by Sheila Molloy –
The views are spectacular regardless of how you get to the Centre of the Universe.
The Dominion Astrophysical Observatory (DAO) is a national historic site and is renowned for many discoveries including the nature of the Milky Way. Located on top of Little Saanich Mountain, the familiar white-domed roof has been a part of our local landscape for decades.
The road and paths up to the DAO were closed the last two years but have now reopened with thanks to the National Research Council. The Centre itself is supported by the Friends of the DAO who have worked for years to maintain the
Centre and its programming. We encourage you to learn more, especially if you are coming to cycle, hike, walk, or drive to the top.
Officially located at 5071 West Saanich Road, there is parking before the entrance gate and then again midway and at the top.
Scenic Drive – A slow scenic drive to the top. The entrance gates are open during regular working hours.
Cycling – great for cyclists looking for traffic-free climbing. The length of the paved road is 2.2 kilometres up with an average six-percent grade. It is closed to drivers outside regular hours.
Walking or hiking – there are variations depending on what you are looking to get out of it.
For more challenge, there is a loop route that starts (or finishes) on a very steep hard-packed trail and meanders through the forest and onto the road at times. It starts just inside the main gate on the left side. Look for the large land ownership signs to guide you on this trail.
Following the paved road lets you take your time gaining elevation. It is easily as beautiful as the forest path and has the benefit of being more accessible. The total distance up and back down is 4.75 km with a 138-metre elevation gain.
Regardless of your path, the fabulous views at the top will take you past a plethora of flora and fauna. Birds are everywhere, tall trees abound, and the Garry Oak ecosystem surrounds you. The rock outcrops are tall, spectacular, and dotted with wildflowers.
Things to Note
The trail and road are open year-round, while vehicle entry is closed outside regular working hours which is generally 9:15 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The pedestrian/cyclist latched gate left of the main entrance gate is open at all times.
Dogs are welcome but must be on a leash.
Learn more at www.centreoftheuniverse.org.