Mount Finlayson Hike Victoria BC

goldstream_park_entrance_mt_finlayson_in_background

Are you looking to stretch your legs, get some good exercise and spend some time in nature? Would you like to watch the salmon spawn, walk through a lush ancient rain forest and treat your eyes with a magnificent panoramic view of Victoria and lower Vancouver Island? Mount Finlayson in Victoria BC’s Goldstream Park is the premier mountain to climb in the region. Locals consider this climb to be a personal challenge to anyone who lives in the area, if you are physically able, at some point you need to summit this mountain in order to prove to yourself that you can rightfully call Victoria BC your home.mt_finlason_steps_at_base

Okay, Mt. Finlayson is not the jagged and menacing peak of the Matterhorn, but the mountain does appear prominently in the Victoria area and also comes with its fair share of climbing challenges. Mount Finlayson is not for the faint of heart, you need to be in moderate to good physical shape to tackle this climb. You also need to be prepared. Make sure you wear polyester clothing because you will work up a big sweat and wet cotton will give you bad chills even on warm days. Bring a litre or more water for you personally. Pack a healthy snack for when you reach the summit like a sandwich or fruit and cheese, you’ll need the energy for the descent, all in a back pack of course. Wear your watch and/or bring a cell phone for emergencies. Climbing in a group is recommended, but the mountain sees many daily visitors so if you are going solo and find yourself in trouble someone surely will be along shortly, as long as you are on the main trail. Children under 10 should not come with you.

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salmon_spawning

On a side note, if you find yourself heading up for a hike from October to December, stop in at Goldstream Provincial Park and watch the salmon swim up stream to spawn. There are several great nature trails all along the river with many unique salmon viewing opportunities. There is also a nature house where you can browse their book store,  learn about the salmons life cycle and about other animals that inhabit the park.

Okay, enough time spent watching the salmon, you have a mountain to climb. About 200 meters from the small bridge that crosses the Goldstream River you will come to the trail head for the Mount Finlayson hike. Take note of the map and recommendations, you will also see other information about cougars and bears in the area and what to do if you encounter one. The Mount Finlayson trail is frequented regularly by people and their dogs, this alone will ensure a cougar or bear sightings should be very remote.

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Your hike begins in the lush green rain forest canopied by towering Douglas Fur and Cedar trees, the forest floor is covered in soft green moss and giant ferns, kind of fantasy like. Your first steps up the trail is not forgiving, it looks like a well maintained trail but it is steep. You’ll notice a set of stairs off to your right hand side, you can take them if you want, they just take you around a slightly longer way and it meets up with the main trail after a few hundred meters.

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The small scribble by the 2nd note warns of vampires in the area.

mt_finlayson_warning_sign

Mt. Finlayson, Finlayson Arm, Finlayson Rd. and others were named after one of Victoria’s founding fathers, Roderick Finlayson. Originally employed in Lower Canada by the Hudson Bay Company he eventually got a posting to what was called then Fort Victoria. He saw Victoria emerge from a barren landscape, to a small HBC outpost to a bustling town when the Cariboo gold rush came. He received praise from Sir James Douglas siting his “energy, perseverance, method and sound judgement in all his arrangements. . .”. What better quote to remember when climbing Mt. Finlayson!

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The steady slope continues for about 15 or so minutes when you come to a steep gully. At the bottom there is a small stream running through it with a small wooden bridge for your crossing convenience. Scaling this gully is a very unique experience, on either side the only way to get into and out of the it is to climb the exposed root systems of trees. Its natures ladder. On the other side, however, after scaling up the root system the trail turns very steep with loose rock,  this is were you need to start being careful and watch your footing.

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From this point on you’ll start to see orange trail markers, some with directional arrows, some are faded and harder to see and some are signed by future “artisans”. Its important to pay attention to these, in some rocky places it can be hard to see which way the trail is going. On the way back pay very close attention to the markers, people commonly go off trail on the decent.

