A Great Bike ride on Vancouver Island!
This is a complete guide to the wonderful off-road Galloping Goose Bike Trail on Vancouver Island. It runs through beautiful forests – in some parts of the Galloping Goose Trail it feels like you are in a cathedral of natural light. This video shows part of the trail, starting off from the city of Victoria:
As you can see, the Galloping Goose Trail is a world-class trail, almost entirely off-road, and almost entirely flat. On it, you are sure to see interesting things and meet interesting people!
The Galloping Goose Trail was constructed on the abandoned CNR (Canadian National Rail) railway line, which once linked Victoria and Leechtown (now a ghost town). The Galloping Goose Trail is named after a gawky and noisy gas rail-car which carried passengers between Victoria and Sooke in the 1920s. In 1987 the rails were transformed into this spectacular trail, and the trail was opened.
Details of the Galloping Goose Trail, Vancouver Island
Surfaces: All off-road, hard soil, gravel, and some paving.
Distance: Around 55 km/34 miles, one-way
Difficulty level: very easy, mainly flat; but there are some short, very steep hills with slippery gravel. Sometimes you have to cross roads with motor vehicle traffic. There are some uncontrolled road crossings
Safety level: safe for the whole family (not for unaccompanied children, though)
Type of bike required: a hybrid or a mountain bike would be best
Suitable for: everyone, including bikes, trikes, horseback-riders, and strollers
Congestion: usually not very busy
Dogs allowed? Yes, on leash
The Galloping Goose Trail
Vancouver Island’s Galloping Goose Trail (known as “the Goose”) is a multi-use path for human-powered activities of all kinds: cycling, running, hiking, and horseback-riding. It’s suitable for all ages and abilities (AAA), so it’s a great place to take the whole family for a bike trail ride. And if you’re struggling to get your children to bike at all, here’s a post with tips to get kids to cycle more. And here’s a post with tips on helping your child start to bike to school safely.
Below is a map of the entire route. The red line is the Goose. This map also shows the Lochside Trail, which connects the Goose with Twassen ferry terminal. Here is a post all about the Lochside Trail.
It’s a long bike route, with plenty to see along the way. Starting near Victoria, it travels to Saanich, then through the urban setting of View Royal, Colwood and Langford – but the cycle trail is shielded by ferns, shrubs, and rock outcrops, so it does not feel very urban at all. At Metchosin, the trail goes past small farms surrounded by hills. Eventually you reach semi-wilderness. Here’s a fun video that gives you an idea of the diversity of the trail. Notice how flat it is. At around minute 2:38 you will clearly see why you should NOT cycle this route at night!
Along the way there are many signposts to keep you on track. There are one or two points where it gets tricky, especially after crossing major roads, but as long as you pay close attention to signs you should be fine.
An ideal way to do the trail is to plan to spend two to four days cycling, and book bed and breakfasts along the way. You can also camp at km 43 at the Sooke Potholes Regional Park. It’s possible (if you are very fit) to cycle the whole trail in one day, but why would you want to rush this wonderful experience?
Along the way you can visit the town of Sooke. Towards the end you can visit the awesome Sooke Potholes, and camp at the Sooke Potholes Regional Park. At the very end you can explore the mining ghost town, Leechtown.
Where to Start Out From
If you are coming from Vancouver on a bike: A good place to start your ride is the ferry terminal at Swartz Bay. From there, follow the Lochside Trail all the way to the Galloping Goose Trail.
Of course, this does add a lot of extra cycling miles to your trip, so this starting point would be more suitable for a multi-day tour. After about 32 km (20 miles) on the Lochside trail, the trail splits: choose to head for Victoria or Sooke. Follow the signs for Sooke, which will put you on the Galloping Goose Trail.
If you are coming from Victoria: The Galloping Goose Trail begins at the south end of the Selkirk Trestle, at the foot of Alston Street in Victoria West. You can see that in the video right at the top of this post.
There are many other access points along the entire trail route. Parking areas are located at Atkins Avenue in View Royal, Aldeane Avenue in Colwood, the Luxton Fairgrounds on Sooke Road in Luxton, Rocky Point Road in Metchosin, and Roche Cove Regional Park in East Sooke.
How to get to Victoria (which is where the trail starts): Victoria is on Vancouver Island, 107 km (76 miles) southwest of Vancouver. The trip, by car or bus, plus ferry, takes approximately four hours each way. By bus, you could book a tour bus from a downtown Vancouver hotel, or a Greyhound bus from the Vancouver Railway Station (and a few other departure points). It is also possible to take a TransLink bus to the ferry. Check Translink online schedules for times or call Translink at 604-953-3333. Once you get to the Swartz Bay terminal on Vancouver Island, take bus # 70 ‘Pat Bay Hwy’ to Victoria. Make sure to check beforehand that bikes are allowed on your chosen buses. Or, just rent a bike in Victoria.
What to Take With You on the Galloping Goose Trail
I recommend you take the following with you if you plan to do the entire Goose, especially if you are going to be cycling for several days:
- a bike repair kit, pump and spare tube/s
- lots of water
- flashlight in case you end up being on the trail after dark (NOT recommended)
- bear spray, as you will be in bear country from about km 35
- wet gear, as weather changes quickly on Vancouver Island
- a cell phone, as you will be out in the semi-wilderness (in Canada, 911 is the emergency number)
- bike locks
- basic first aid kit, including bug repellant
How to Cycle the Galloping Goose Trail
Once you are on the Galloping Goose Trail, it is marked with beacons that tell you how many kilometers you have come. These are very useful reference points.
The first 30 km (20 miles) of the Galloping Goose Trail are a mixture of urban and rural. The further you go, the more you are cycling in the semi-wilderness. So the views get progressively better.
The first part of the Galloping Goose Trail through Victoria, Saanich, and parts of View Royal (to Atkins Ave) is paved asphalt — making for smooth cycling. The Galloping Goose west of Atkins Avenue in Langford is unpaved; for this part it is better to be on a mountain bike. The trail surface is wide (two to five metres) and mostly flat.
The Galloping Goose Trail is shared by cyclists, hikers and horseback-riders. This means that one has to be careful and polite around other users. Keep right, pass on the left. As always, cyclists should yield to pedestrians, and let people know if you are passing them, so as not to scare them – just say something like “On your left!” before passing. Be especially careful not to scare horses – horses can be scared by sudden noises and movements.
New Restaurant and Bike Repair Shop on the Galloping Goose Trail
There’s a new restaurant on the Galloping Goose that provides coffee, food for riders and repairs for bikes. Find the Nest Café at 2311 Watkiss Way, between Victoria and Langford, on the Goose trail. It’s open daily from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the summer, and until 5 p.m. the rest of the year. It’s in a townhouse complex at the intersection of Burnside Road and Watkiss Way, and has bike racks, bike tune-up and repair facilities.
Take a break from your ride to enjoy coffee, tea, juice, soup, sandwiches, paninis and desserts – and get some help with your bike, if you need it!
Share the Galloping Goose Trail!
Along the way, observe standard trail etiquette: keep right, pass left, and be careful around kids, dogs, and horses. My experience has been that other users are unfailingly polite and friendly. For example, we met the couple at the top of this post while they were out for a walk with their miniature donkeys, Frosty and Lola. They told us they kept them for protection, because they guard against deer, cougars and bears!
On that note, be careful of bears. I have always told to ring a bell, but many experts dispute this idea. Apparently, the bear may not hear the bell until it is too late to avoid you. Instead, they recommend you do something to make it clear you are a human, such as singing loudly. Also, do NOT whistle if you get tired of singing, as the bears may think you are a Pika, which is a small whistling mammal that bears like to eat! Also, bear spray is always recommended in case of emergency.
Take extra care between km 35 and 37, where there are warning signs of steep downhills and loose gravel. These are for skilled cyclists only – others should dismount.
What to See and Do
Impressive bridges: Much of the beauty of the Galloping Goose Trail is due to the fact that it was once a railway line – this gives you an opportunity to do truly memorable things, such as cycle on very high mounds, and bike across wooden bridges that are very impressively constructed.
Wildlife: There is also plenty of wildlife and farm life to enjoy, including rabbits, deer, eagles, pigs, sheep, horses, and all kinds of birds. If you are interested in botany you are in for a treat: expect to see foxgloves, blackberry bushes, shasta daisies, Douglas firs, Arbutus trees, Hemlock and Cedar, and all kinds of ferns and mosses.
The Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary: At km 4, this is a 58-hectare sanctuary protecting the marshy lowlands around Swan Lake and the high, rocky Garry oak outcrops of Christmas Hill. It’s a beautiful place to stroll along trails (including a floating boardwalk) and watch birds, muskrats, river otters and mink. The Nature House has exhibits and a reading room. Phone (250) 479-0211 for more information.
Sooke: Around km 40 you will get to Sooke Road. Just down the road is the Stickleback West Coast Eatery, with a patio perfectly situated on Cooper Cove, Sooke Basin. Go there for good West Coast cuisine right next to the water. You can rent a canoe or kayak from Rush Kayak Adventures and explore the peaceful Sooke Basin. Or continue 5 km down Sooke road to visit the interesting town of Sooke. Alternatively, just cross Sooke Road and continue along the Goose. This used to be a very dangerous crossing for cyclists, but it now has a traffic light to help you across.
Food: There are not many opportunities to stop for a snack, so take advantage of those you do see. There is a Tim Horton’s on the route (at km 12, at Old Island Highway and Wales Road). And of course the Stickleback West Coast Eatery at km 40.
Bed and Breakfasts: There are a few of these along the way, including:
- At km 17.5 there is Cycle Inn, beautifully situated on Glen Lake.
- At km 37 there is Arbutus Cove B&B Guest House, beautifully situated on the Sooke Basin.
- Comfort Cove Cottage on the Sooke Basin is a pet-friendly, self-catering cottage, with great views.
Sooke Potholes Regional Park: The entrance is at km 44. You can camp at this park.
At km 47 you will find the Potholes themselves. There are viewing platforms so that you can enjoy the amazing views.
Leechtown: At km 55 the trail ends at Leechtown, a ghost mining town. There is still gold to be found in the area, and it is a fascinating place to cycle through.
When to Go (and when NOT to Go)
The Goose is great most of the year. However, it’s best to avoid being on the Goose at night, as it is not lit, and there are places where there are very steep drops close to the path.
The Galloping Goose is Part of the Trans Canada Trail
The Trans-Canada Trail is a national multi-use trail system that will eventually link trails from coast to coast of Canada. The Galloping Goose is one of the first completed sections of the Trans-Canada Trail, and is also part of the CRD Regional Trail system that will some day link Swartz Bay and Port Renfrew.
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