5 Reasons to Visit Goldstream Provincial Park
Goldstream Provincial Park, nestled in the lush wilderness at the base of the Malahat, is a fantastic place to escape the bustle of the city while still staying right in Langford’s backyard. With 477 hectares of towering trees, rugged mountains, rushing waterfalls, and meandering waterways, it is truly a treasure of Vancouver Island.
Weaving between the old-growth forest is a network of trails more than 16km long. From wide winding trails that are wheelchair accessible to steep scrambles that will delight the most adventurous soul, the trails offer something for everyone. Great for a family outing, energizing hikes, social picnics, or even camping, there are many ways to enjoy the park.
With so much variety and land to cover, it takes many visits to truly appreciate Goldstream Provincial Park. To get you started, here are some highlights you won’t want to miss.
At 47.5 meters tall, Niagara Falls is almost as high as its famous namesake. That’s where the similarities end, though. Cascading majestically down a rock cliff into a serene pool, the thin ribbon of Niagara Creek makes the stunning height seem unlikely and magical. The cliffs curl around, tucking the falls into the lush landscape surrounding it. The waterfall with the mossy cliffs, vibrant ferns, and rocky creek bed make for stunning photos and a particularly romantic backdrop. On hot days, those not adverse to cold water can dip their toes (or more) into the pool and enjoy the cool canyon air.
This beauty isn’t hard to get to, though it can feel like a small adventure. From the day lot, hikers start north. After a short distance, you will come to where the creek’s overflow tunnel crosses under the highway. Scramble through the culvert and up the left bank on the other side. Then you’ll be on the short trail that leads to the falls.
In the winter, spring, or after heavy rains, however, the creek’s overflow runs too high for hikers to pass through the culvert. If you want to see the falls in its rushing glory, you will need to park on the other side of the highway. The pull-off is only about 1km north of the day lots, though you will need to drive about 5km to the first turnaround in order to reach it.
Aside from the excitement of the culvert, the trail is short and easy, making it well suited for small children and dogs (just make sure to keep your furry friends on a leash and clean up after them).
Mount Finlayson is one of the highest points in Greater Victoria and gives hikers spectacular views over the peninsula. You’ll have to earn the view, though. In just 2 km, the trail ascends 400 meters, making it one of the steepest trails in the area.
On average, the hike to the top takes 45 minutes, so plan for an hour and a half or two hours to complete the round trip, plus whatever time you want to spend at the top. You may, however, encounter some locals doing it much faster, or even multiple times a day. Mount Finlayson is Victoria’s equivalent to North Vancouver’s Grouse Grind and is used by fitness enthusiasts to work up a sweat on a regular basis.
Pop on your appropriate hiking footwear and grab your water (both musts for this rugged trail) and prepare for a tough climb ahead. The trail quickly gains ground under towering trees and over twisting root systems. Once you climb above the tree line, it’s time for a scramble up exposed rock. Steep and uneven in spots, the rocky section demands caution and makes the trail unsuitable for small children. Then it’s time to soak in the 360 views of Victoria and beyond.
While Mount Finlayson can be climbed year-round, make sure to respect the elements. Snow and rain can make the rocks slippery and very dangerous. Therefore, the trail is best enjoyed on a sunny day, which is when you’ll enjoy the most impressive views anyway.
The Goldstream Nature House is a must-stop spot for anyone wanting to know more about the park and the nature you can find within it. Located at the mouth of the Goldstream River and just a short walk from the day parking lots, it has stunning views out over Finlayson Arm. The building was originally constructed in the 1950s for the Victoria Rod and Gun Club and was converted to an educational centre in 1976.
The Nature House has been improving and expanding its educational displays ever since. It now boasts interactive nature displays, live wildlife cams, and a gift shop filled with all the field guides you could ever want. There is always a Naturalist either in the centre or nearby to answer any of your questions. It also offers hot coffee on cold days and ice cream during the heat of summer.
The Nature House is only open seasonally from Thursday to Monday, so be sure to check ahead before making a trip out to visit. The recommended donation for admission is $2/adult or $1/child and the donation, as well as any money you spend in the gift store, goes directly to funding their environmental education programs.
Goldstream Provincial Park is locally famous for its salmon run. It is one of the richest spawning streams on Vancouver Island, with thousands of Chum salmon and smaller numbers of Chinook and Coho salmon returning to the river each year. While the peak of the salmon run varies from year to year, it typically takes place between mid-October and December.
The trail along Goldstream River provides plenty of viewing opportunities. However, it is a very popular fall activity, so it’s best to avoid the busy weekends and/or carpool if at all possible. Bring sunglasses with polarizing lenses to cut down on glare from the water and prepare to be amazed. You’ll see salmon making their way up the shallow stream, females digging nests in the streambed, males fighting over spawning rights, and the courtship itself when males vibrate rapidly against the females. You can also head into the Nature House, where they have all sorts of info about the salmon as well as an underwater live cam.
Watching the salmon run is both impressive and educational. It can be easy to get caught up in the experience, but make sure to respect the salmon. Avoid wearing brightly coloured clothing that can spook the fish and approach the river slowly and quietly. Never enter or throw things into the water, and if you’re unable to leave your dog at home, make sure they are leashed and kept away from the river.
While you are there to watch the salmon, make sure to keep an eye out for eagles as well. In 1990, Goldstream Provincial Park created a “Quiet Zone” around the estuary where Goldstream River meets Finlayson Arm. This resulted in a resurgence of eagles in the area, and when a black bear made its way there to feed on Salmon in 1994, the area was closed off to the public for the duration of the salmon run. In more recent years has been permanently closed year-round. Prioritizing wildlife has created a safe space to feed and nest, away from human interruption. Since the closing of the estuary, the annual eagle count has gone from 12 to over 200.
The best time to view the eagles is at low tide during the salmon run when the dead salmon are easy for them to scoop up from the tidal zone. There is a viewing platform by the Visitor Centre, and in the Centre itself there is an eagle camera that allows you to zoom in on the birds in the estuary. Don’t forget your binoculars and camera!
Goldstream Campground is a popular camping spot for its access to everything the Goldstream Provincial Park has to offer and its close proximity to the city. With fully accessible amenities and vehicle access, anyone can enjoy spending a night in nature. There are 159 spots, many of which can be reserved, and others available on a first-come, first-served basis. On summer weekends, however, it’s best to have a reservation, as it fills up quickly.
The campground is amenity-rich, with drinking water, washrooms, and garbage close at hand, plus several showers scattered throughout the campground, a playground, a small bike park, and access to numerous trails. The campground is close to the Goldstream River, and you can follow the Upper Goldstream Trail a short distance to Goldstream Falls. Despite slightly shorter than Ontario’s Niagara Falls, it is still a beautiful sight, and on hot summer days, you’ll often see swimmers in the pool below.
You can read more about the camping experience at Goldstream Campground in our blog post “Let’s camp! A guide to spending the weekend at Goldstream Provincial Park” (link).
Whether you are coming to spend an hour, a day, or a weekend in Goldstream Provincial Park, you’ll find plenty to fill your time. From exercise to relaxation, social gatherings to educational opportunities, this lush park welcomes you to reconnect with nature.