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As you hike higher up you’ll notice you are leaving the dark, green and lush rain forest and entering a semi arid environment. You’ll see Garry Oak, Arbutus trees and you will now start to get more spectacular views of the Bear Mountain community and some surrounding areas.

bear_mountain_community

After traversing the semi arid forest area for another 15 minutes, things start getting rocky, now is the time for firm grips, firm footing, centering your gravity, concentration and don’t look down. This is the most unnerving leg of the hike and the longest too. You will be scrambling (scrambling is climbing using all four of your limbs), there will be climbing up rocky crevasses, some rocks are smooth, flat and steep, be very careful, they can be slippery when wet. Some parts of the trail you will be between a rock wall and a few feet away is a steep cliff.

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All this being said, it is safe, there is some margin for error and people aren’t dieing in droves from climbing mishaps. What to expect; you will get some sort of scrape in some way, you will be sore the next day and the usual bad injury is a bleeding scrape,  a sprain or possibly a fracture. Search and rescue are rarely ever called to Mount Finlayson, when they are it is usually for someone who stayed too long or went up too late in the day and can’t find their way down. Once it is dark, you CAN NOT see the trail and it is far too dangerous to descend. You should not attempt a summit later than noon, depending on the time of year. Also, if it is raining hard, windy or snowing, stay off the mountain.

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Near the top, the scrambling will end and it is just a semi steep hike to the summit. At the top you will see a surveyors bench mark, a detailed map of Goldstream Park and one of the most amazing views money can’t buy. You can see downtown Victoria, the Highlands, the Trans Canada Highway with toy like cars driving on it, a trestle across the valley (that you can hike to as well, via Little Niagara Falls), Mt. Baker, Strait of Juan De Fuca and the majestic Olympic Mountain Range. Did I forget to tell you about all the nature too? Bird watching, the flora and fauna, dainty little flowers dotting the hillside and Sitka deer prancing off in the distance. With your physical sacrifice comes a great reward, there are so many special things on Mt. Finlayson and there is only one way to get those precious experiences, you have to climb it.

mushroom_on_mt_finlayson

purple_flower_mt_finlayson

whisky_jack_on_mount_finlayson

The way down. No where near the exertion as the way up, but you need to be careful in different ways, your chance of falling and slipping are greater, you need to go slow and pay attention. IMPORTANT! When you are back into the scrambling phase there comes a part where it is easy to go off trail, pay close attention to the markers. You will know you have gone off trail when you get to a 3 meter high brownish cliff with some thin trees in front of it. Those trees are your friends, use them to repel down the cliff and carry on down a slight path that will eventually take you to the main trail by the big boulder (you’ll know what I mean when you see it). This off trail “trap” is more difficult than the main trail, keep an eye out those orange markers.

view_of_trestle_from_mt_finlayson_sumit

two_guys_sitting_on_top_of_mt_finlayson

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couple_decending_mt_finlayson_view_of_bear_mountain

All in all, Mt. Finlayson makes for a great 2-3 hour hike. Come experience for yourself the challenge, great views and fresh air that await you. Mount Finlayson is about a 20 minute drive north of Victoria BC on the #1 Trans Canada Highway at the Goldstream Park turnoff.

By,
Darshan Montgomery.

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18 Responses to Mount Finlayson Hike Victoria BC

  1. Victoria says:

    I think Mount Finlayson is only 400 meters above sea level but man is that grade challenging! It is one of my favorite day trips from Victoria BC and I love the view!

  2. Larry May says:

    Do not do this hike on a rainy day. The rocks will be very slippery.

  3. dmvictoria says:

    @Larry May

    Considering a major portion of the hike involves climbing and scrambling up SMOOTH rock, hiking on a rainy day can be lethal.

  4. Jesse says:

    My friend and I were trapped on this mountain overnight (not fun).
    – Make sure you leave plenty of time to get back before it gets too dark.
    – Make sure you tell someone that you will be hiking this specific mountain.
    – Bring a flashlight just in case, so that you can make your way down the mountain in the dark.

  5. Ben Whittome says:

    wet hikes can leave footing better than dry times b/c the dust is washed off the buffed and polished smoothe rock that so many walked areas create.
    if you’re in moderate shape you can easily do it one hr and maybe 45 mins down. i’ve hiked it hundreds of times, never scraped, broke or sprained anything but yes, be careful it is very steep. ask others you meet about where you are to gage if you left too late in the day. in the summer long days you can hike it as late as six pm easily, but i agree at that time of the day there are less hikers up there so bring a flashlight and always tell someone where you’re going, carry a cell if you have one etc. go slow and enjoy the views, there are many :-)
    if you’re new to town drop a line to 2505883239 and if possible i’ll take you up and down as slow as you need to go – it should not be missed.
    Ben

  6. Mark says:

    My kids and I love this hike. It gives them a real sense of accomplishment. We did it for the first time when they were 10 & 12, it was a little dicey in a few spots but we all made it to the top and have the awesome pictures to show for it.

  7. Vionna says:

    Hey…I’m new in town and in Victoria until mid-July. Would love to do this hike, but don’t really want to go alone just in case. Lemme know if anyone is interested in accompanying me =) thanks!

  8. Jennifer says:

    Heading there tomorrow morning with my dog! I love finlayson! Great hike!

  9. Shawn says:

    I hiked this trail when I was 2.5 years old. It is not nearly as scary as everyone is making it out to be. But it an amazingly fun hike.

  10. Don says:

    For those who don’t enjoy risking preventable accidents may use the easier, longer route on the other side of Finlayson. One downfall is that there is only room for 2 maybe 3 cars to park off the pavement or risk being towed.

    • Jason says:

      I been trying to find the other trial on the back of Mt finlyson
      But can’t find it …. Could you give me some directions please and thank you

      • Lisa A. says:

        Jason, not sure if you are looking for what I was describing…but I approached the hike from Bear Mtn Resort. There is a path to the left of the main building of the resort (the building where the check-in is), take the path which runs behind the building (anyone who works there can show you) and you will quickly come upon the approach to Finlayson. This side can be treacherous if you are not focusing but if you are a pretty good hiker it will be fine. Look around at the top, then you can go down the other side of the mountain, and once you get to the road, turn around, go back UP the way you came, and then descend again on the trail that takes you back to the resort…hope this helps.

  11. Liam says:

    It is good to mention again about heading there at a decent time, and leaving while the sun is up.. My scariest and fondest childhood memory with my mother and step father, was hiking and watching the sunset on the way down.. but as we got a little bit into the trees… well it got pitch black and we lost our way off the trail even.. go figure.. Our savior was my mother and fathers socks.. we tied them around a branch to make a torch for light to find the trail and get down. I wouldnt burn mine as my grandmother recently purchased them for me. Luckily we made it out alive but man oh man!! Be careful folks lol

  12. Lisa A. says:

    Came from the mainland twice to do this hike, starting from the Bear Mountain Resort, with my border collie. It requires focus and above-average physical condition in my opinion. I hike regularly and know how to hike; someone who just ups and decides to do this on a whim may find it difficult or worse, get hurt. For extra points, go up one side, enjoy the view from the top, then go down the other side, then back up to the top and down to where it all started. You will sleep very well that night.

  13. Vikki says:

    Hiked Mt. Finlayson with my hubby, sister-in-law, 4 kids and our Lab on Friday…hadn’t done it in years and loved every second. We parked at the bridge by Goldstream, and accessed the trail just over the bridge, then got off the mountain from the back side and walked the 3km from the bottom of the mountain back to the car. Kids are 12, 10, 9 and 7 and did well, although it was a bit hairy on the rock face side heading up. Probably not the greatest hike for everyone, depending on physical fitness, but I would definitely do it again.

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  15. Doctor Alias says:

    I took the same route Lisa took (well, one-fourth of it, cough) from the hotel this Saturday. After scrambling up what seemed like an unending staircase of jutting rocks and tree trunks, I reached where the forest ends for a clear view that resulted in panic. While it was obvious that it was difficult to slip and fall if one was careful, the sheer slope of the stone and the obvious height simply terrified me. I hugged the rock with my back to the view for what seemed like ten or so minutes. And then when my heart calmed a bit, I decided I had to go down the slope, something I thought was unimaginable on my way up. I did eventually make it down. I cannot imagine how people might come down on a slick day or when it is dark without risking life or limb.

    I missed the view but what can I say, it was sheer terror for a few minutes! Well, I guess I learned I am actually scared of heights.

    Does anyone have an idea of where I might have chickened out relative to the summit?

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