For anyone interested in undertaking either the infamous West Coast Trail or it’s lesser known sibling, the Juan de Fuca Trail, the Coast Trail in East Sooke Park is a great training ground that provides a taste of what the lengthier trails just up the coast are like. The Coast Trail is considered one of Canada’s best day hikes, and it spans the entire length of the park’s shoreline, a 10-kilometer stretch of beautiful rainforest and rugged rocky coast that generally takes around six hours to complete. There are various exit points leading back inland along the way, however, so many visitors choose to hike shorter sections. One of the most appealing shorter options is to set off from Aylard Farm in the northeast corner of the park and follow the coastline south to the point at Beechey Head, which offers a great 270-degree view of the strait of Juan de Fuca and the Olympic Mountains in Washington State across the other side. Along the way the trail passes by several beautiful beaches, long stretches of rocky shoreline with plentiful tide pools teeming with life, and even some ancient petroglyphs carved into the rock by First Nations people many years ago.
From Beechey Head it’s possible to continue northwest along the Coast Trail or head back to Aylard farm either via the same route or one of several forested inland trails. As with any of the trails on this part of the island, it’s wise to keep a close eye on the water where it’s possible to spot sea lions, seals, river and sea otters, and perhaps even some migrating humpbacks or gray whales or a pod of orcas. For the birders, September and October are the best months to visit, as turkey vultures, red-tailed hawks, peregrine falcon, osprey, and bald eagles along with many other species all converge on East Sooke Park, many of which need to rest and recover before crossing the 29-kilometer strait on their annual southern migration.