Exploring Gowlland Tod Provincial Park
Gowlland Tod Provincial Park provides some amazing opportunities for hiking and immersing yourself in nature. There are more than 25 kms of trails with varying in degree of difficulty that offer spectacular views, as well as the chance to view animals in their natural environment. In spring and early summer, the moss-covered rocky knolls come alive with a carpets of colourful, vibrant wildflowers.
Gowlland Tod protects a significant part of the Gowlland Range, one of the last remaining natural areas in Greater Victoria, and a significant portion Tod Inlet. The Gowlland Range is a particularly rich area of biodiversity, with more than 150 individual animal and plant species identified. The protected area preserves a rare, dry coastal Douglas fir habitat that features grassy meadows, rocky knolls and old-growth forest. The park also protects a significant wetland.
There are 3 main access points to Gowlland Tod; Tod Inlet, Mackenzie Bight and Caleb Pike. The Tod Inlet access is located near Brentwood Bay, off Wallace Drive. The Mackenzie Bight access is located off Ross Durrance Road near Willis Point Road. The Caleb Pike access is on Caleb Pike Road, in Langford. Mackenzie Bight and Tod Inlet can also be accessed by boat by launching from nearby Brentwood Bay.
Another popular hike – accessible from the parking lot for McKenzie Bight – is the trail up to Mt. Work. See post on Mt. Work for details.
Activities Available In Gowlland Tod
There are more than 25 kilometres of trails varying in degree of difficulty in Gowlland Tod Provincial Park.
Difficulty: Easy to difficult. Trails can be done in sections ranging from 1 – 2 hours to 3 – 5 hours.
Be prepared! A lot of this trail is wilderness. Carry water and wear sturdy shoes/boots.
Those beginning at Caleb Pike lead to some stunning views from high on the ridge above Finlayson Arm. These trails can be followed all the way to Mackenzie Bight. For shorter excursions you can access the middle portion of the Gowlland Range. There is trail access to Jocelyn Hill off of Millstream Rd just up from Emma Dixon Rd.
There are two trails at the Mackenzie Bight access leading down to the shores of Saanich Inlet. Here you will find a sheltered estuary with a rocky beach and other areas of rocky shoreline. It is a great spot to explore and have a picnic lunch! Both trials are about 3.5 kms and will take a couple of hours. One of the trails is very good and relatively smooth but it is still fairly steep so be prepared for a continuous climb back to the top. The second trail leading down, is much narrower, steeper and involves some stairs.
There are also trails leading south from the MacKenzie Bight parking area following the Gowlland Tod Range leading back to Jocelyn Hill and Caleb Pike. We did this entire trail one day by dropping a vehicle off at the MacKenzie Bight parking area, then driving to Caleb Pike to start the hike. It is around 12 kms and roughly 5 hours with some relatively difficult sections.
The trails at Tod Inlet lead down to a beach area and dock on the inlet and the site of a former cement plant. This is an easy and beautiful walk of only about 3 kms and can be done in about an hour. For more information and history on the Tod Inlet portion of the park, check out our post Tod Inlet.. Unfortunately there are no longer any established trails connecting the Tod Inlet trails with the trails on the hills on the south side of Tod Inlet. The author did an exploratory to find where they used to connect. You can find that post here: Tod Inlet to Cole Hill.
There are opportunities for SUPing, canoeing or kayaking in Gowlland Tod. To access Tod Inlet and MacKenzie Bight by water, you will have to launch at a boat launch in Brentwood Bay just behind Brentwood Bay Spa & Pub. If you are paddling in Saanich Inlet please be aware the Goldstream estuary is closed to the public. No boaters or paddlers may enter this area. Check out our articles on paddling in Saancih Inlet: Kayaking Saanich Inlet or Paddling to Tod Inlet
Bicycles are permitted on designated, multi-use trails accessed via all three trailheads. Consult park maps at each location for more information. Cyclists must stay on designated trails and must yield to hikers and horseback riders.
Pets on Leash
These are links to maps of Gowlland Tod Provincial Park: