by Sheila Molloy –
This park offers lush forest of old-growth Douglas fir and Garry oak, inspiring sequences of wildflowers all spring, and overlooks the Saanich Peninsula, Gulf Islands and the Cascade Mountains for great views all year.
The park can be accessed from East Saanich Road, by heading west on Dean Park Road and proceeding past the park gate until you reach the main parking lot.
We selected the Pickles’ Bluff Loop (ȽÁU,WELṈEW Trail) for its forest diversity, easy hike rating, amazing eastward views and overlooks.
Our hike starts to the left of the maintenance access gate at the ThunderbirdTrail / ȽÁU,WELṈEW Summit trail sign.
This short trail heads up the hill over a well-worn path with sections of rock steps, flanked by moss-covered trees and leads out to the access road after a few minutes.
Slight left and look towards the graffitied water reservoir in the distance but head up the road past the grand walls of rock until you meet another small road that leads to the communications tower. (A quick side journey on the path to the wooden viewing platform is worthwhile.)
Head straight to the sign that says Lookout Trail to Pickles’ Bluff. The first section sends you down a number of stone stairs of varying height, so watch your step. A narrow trail brings you to your next path choice between the Lookout Trail or ȽÁU,WELṈEW Trail.
Following the Lookout Trail will take you down and then back up the loop. The wooden, well-maintained stairs and platform makes the choice to take the path this direction a little simpler.
Stop to take in the panorama from Pickles’ Bluff and then, as you follow the well-marked path, keep looking to your left for more great views. There is one big step up about halfway on this loop side where a little scrambling may be required.
Once you get to the junction of ȽÁU,WELṈEW and Fern Dell Trail, you will turn right and follow the trail back up the hill, over rock steps, and toward the summit. Then follow the forest path to complete the loop and retrace your steps back to the parking lot.
THINGS TO NOTE
This trail length is less than 1km but the options to add more hike time are excellent.
The parking lot has about seven actual spaces but there is some parking along the road.
A pit toilet is located off the parking lot.
The park is blocked off by a gate, which is locked from dusk until 8 a.m.
*ȽÁU,WELṈEW spelling not correct in word press