Hiking is a major activity on Salt Spring Island, British Columbia, with many mountain, beach, and park trails. The most challenging hiking in the BC Gulf Islands is found on the rough trails that lead to the tops of both Bruce Peak (2,326 feet/709 m) and Mount Tuam (1,975 feet/602 m), the tallest points of land on the Southern Gulf Islands. Take Musgrave Road west from Fulford Harbour to reach both trailheads, though eventually by different routes. One leads north off Musgrave to Bruce, while another leads south to Tuam. You’ll find great views from both down onto the Saanich Inlet and Saanich Peninsula, and across Satellite Channel to Cowichan Bay. If you make this hike in summer, take plenty of drinking water with you as these open slopes are baked by the sun.
Mount Maxwell Provincial Park gives visitors the chance to stand on the top of Baynes Peak, Salt Spring Island’s highest point, and enjoy the best views anywhere on the islands. Baynes Peak is crowned by a forest of mature grand fir and Garry oak trees. Find a sheltered ledge and lean back to drink in all of this. Ravens ride the updrafts off the face of the mountain and rise and dive as they cavort with each other. Mount Maxwell Park offers approximately 6 kms of maintained trails that all start at the parking lot and range from easy strolls to more demanding hikes.
Trails to the north and east travel through wooded areas of old-growth and second-growth Douglas fir. The trail to the west follows along the ridge of Mount Maxwell and links up with the park entrance road approximately 2 km from the parking lot. There are excellent views from various points along the trails, particularly at Baynes Peak. From here visitors can get a panoramic look at Vancouver Island, the surrounding Gulf Islands and the BC mainland. Mount Maxwell Park is also accessed by a short 350-metre trail that starts near the end of Armand Way.
Hope Hill offers 7 kilometres of trails through forests of fir and cedar, and great views over Fulford Harbour, southern Salt Spring, the San Juan Islands and Washington’s Mount Baker. The moderate Hope Hill Trails are accessed off Musgrave Road on southern Salt Spring Island.
Ruckle Provincial Park on Beaver Point Road offers an extensive trail system, with more than 15 kilometres of hiking and walking trails. The park boasts one of the best hikes on the island, with trails winding through old-growth forests of fir, hemlock, cedar and alder. A shoreline trail runs from the heritage farm area right through to Yeo Point, along with other inland trail routes that range from easy walks to more difficult hikes. Detailed park trail maps are located at information shelters and convenient points along the trails.
Mount Erskine Trail (2.5 km) is a steep and challenging trail to near the 441-metre summit of Mount Erskine. Two viewpoints are located in the park; one at the summit and another at a lower elevation off the Mount Erskine Trail. Hikers can access Mount Erskine Provincial Park via the Mount Erskine Upper Access Park Reserve owned by the Capital Regional District (CRD). This access is located in Rainbow Grove at the end of Trustees Trail. From this point, Dodds Trail enters the park from the eastern side and connects to the rest of the Mount Erskine trail system. Hikers using these trails pass through mature Douglas-fir forests to a rocky summit where they are rewarded with wonderful views of Booth Bay and Sansum Narrows. At the summit, visitors can view Vancouver Island, north towards Mount Arrowsmith, Chemainus and Nanaimo and east across Trincomali Channel to Galiano Island and the Lower Mainland. Hikers are cautioned that some sections of the trails travel close to the cliff edge.
Channel Ridge Trail system covers a wide range of terrain and habitats, with beautiful views from the lookout points over St. Mary Lake and Stuart Channel. Most of the trails are open to hikers, bicycles and horses, but trails crossing Watershed Preservation Society lands are only open to hikers. The extensive Channel Ridge network of trails – moderate with challenging sections – are accessible through an agreement with the owners of Channel Ridge Properties. The trails combine for a total 15 kms in length, with numerous access points from the north and south ends of the Channel Ridge lands.
Reginald Hill offers a challenging short (1.5 km) but steep hike through second-growth forest to splendid views from the top of Reginald Hill to the north and south over Fulford Harbour, Fulford Valley and beyond.
Chris Hatfield Trail is an easy 20-minute walk each way through second-growth forest to a pebble beach on Captain Passage. The trail connects to the trails in Ruckle Park.
Duck Creek Park has over 2 kms of trails along a cool, shaded creek and through open meadow, providing a lovely field and stream hiking loop – about a 45-minute walk. Access to the 14-acre park is across from 209 Sunset Drive, or between 158 and 160 Broadwell Road.
Bryant Hill Park (82 acres) offers a 2.2-km moderate loop trail that meanders through mature forest, with some challenging sections. The first kilometre is a gently-sloping old logging road, but the trail abruptly steepens after crossing a small stream, continuing over hills until it crosses another bridge and returns to the trailhead. About 250 meters along the trail is the connector trail to Peter Arnell Park.
Peter Arnell Park offers a 30-minute (over 1.5 km) trail loop for a vigorous walk through the forest, with breathtaking ocean views towards Galiano Island and Active Pass. A memorial cairn is located across Stewart Road, just passed the park sign. The hike from Peter Arnell Park, along the Connector Trail to the Bryant Hill Park loop is a great workout.
Bryant Hill – Peter Arnell Connector Trail is a strenuous and challenging 2.7-km hike with some steep sections. Hikers will require some stamina and good boots to get down safely from Bryant Hill Park to Peter Arnell Park and its trail system.
Mouat Regional Park in Ganges offers a network of over 8 km in easy walking and hiking trails. The main entrance to the 56-acre park is on Seaview Drive, just passed ArtSpring.
Jack Foster Trail is a 4-km round trip walk (30 minutes) through mixed forest and wetlands to a stunning beach with views across to Galiano Island. Low tide will allow access around the point to small, sheltered sandstone coves at the end of Arbutus and Zabel roads. Jack Foster Trail is located on Southey Point at the northern tip of the island, accessed north of North End Road on Southey Point Road.
Hiking the Gulf Islands is a definitive guidebook written by Salt Spring author Charles Kahn.