by Jamie Sterling, Salt Spring Island Ambassador @JamieonSaltspring_SGI
British Columbia is well-known for its stunning nature and in many destinations, it shows. Trailhead parking lots overflow with visitors and vistas are lined up with people, clamouring for the perfect Instagram picture. Not so on Salt Spring. While it isn’t touted as a hiking destination, the number and the variety of accessible trails is truly one of its greatest features, and its best kept secret! The vast, undeveloped areas and the unique rainshadow climate make it all the more spectacular. Whether you’re looking for a casual walk along a secluded beach or a steep climb to get your heart rate up, there’s a trail on Salt Spring for you. Even in the height of summer, when the Saturday Market is bustling and accommodations are full, you’ll rarely see more than a handful of people on the trails. Rain or shine, it’s worth adding some outdoor exploration to your itinerary, no matter the time of year. Here are five must-do walking and hiking trails to get you enjoying the quiet, unhurried nature of Salt Spring Island. Be sure to share your adventures with us on social media using #SouthernGulfIslands.
Just a short drive from Ganges, Mount Erskine offers several trail options that take you through rocky forest before gifting you with breathtaking views over the Salish Sea to Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands to the north. With plenty of room to roam, the summit is the perfect place for a picnic so be sure to pack some Salt Spring Island Cheese and your favourite crackers to enjoy while you pause and take it all in. Better yet, time your hike at sunset for an amazing sky show, trail #3 is an easy route down when it’s dark but best to pack a headlamp to be safe. The trail network can be accessed from Trustees Trail off Juniper Place for the shorter, moderate climbs. If you’re looking for something more intense, a steep uphill section starts on Collins Road at the very base of the mountain. A crowd favourite, both of the trailheads can easily be found on Google Maps.
Chris Hatfield Trail
If you haven’t already heard of Ruckle Park, the beautiful, coastal provincial park in the Island’s south end, you will. It’s absolutely worth a visit. What you might not hear about is its lesser-known back entrance, the Chris Hatfield trail. Starting at the northernmost tip of the park where significantly fewer people venture, it winds through lush green forest and hugs the coastline to Yeo Point and King’s Cove before continuing along to either the heritage farm or to Beaver Point Hall. With secret coves and scenic, rocky overhangs, it’s a quiet, mild hike that can be done as a quick out-and-back trip, or as a full day adventure loop through the campground. Either way, you’ll spend the majority of the time feeling like you’re miles away from civilization. Tougher to find and not listed on Google Maps, you can spot the trailhead at the south end of Meyer Road at the left entrance of the cul-de-sac.
Duck Creek Park is where you go for a quick nature fix, or if you have a dog that needs to let loose. The short walking trail rewards its visitors with an idyllic combination of mossy covered trees, the calming sound of a rushing stream, and lush, green foliage – especially in the Cozy Season. If you’ve got a pup in tow, you can also mingle with other dog lovers in the large open meadow that’s also a dog park. Enter at the south end of Sunset Drive or from Broadwell Road, most of the trail system can be seen on Google Maps.
Tucked away on a dead-end street past Fulford Harbour, Reginald Hill has some of the best views that Salt Spring Island has to offer. With a summit that offers a sweeping panorama of the Salish Sea, the Fulford Valley, and Swartz Bay beyond, you’re likely to wonder why you haven’t heard more about this trail. A short but steep climb, it certainly isn’t a casual stroll, so be prepared to get your heart rate going. Fortunately, the rocky steps and the mossy forest floor make the trail beautiful the whole way to the top. This one is a bit of a local secret which is made all the more so because the trailhead can be hard to find. Not geotagged on Google Maps, you’ll have to navigate to the cul-de-sac at the end of Morningside Road to find the trailhead. Be careful not to mistake it for nearby driveways!
Jack Foster Trail
Only accessible at low tide, the Jack Foster Trail starts where Sunset Road meets Southey Point Road near the northernmost tip of the island. The short, wooded path leads down to Salt Spring’s broadest beach, offering an afternoon’s worth of coastal exploring. Tide pools, marshes, and rocky slabs make it a dynamic intertidal zone and the views across Trinconmali Channel to Galiano Island are unmatched. Follow the beach to the southeast, you’ll take a right at the end of the trail, to get to the sister trail at its opposite end. This will lead you back to North End Road along the perimeter of North End Farm. Be sure to stop for some delicious fresh food at their farmstand, you’re sure to need a snack by then. The road is an easy walk back to the intersection but if you loved it, take the beach all the way back! Though this trail isn’t marked on Google either, it’s easy to spot!
Ready to hit the trails? This is only the beginning! Follow us on our social channels to find more opportunities to explore Salt Spring Island. And don’t forget to tag us @southerngulfislands with your best photos! With 130 kilometers of coastline, public access points to lakes and oceans, hundreds of acres of publicly accessible trails, and the highest peaks in the Southern Gulf Islands, there is always more to be discovered – whether you’re visiting for the first time or you’ve been coming for years!
Corporate Office: 357 Old Scott Road, Salt Spring Island, BC V8K 2L9
We are grateful to live on and visit the Southern Gulf Islands and acknowledge that the lands and waters that encompass these islands have been home to Indigenous peoples since time immemorial, part of the traditional unceded territories of the Coast Salish Peoples, including W̱SÁNEĆ First Nations and Hul’quimi’num Treaty Group.