On the eastern shores of the Finlayson Arm, Gowlland Tod Provincial Park provides south island residents and visitors with over 25 kilometers of fantastic hiking trails in a 1,219 hectare protected forest. The park gets its name from the Gowlland Range, which rises steeply from from the shores of the inlet, and the Tod Inlet to the north, just outside Brentwood Bay. One of the highest peaks in the park is the 417-meter Jocelyn Hill, where hikers can enjoy spectacular views of the area that include the Saanich Inlet and Finlayson Arm to the west and southwest with the Malahat Pass across the water and the city of Victoria to the southeast.
Hikers can access Jocelyn Hill from either McKenzie Bight to the north or Caleb Pike to the south. From the Caleb Pike Trailhead the hike is a little more than 10 kilometers round trip and passes through diverse forests made up of many different coastal tree species that populate the region, including Douglas fir, arbutus, western redcedar, western hemlock, shore pine, and Garry oak, amongst others. The hike is a lollipop loop (a there-and-back hike with a loop at the end of it) that begins in rolling forested terrain, passes underneath a set of power lines, and then summits Holmes Peak. Here visitors can enjoy the first clear view of the inlet before descending into the forest again. The views get increasingly beautiful toward the summit of Jocelyn Hill as the trail traverses along the side of the steep rocky slope high above the Inlet. In fact, the views on the west side of Jocelyn Hill are arguably more impressive than those from the summit, although the summit provides better views to the southeast.
From the Caleb Pike Trailhead, pass by the trail map, walk a few meters into the forest, and take an immediate right turn following signs for the Ridge Trail or Holmes Peak. There are several junctions and detours along the way. Signage is good, but it will be helpful to have a close look at the map at the trailhead or snap a photo if possible. For hikers with canine companions, be aware that while much of the park’s trails are hiking only, some unavoidable sections do allow horses. Being a provincial park, dogs are required to be leashed. Eventually the trail reaches a junction with a sign indicating 1.8 kilometers to the summit of Jocelyn Hill. This is where the lollipop loop begins: Head left to see the best views of the Saanich Inlet/Finlayson Arm and then continue around to the summit and eventually you’ll find yourself back at the same junction, where another left will lead back to the parking lot via the same route. There is also an option to split off and hike around the east side of Holmes Peak and rejoin the main trail underneath the power lines, if desired. With around 700 meters of cumulative elevation gain over 10 kilometers, expect the hike to take four hours or more. For those who’d like a full day hike, consider continuing north from Jocelyn Hill to McKenzie Bight. It’s also possible to link the trails here with the trails on Mount Work, Mount Finlayson, or Lone Tree Hill.