7 Trails to Run Before You Die: 5. Coast Trail in East Sooke Park

coasttrailinletThe Coast Trail in East Sooke Park is probably my favourite trail on Vancouver Island. I love its incredible ocean views, that fresh smell of salty-ocean-meets-rainforest lingering in the air, its many points of interest (deep water caverns, old fish trap cabins, ancient petroglyphs and soaring eagles, just to name a few) and its challenging terrain. I first ran this trail in the summer of 2009 when I wasn’t really doing much running; in fact, I had never entered a race or run farther than 10 km when I tackled this trail for the first time. I definitely think this trail made me fall in love with running; trail running, in particular. So if you’re a runner and you haven’t clamoured over its rocky, seashell speckled terrain, I highly suggested you do! And if you’re a non-runner, you might find yourself signing up for your first 10 km trail race after spending a few hours in one of the prettiest parks in the world.

5) Coast Trail (Aylard Farm -> Coast Trail -> Pike Road Trail)

Trail name(s): Coast Trail. Please see the CRD website for more detail about East Sooke Park and for a full map of the park.

Route map of the Coast Trail. For my Garmin map, click here.

Route map of the Coast Trail. For my Garmin map, click here.

Terrain: Muddy single-track trails, root-covered forest floor, steep rock faces that you’ll need to use your hands to clamour over, rocky beaches and gravel trail. Fairly well maintained in parts but pretty rugged in others. The trail is marked with yellow reflective markers bolted into rocks and those grey CRD parks signs with the blue writing. Wear your good trail runners for this one!
Parking: Decent sized lots at both Pike Road and Aylard Farm. So far neither lot is pay parking, thankfully!
Trail access: East Sooke Park is about an hour and 10 minute drive from Victoria. You can access the park by either going through Metchosin and turning down Becher Bay Road off East Sooke Road or by driving in on Sooke Road and turning left down Gillespie, left onto East Sooke Road and right onto Becher Bay Road. To get to Pike Road, turn right onto East Sooke Road instead and left onto Pike Road, about a five minute drive from the Gillespie/East Sooke Road junction. Once you get to the parking lot at Aylard Farm (if you’re starting there), follow the trail straight down to the beach at the end of the parking lot and go right along the trail marked “Coast Trail.”
Facilities: Outhouses at both parking lots near each trail head.
Distance: 12km for Aylard Farm back to the parking lot at Pike Road.
Time: Anywhere from 2:10 to 3 hours.
Description: When I run this trail I like to run point-to-point, so we drop one car off at Pike Road and drive back to Aylard Farm. There are inside trails you can take to loop back to the parking lot, but I love running the whole thing along the coast. We usually start at Aylard Farm, and run along the water’s edge for the majority of the run–the views are just  too stunning to take the inside trails! I find the first 5 k goes by pretty quick and is easier than the last 5 k along the water–in the first 5 k you’ll see petroglyphs just off the trail on one rocky beach (a big sign on your right will tell you where to look), a sheltered rocky beach with an island just off the shore (great spot to stop and have a snack) and an old fish trap cabin called Cabin Point that you can go in to and check out. The last 5 km before you hit the gravel trail back to the parking lot has some incredible views, deep rocky caverns to throw rocks into (watch your footing when you get to this part–if you slipped here, you wouldn’t make it out alive) and some challenging climbs. We counted about four and a half climbs from just past Cabin Point, which you can see on the Garmin elevation map below. You run out long the edge of the trail on the coast then snake back into the forest before scaling rocks to get back up and out along the edge again; after an hour of running, this part can be pretty grueling… luckily the scenery is so amazing that it takes your mind off your burning quads and glutes! Once you get to Iron Mine Bay, you head back into the forest on a gravel trail to the parking lot. Be sure to bring layers, water and nutrition with you on this trail run–guaranteed you’ll need it!

coasttrailele

Elevation on the Coast Trail. Click here for my full Garmin route map.

Trail Rating (out of four stars)
Terrain: ★★★★
Elevation: ★★★
Accessibility: ★★★
Distance: ★★★★
Vistas: ★★★★
Scenery: ★★★★

(For my trail rating criteria, click here.)

Start of the Coast Trail run. It was sunny and hot when we started out, until the fog rolled in shortly after!

Start of the Coast Trail run. It was sunny and hot when we started out, until the fog rolled in shortly after!

Some typical Coast Trail scenery.

Some typical Coast Trail scenery.

About half way through the fog rolled in. Good thing I brought a jacket!

About half way through the fog rolled in. Good thing I brought a jacket!

About an hour in at the little rocky beach with the island.

About an hour in at the little rocky beach with the island.

Some amazing views, even in the fog!

Some amazing views, even in the fog!

Looking across at the rest of our crew!

Looking across at the rest of our crew!

You get pretty high up on the edge at some points... please watch your footing!

You get pretty high up on the edge at some points… please watch your footing!

Caverns.

Caverns.

Looking back at Cabin Point. An amazing view on a sunny day.

Looking back at Cabin Point. An amazing view on a sunny day.

Overall: Best trail run on Vancouver Island, hands down.

Next week: Mt. Doug Park
Previous week: Mt. Quimper