story and photos by Scottee Giles –
Our West Coast lifestyle is abundantly evident at the McKenzie Bight parking area where, on a Saturday morning in the middle of winter, locals are piling out of vehicles in toques and hiking boots, donning backpacks, waterproof gear, nordic walking poles, or trail running hydration. With a typical February forecast calling for a mix of rain, snow, and sun, being ready for anything is just part of our nature.
Gowlland Tod Provincial Park has over 1,200 protected hectares of cedar, ﬁr, hemlock, and pine forest with 25 kilometres of well-maintained trails. Clear signage makes it easy to ﬁnd your way. The McKenzie Bight trail begins near the north end of Ross Durrance road. Lined by huge ferns, it winds steeply downhill for 1.5km, following a creek to the ocean. The Cascade Trail, and McKenzie Bight Trail, are 200m apart, parallel to each other, connecting at the waterfront. Pease Lake feeds into Cascade Falls which runs especially full in the spring.
From the main beach the short Lookout Bight Trail leads to a viewpoint surrounded by Arbutus trees. Across the water you’ll see the Malahat Sky Walk, a stunning treetop adventure destination. Allow an hour to complete the Cascade-McKenzie Bight 3.5km loop due to the steep terrain, or plan for more time and continue hiking along the waterfront another 2km north.
Nearby McKenzie Bight Dive Site is well renowned for its variety of marine life including sea stars, wolf eels, huge lingcod, octopus, seals, and even rare sightings of sixgill sharks.
Finlayson Arm is the sheltered stretch of Paciﬁc waters that branches off from Saanich Inlet here, a unique fjord that rises 400 metres above the sea.
Surrounded by such vast beauty and biodiversity you can feel your heart match the rhythm of the ecosystem. If you need to ﬁnd your way, remember your love for the wild.