And we thought we had run all the beautiful trails around southern Vancouver Island… turns out, we were wrong!
Back in 2013, I started creating detailed trail running route posts of all my favourite trails around southern Vancouver Island after reading this post on Shape.com and deciding that the trails I run regularly in Victoria could definitely give those suggestions a run for their money. I mean, how many places in the world have this many well-maintained, amazing and beautiful trails, all within an hours drive of the capital city? Probably not too many. And I’m sure there are many other spectacular trails that can rival these (Inca Trail, anyone?), but for accessibility’s sake, I’d take my moss-covered, root-entangled, winding west coast trails over almost-urban gravel trails any day.
By mid-2014, I had photographed, mapped and blogged about the seven best trails to run on Vancouver Island according to my “Best Trails to Run” criteria (scroll to the bottom of this post to read my criteria and for links to each post). Well… turns out I need to add a number eight to that list 🙂 Thanks to Coach Lindsey of TriStars for suggesting this trail and for providing directions. I can’t believe I’ve never been here before!
Trail name(s): Barrett Montfort Trail > Woodward Trail > West Viewpoint Trail > Surveyor’s Trail > Woodward Trail > Barrett Montfort Trail
Terrain: Slick mossy rock steps, forested single-track trail over roots and rocks, muddy forest floor. Trail shoes are recommended.
Parking: John Dean Park has a day-use area with a parking lot. The park is blocked off by a gate, which is locked from dusk until 8 a.m. Since the park is closed to vehicle traffic from November to March, we had to park on a residential side street just off to the right of the gate. Be aware of all the no parking signs — we had to drive down the street a bit to find parking.
Trail access: The start of the Barrett Montfort Trail loop is a few hundred metres up from the main gate. You will see it clearly marked on either side of the road. We took the trail off to the left.
Facilities: There is a day-use area with an information shelter and a pit toilet in the main parking lot.
Distance: Between 4 km and 6 km (depending on where you start and which trails you take).
Time: Anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour and a half.
Description: The Barrett Montfort trail from the left side of the road is a beautiful single-track trail snakes along the side of a hill through the trees. It’s mainly undulating with a few steep climbs until you come to the Woodward Trail, which travels down into a heavily forested swampy area. There are a few vistas along the West Viewpoint Trail that look out onto the ocean (which we missed as it was foggy during our run that day). Surveyor’s Trail is a soft, single-track trail that travels through a Garry Oak forest before heading back into a spectacular cedar forest and eventually joining back up with Woodward Trail. There are a few steep switchbacks in this section as well.
I got a selfie stick for my birthday, and I just had to test it out on the trails. Just before we took this picture, an older couple passed us and said, “You brought a selfie stick on your run? Really?” Hahaha!
Trail Rating (out of four stars)
Accessibility: ★★ (only because the main gate is closed in the winter and you have to park on a residential street)
Overall: The perfect hour-long trail run in a beautiful location with a variety of views, terrain and trail options. I would love to come back and explore all the other inside trails the park has to offer.
My criteria for the best trails to run: Everyone has their own preference when it comes to trails — some like them to be hilly, others don’t. Some prefer roots and rocks, others feel they are too clumsy to navigate that kind of terrain and might prefer flat chip trails. I think we can all collectively agree, though, that the more scenic the trails are, the better.
Terrain: I like single-track trails that have a variety of terrain — moss, rocks, mud, dirt forest floor and roots. But not so mangled that you need to walk to navigate it. It must be about 85% runable.
Elevation: I like hills when running trails. Too many long, flat stretches bore the hell out of me. I like trails that undulate, twist and turn through the forest, then climb up steeply before dropping back down again. Nothing beats running downhill after an epic climb up in my opinion.
Accessibility: As much as I’d love to go on a day trip to run a trail, I don’t usually have time for that on the weekends. If I can get to a trail from my place in Saanich in under an hour, bonus. If there’s free parking, two points. If there are water fountains and a bathroom at the trail head, wicked.
Distance: I usually go by time when running trails, not distance. I like an hour to two hours for a trail run (so anywhere between 6 – 12 km, depending on terrain). Short enough that you don’t need to pack a lot of water or food, but long enough to get a good workout in.
Vistas: I love running to a destination with a lookout or point of interest. The more epic view points along the way, the better.
Scenery: I love running near the ocean, or in a forest with lost of ferns and moss. Anywhere away from civilization, really.
The 7 Trails to Run Before You Die – Vancouver Island Edition Series: