Part 1 of 2: km 0 to km 37 of the Galloping Goose Trail
For more guides to bike trails, see Average Joe Cyclist Trail Guidesxx
The whimsically-named Galloping Goose Trail is anything but whimsical. Dramatic, wonderful, even awe-inspiring at times – but never whimsical. This is a world-class trail with world-class views. It’s also entirely off-road, so the only unpleasant parts are the road crossings – and most of those are fine, with a couple of notable exceptions. And the further you get from Victoria, the fewer even these become. Adding the cherry on the top is the fact that almost the entire trail is on gentle gradients – again with two notable exceptions.
Constructed on the abandoned CNR (Canadian National Rail) railway line that once linked Victoria and the now defunct gold-mining Leechtown (now a ghost town), the trail covers a total distance of 55 km (34 miles). It’s named after a gasoline train which used to transport passengers back in the 1920’s. In 1987 the rails were transformed into this spectacular trail, for the enjoyment of walkers, joggers, cyclists and horse-riders.
Much of the dramatic beauty of the trail derives precisely from the fact that it was once a railway line – such as biking on very high mounds, and crossing spectacular wooden bridges.
There are wonderful sights to enjoy on this trail, including wildlife and farm life: wild rabbits, eagles, deer, sheep, pigs, and horses – even miniature donkeys! There’s also a glorious diversity of birds, and plenty of botanical interest for those so inclined: all manner of ferns and moss; Douglas firs; Arbutus trees; Hemlock and Cedar; as well as shasta daisies, foxgloves and ubiquitous blackberry bushes. There’s also an abundance of friendly human beings, often accompanied by interesting companions:
In general, the first 30 km (20 miles) of the Galloping Goose are mainly a mix of urban and rural, but the further you go, the more you are in actual wilderness. This means that the views just get better and better the further you go. This video shows you the kind of spectacular scenery you can expect to see from about the km 35 mark. It’s not exactly a professional video (as it was taken by me while riding with one hand and trying not to plummet over the cliff), but it should be enough to whet your appetite!
How to Find the Galloping Goose
The easiest way to find the Galloping Goose Trail is on your bike. Come over on the ferry from Vancouver to Swartz Bay, and then follow the bike trail that leaves directly from the ferry. This is the Lockside Trail, which is a lot of fun it its own right, and which I have written about elsewhere. After about 32 km (20 miles), the trail splits, with signage indicating one way for Victoria and the other for Sooke. If you head for Sooke, you will immediately be on the Galloping Goose. (Or you could divert a few kilometres to have lunch in the beautiful city of Victoria, before doubling back and rejoining the Goose.)
Once you are on the trail, it is intermittently marked with beacons that tell you how many kilometres you have come. These are useful markers, if somewhat erratic.
What to Take with You
The Lockside Trail is 32 km (20 miles) long, and the Galloping Goose is anything up to 55 km (34 miles), for a grand total of 87 km (54 miles) depending on how far you go. It’s therefore wise to go prepared. I would suggest taking the following:
- bike repair kit
- plenty of water
- Scooby snacks to prevent hitting the wall
- lights in case something goes wrong and you end up being out there after dark
- bicycle bell, as you are in bear country from around km 35
- wet gear, as island weather is very changeable
- a cell phone, as you are often quite far from civilization
- bike locks – we only take one cable lock with us, but that’s because we only stay at bike-friendly B&B’s, where our bikes are safe overnight. Follow your own comfort level with this one.
Facilities along the Way
Washrooms on the Galloping Goose: There are only three washrooms on the entire 55 km length of the trail, so unless you actually LIKE peeing in thickets of blackberries, don’t cycle blithely past any of them. The first one is at around km 5 of the Galloping Goose, the second at km 35, and the last one at km 45, at the entrance to the Sooke Potholes Regional Park.
Other washrooms: I have to confess that my bladder has not aged as well as the rest of me, and I find three washrooms in 55 km of cycling to be hopelessly inadequate. So I have sourced out some extra ones:
- At km 12 there is a Tim Horton’s at Old Island Highway and Wales Road. Even if you don’t particularly care for Timmies, it’s a wonderful place to rest, grab a coffee, and of course, use the washroom. There is bike parking right outside the window, so you can keep an eye on your bikes and panniers while you relax.
- At km 16 you are in Langford. As you cross Brittany Road, there is a shopping mall a block to your right. I have never actually detoured there, but there must be a washroom in there somewhere, if you’re desperate.
Bike Shops: There is a bike shop, called “The Bike Shop,” close to the Galloping Goose at Glen Lake and Sooke Roads, at km 18. This is your only chance to get mechanical assistance along the way. Note that this is a very busy intersection on the trail – it’s advisable to use the pedestrian crossing at the traffic lights to cross over, whether or not you are going to the bike shop.
Kids’ Play Area: If you have kids with you, the one and only kids’ park along the way is at km 8. This spot is also suitable for a picnic break.
Places to stay
- Arbutus Cove B&B Guest House: We have stayed more than once at this wonderful B&B, situated right on the trail at km 37, near Sooke. As B&B’s go, this place is much like the Galloping Goose itself – it’s hard to find the superlatives to describe it. To reel off just a few of its attractions: perched right on the edge of the Sooke Basin with stunning views; safe bike parking; yummy breakfasts; friendly but unobtrusive hostess; everything you could possibly want supplied, so you don’t have to bring it on your bike (including hair dryer, bottle opener, toiletries); fridge and microwave; basic TV in the rooms, plus big screen satellite TV & DVD player in a large comfy sitting room/dining room; hot tub with views; beach access, lovely big rooms (ask for # 2, which is the very best); and all at reasonable prices.
- Cycle Inn: At km 17.5 there is Cycle Inn, beautifully situated on Glen Lake, and also right on the trail. We have decided that the next time we cycle to Sooke, we’ll stop over there on the way to Arbutus Cove B&B. It’s 65 km from the ferry to Arbutus Cove, and we find that last 20 km to be KILLER – we’re so busy wondering “are we there yet?” that we forget to enjoy the spectacular views.
- Comfort Cove Cottage on the Sooke Basin is a cozy, oceanfront, pet-friendly, self-catering cottage, with great views and its own private dock. It’s just ten minutes off the Galloping Goose: great for relaxing in comfort after a hard day’s ride, or for a romantic stay with your favourite cycling companion – so go ahead, spoil yourself!
- There are also many other B&B’s close to the Galloping Goose, and a campsite at the Sooke Potholes Regional Park.
- Watch out for slugs and large piles of horse scat.
- Watch out for bears after km 35.
- Don’t be out on the Galloping Goose after dark if you can possibly help it. It’s unlit, and in many places there are very steep drop-offs on the edges.
- Although the trail mainly has only gentle climbs and descents, there are a couple of exceptions. Between km 35 and 36, you will suddenly encounter warning signs of steep downhill and loose gravel. Take them seriously! The first downhill and then uphill is very steep, and the second (between km 36 and 37) is even worse. For skilled cyclists only – others should dismount.
The friendliness of the people on the Galloping Goose makes me long for a world in which everyone is walking or cycling, so we can all be friendly with each other – gentler, more humane times. Competing with the happiness of being among friendly human beings is the sheer cycling pleasure of endless tree-canopied trails, with the rich smell of trees in your nose. Feeling exhausted? Sit back on your saddle and suck in that beautiful clean air!
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Some parts of the trail are both paved and tree-canopied – so that it’s just the sound of your tires and birdsong, as seen in this short video:
More posts about trails:
Here’s my Guide to Cycling in Sooke!
Here’s my Guide to Cycling the wonderful Lockside Trail on Vancouver Island.
Here’s Part 1 of a whole series on the joys of cycling in Montreal.
Here’s a trail to avoid at costs in Richmond (unless you have nerves of steel and the cycling skills of a super hero).
Here’s a really cool family trail in Richmond – the West Dyke Trail.
Here are a whole lot of trails in the Lower Seymour Conservation Reserve – some of them challenging, some of them family-friendly.
Here’s an exceptional trail in Port Coquitlam, the Traboulay PoCo Trail – it offers a variety of terrains, distance without hills, a play park, a pub, and just generally fun for the whole family – even history buffs.
And here’s a post called Deer Lake Park: Cyclist’s Paradise for the Whole Family in the Heart of Burnaby.