7 Trails to Run Before You Die: 6. Mt. Doug Park in Saanich

mtdougtopA “Top 7 Trail Runs on Southern Vancouver Island” list wouldn’t be complete without including at least one trail in Saanich. Although the Westshore and Sooke are home to some of my most favourite trails, Mt. Doug Park is edging it’s way up there as one of the best places to run in Victoria (in my opinion).

I usually come here on the weekend with my boyfriend and our dogs for a hike, and had never actually ran the trails until a few weekends ago. I was trying to find a good 8 k or hour-long route that incorporated some views, but ended up forgetting to restart my Garmin (ughhhh…) and we took a route back to where we parked that wasn’t quite long enough. The following weekend we set out sans dogs and iPhone camera and ran the same route (with a few more ks tacked on at the end) so I could map it properly. It turned out to be a great run–it was the perfect combination of distance, elevation, effort and scenery. Lucky for us, both days we chose to run it were beautiful and sunny.

6) Mt. Doug (Glendenning Trail -> Whittaker Trail -> Norn Trail -> Whittaker Trails -> Norn Trail -> random side trail off Norn -> up and over Summit Viewpoint -> Whittaker Trail -> Glendenning Trail)

mtdougmapTrail name(s): You can take any combination of trails in the park to either go around the bottom of the mountain or over the top. We ducked in and out of Glendenning, Whittaker and Norn Trails. Mt. Doug Park’s website has an excellent trail map here.
Terrain: Wide muddy trails, single-track dirt trails, gravel trails with boardwalk, loose rocks and roots.
Parking: There are a few places to park around the park. The main entrance to the park has quite a few spots down at the bottom before the gate. We like to park off Glendenning to start the run, but you have to get there early as there are only 4-5 parking spots.
Trail access: Right next to the parking lot.
Facilities: None.
Distance: About 6 – 8km
Time: Anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour.
Description: The route we take starts off on a wide dirt trail (which can be pretty mucky in the winter/spring) with a slight incline for the first kilometre or so that brings your heart rate up pretty quickly. After passing a little cave on your right, there’s quite a steep incline before the trail narrows and drops down into more rock-and-roots terrain. This part is fun–the trail heads downhill for the next few kilometres as you run around the perimeter of the park. We usually stick to the outside trails which lead us to the main parking lot on Churchill Drive. Once you reach this parking lot, you head up towards the main gate and take the trail back in to the woods on your left.  Follow this trail for about five minutes until you come upon a side trail that heads straight up the side of the mountain on your right. This is a good quad-busting hike with some incredible views once you reach the top. You can take other, less-challenging routes up, but I love breaking up my runs with some climbing. If you do go this route, you’ll need to use your hands to pull yourself up and over some rocky ledges, so only attempt this route if you’re able to do so.

Elevation map from my Garmin. For my full Garmin route map, click here.

Elevation map from my Garmin. For my full Garmin route map, click here.

Once you reach the top, head towards the direction of the cell phone tower. This should take you out into the summit parking lot. Cross the parking lot and take the trail up to the Summit Viewpoint for some amazing 360 degree views of Victoria. Head back down the other side either on Irvine Trail, or if you’re feeling adventurous like we were, down the side of the rock face until you meet back up with Whittaker Trail. Go left when you reach this trail–it will take you back to the parking lot on the same trail you came in on. Bonus: it’s all downhill from then on, so sprint it out for the last kilometre!

About a kilometre in, just before the descent!

About a kilometre in, just before the descent!

Cut down to the left when you reach the interpretive display sign.

Cut down to the left when you reach the interpretive display sign.

Love the boardwalk around the edge of the park that takes you through a forest of ferns!

Love the boardwalk around the edge of the park that takes you through a forest of ferns!

To stick to the edge of the park, don't follow this hiking man sign!

To stick to the edge of the park, don’t follow this hiking man sign!

Follow this trail!

Follow this trail!

Head off on this steep side trail to the right to climb to the summit!

Head off on this steep side trail to the right to climb to the summit!

Climbing to the summit.

Climbing to the summit.

You'll definitely need to use your hands to make it over the rocks on this route.

You’ll definitely need to use your hands to make it over the rocks on this route.

Worth the climb, though!

Worth the climb, though!

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

Overall: Lots of great trails to choose from in this park that’s only 10 minutes from downtown Victoria!

Next week: Haven’t decided yet… which trail should I feature in the last of the Top 7 series?
Previous week: Coast Trail in East Sooke Park