over thousands of year to form smooth deep pools in the river bed. There are also sections of steep rocky cliffs and faster rushing waters that from a deep gorge. The bedrock that that form the Sooke Gorge are metamorphic oceanic crest rocks of basalt. The large holes in the basalt were carved by rocks and boulders that were moved by the currents and swirled around. These grinders helped to form the holes as they were caught in and gouged the basalt to the pools that are wide and deep for swimming in. Care must always be taken when exploring and swimming in Sooke River. Exercise great awareness and carefulness around river currents.
Further upriver from the Flats, the Sooke Potholes Regional Park is an additional sixty three hectares of parkland that is a welcoming place to hike all year round. This parkland was acquired in two thousand and five with the remains of a large wilderness lodge, Deer Trail, and foundations of the homestead near Mary Vine Creek. About five kilometers further along the road is a camping area for the Sooke River, Spring Salmon Campground. In the hot summer days, these carved rock potholes are a refreshing place to swim and can be accessed from three parking areas. In the fall, watching the salmon spawn is a fascinating experience.
Crescent Beach can be reached on a rough nature trail from parking lot one. There are toilets as well as an information sign map located here. Crescent Beach is a small sandy area along a pond like section of the river. The currents here are usually slowing although the water is cool. Hike along the Riverside Trail to reach several other places to view the river and to swim. The Riverside Trail is a rough pathway that follows the banks of the river with sections that connect with the roadway to the second and third parking areas as well as the campground about five kilometers uphill.
Barnes Station is at parking lot two. This was once a train stop for the Canadian National Railway Line which continue to Leechtown then onto Lake Cowichan. It is better known as the Galloping Goose Railway and this station building has been converted to a place of refuge along the Galloping Goose Trail – Sooke. Initiate your cycling trip from this parking lot to complete the last six kilometers as a bicycle ride to Leechtown. This parking area is rather convoluted and can hold more cars than it seems. There are many tall Douglas fir, cedar and hemlock trees that provide shade over the area. There are toilets located here as well. Nearby is Sand Pebble Beach, another excellent spot to take a dip and enjoy sound of flow water in the Sooke River. From parking lot two access the Mary Vine Falls Trail. This two kilometer rough trail, round trip, provides access to a cascading water fall. The trail is along the creek and has steep sections. Continue past the falls, about another kilometer to reach Peden Lake. Again this trail has steep sections.
Just slightly further along the road is the small parking lot three. This parking area is also a appealing spot to access the Galloping Goose Trail – Sooke although the connection trail is longer. This is the last parking area before the campgrounds. Park here to access the upper sections of the river. There are steep cliffs and narrow gorges with small beach areas like Skipping Rock Beach and Ripple Rock Beach. Further along the Riverside Trail is Hideaway Beach. As it is found just before the campground, it is popular with the campers.
The Capital Regional District has a good trail and beach map for the Sooke Potholes Regional Park.
Geographical location N48º 25’ 42” W123º 42’ 46” near entrance to the park
Sooke Potholes Park can be reached from the Trans Canada Highway. Take the Langford Parkway exit and follow along to reach Sooke Road (Hwy 14). Follow highway 14 to Sooke River Road. Continue along Sooke River Road about five kilometers to reach the parkland. There are four parking areas in the two parks. The first parking area is in the provincial park and has a pit toilet. The road, which is gated, continues up a steep hill to reach several smaller parking areas. These are numbered one through three and provide access to unique places in the parkland. All parking lots have nominal pay parking.