The 12.3 km hike on the Coast Trail in East Sooke Park is a standout if you’re looking for a full day outing near Victoria. The trailhead is only about a 45-minute drive from downtown Victoria. but it feels like a world away.
The hike along the Coast Trail in East Sooke is a great one from start to finish. It’s a model in contrasts: spectacular and rugged coastal scenery is broken by temperate rainforest filled with massive cedars and firs, some draped in moss. Throw in pocket beaches, tide pools, views of the Olympic Mountains, windswept pines and red barked arbutus trees, as well as swaths of wildflowers in season and you’ll understand the appeal of this hike in East Sooke Park.
You might not see a soul either. I didn’t see anyone for the first 90 minutes on a glorious Sunday.
Coast Trail hike in Sooke summary
Distance: 12.3 km (7.6 miles) one way
Elevation gain: Approximately 500 metres with all the up and down
Time needed: 5 – 7 hours depending on pace and how many stops you make
Type of hike: One way with a car shuttle or walk half way and then back out again
Trail signage: Excellent
Level of difficulty: Moderate
Dogs allowed: Allowed on a leash.
Best time to hike: Year round but don’t do it on a windy day.
Starting point northern end: The western Pike Road trailhead (there’s a good map at the start)
End point southern end: Aylard Farm
No camping is permitted in the park.
Take lots of water, especially in summer.
There is cellphone coverage though you might end up paying US roaming charges as Washington State is just across the water.
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What can you expect on the Coast Trail in East Sooke Park?
Make no mistake. The Coast Trail in Sooke is not an easy hike like coastal trails everywhere in British Columbia. The 12.3 km takes a solid five hours moving at a good clip. The Coast Trail moves between shaded valleys and narrow cliff-side paths.
In wet weather, the trail would be slick. Other than the flat walk in or out from the parking lot at the northern trailhead, the trail offers nothing but continuous ups and downs. Like many a coastal trail, its name belies the level of difficulty.
Watch your footing constantly. Near the end of the trail when I was busy taking pictures, I stumbled ass over teakettle as the saying goes, and ended up splat in the bushes – fortunately with only my pride wounded.
Coast Trail hike logistics
The hike requires some pre-planning with respect to transportation logistics. A car shuttle or a drop off is the ideal scenario so you only need to hike it one way. Otherwise count on a brutal 10 plus hour day.
Your options include starting at either Pike Road at the northern end of the trail or Aylard Farm at the southern end. Both are about a 45-minute drive from Victoria.
Options if you can’t arrange a shuttle
If it’s not possible to do a shuttle, consider doing a loop beginning and ending at Aylard Farm. Take the interior trail out to Cabin Point and return to the parking lot via the Coast Trail. Don’t worry about finding your way either. Signage is excellent with an easy to understand map at every intersection. The loop hike is probably not a full 12.3 km but it will still take you a solid three to four hours.
Another option – and a family-friendly one at that, is to do an out and back hike to Iron Mine Bay and the beautiful pocket beach there. Start at the western Pike Road trailhead.
Best time to do the Coast Trail hike
In theory, you can do the Coast Trail in Sooke at any time of the year but it’s particularly lovely in spring with the wildflowers emerging. Avoid the hike during high wind storms when the groaning trees are sure to unnerve you or worse, topple over. You can’t camp overnight but the park is open from sunrise to sunset.
More photos of the Coast Trail in Sooke
The following photos will give you an idea of what to expect on the hike and the terrain you’ll encounter.
If part of your group isn’t interested in hiking, they can spend many hours enjoying the area around Aylard Farm. It’s a great spot for a picnic. Even better, there’s a short but steep trail down to a pocket beach where you can explore the intertidal life. If you’re lucky you might even see river otters.
Where to stay in Sooke
One of the loveliest places in Sooke is the Sooke Harbour House. We splurged and stayed here after hiking the Juan de Fuca Trail. Enjoy beautiful gardens, nicely appointed rooms and delicious food. I highly recommend it. (Renovations are still happening in 2023.)