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Three trails west of Esquimalt worth checking out

Each offers something different, and all have something worth seeing
The tree’s knees are a mystery waiting to be solved at Elsie King Trail in Francis King Regional Park. (Bailey Moreton/News Staff)

Vancouver Island is renowned for its nature and the number of trails that snake through it. There’s a lot to see and a lot of paths to take you there. No more so is that true than in Greater Victoria, which has its own selection of hikes well worth the time. We’ve taken your top picks and hiked them so you don’t have to (but you still should).

“Walk through Francis King’s mysterious doorway” – Francis King Regional Park (Elsie King Trail) - 15 minutes (1/10 difficulty)

Francis King Regional Park is 107 acres and there is a lot to see. The area is chock full of trails, with Francis King right next to Thetis Lake. One of the shortest but most interesting trails is Elsie King, which starts at the Nature House and has information signs dotted along the boardwalk to highlight some of the interesting features of this forest area. Rarely can you say you learned a lot on a hike, but on Elsie King you can with tree’s knees, forest fire scarring and the mysterious doorway all highlights of this trail. The CRD describes the trail as “universally accessible” and the boardwalk is smooth throughout, making it a trail for all.

“Lots to see at the lake, lots who see it” – Thetis Lake (Lower Lake loop trail) - 45 minutes (3/10 difficulty)

Thetis Lake is a hotspot, especially on hot days. But once you trek past the beaches there’s some lovely nature to take in. The park has over 40 kilometers of recreational trails to explore and lots of nature to take in (the park was established as Canada’s first nature sanctuary in 1958).

The lower loop trail is a nice mixture of some short steep hills and flat sections that take you all around the lower portion of the lake (the Upper Lake trail continues on from the Lower Lake trail and doubles the journey time). The trails are definitely quieter the farther away from the beach you get, although there are the occasional paddle boarders or kayakers who cruise by. But as you continue on your walk, you leave the beach behind and become surrounded by trees and nature.

“Mill Hill offers marvelous mountain vistas” – Mill Hill (Summit trail) - 25 minutes there, 15 minutes back (5/10 difficulty)

The Mill Hill summit trail may make you lose your breath but you’ll gain a greater appreciation for the Island on the way up. The summit is 203 metres up, according to the CRD, and the climb is reasonably steep but thankfully short.

At the top of this hill, you get views of the West Shore, Esquimalt, the Olympic Mountains and on a clear day, Mount Baker looming over everything. Glorious. Careful on your way down, the trail is rocky gravel and can be slippery, but a worthwhile jaunt nevertheless.


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A view of Esquimalt and Victoria from the summit of Mill Hill. (Bailey Moreton/News Staff)
The view from the summit of Mill Hill looking back down towards the path with the Olympic Mountains in Washington in the background. (Bailey Moreton/News Staff)
Some kayakers paddle past on Thetis Lake, as seen from the Lower Loop trail. (Bailey Moreton/News Staff)
Paddleboarders cruise past on Thetis Lake. The lake can get busy, but as you walk the trail it becomes quieter as nature surrounds you. (Bailey Moreton/News Staff)