Humpback Trailhead, Mt. Wells, to Sooke Lake Road (20.3km)

Newly developed and well maintained trail/ service road through all ages of forest from Old Growth to recent logging. Many steep sections, some quite long. Overall, it has a kind of new construction feel, but the forests are impressive, particularly below the upper service gate.

Footpath, biking, equestrian (see restrictions for cyclists and equestrians in description below) equestrian

hiker cyclist

The Trail

There are three main sections of the trail. Good signage is provided at all turns. See photo file for more information on distances and elevation changes of the sections.

  1. Mt. Wells to lower service gate: A crushed gravel path, 2 -3m wide, through mature forest. Rolling hills with a lot of little ups and downs, but little elevation gain. Just under 2 km from the parking lot is a spiffy single wide new aluminum suspension bridge (not passable for equestrians).
  2. Lower service gate to upper service gate:  A service road for the Victoria watershed. Passes through mature forest with old growth remnants. This section attacks most of the elevation gain, about 325m over 6 km. This road has been designated as part of the trail, and is not open to industrial traffic. Watershed service vehicles and emergency services are permitted, but are rarely encountered. You are travelling along a road here, so it doesn’t feel much like wilderness, although you are travelling through the oldest and most impressive forests on this section of trail.
  3. Upper service gate to Sooke Lake Rd. parking.  A crushed gravel path, 2- 3m wide, through clear cut logging and second growth forests of varying ages. There is a section of the trail designated for horses and bicycles that follows paved roads near the summit at Finlayson View Rd. Foot traffic here is directed along an alternate trail route (blue on Earth View above) for this brief section. There is an elevation loss of -240m from the upper service gate to Sooke Lake parking lot. The summit is near Finalyson View Rd. There is a nice viewpoint/ picnic spot about 700m after you leave the service road at the upper service gate.

As you approach the Sooke Lake Rd. trailhead, the trail meets a gravel road after an uphill grade. The signage here was poor at the time of writing, but they were still working on the trail and it may improve. Turn right at the road. After about 100m, you intersect Sooke Lake Rd. Turn left and 50m uphill find the parking lot on your right.

Road access to the trail between the start and end points is possible at Finlayson View Rd. and Stebbings Rd. crossing. There was cell phone access on the Telus network every time I checked on this trail.

crushed-gravel-path-through-mature-forest

Crushed gravel pathway through mature forest.

cowichan-valley-trail-between-stebbings-rd-and-sook-lake-road

Cowichan Valley Trail between Stebbings Road and Sooke Lake Road.

Note that horses are not permitted on the section from Mt. Wells parking lot to the upper service gate. Between the upper service gate and Sooke Lake Rd. parking lot, horses are permitted.

Camping is not permitted anywhere on this section of the trail. There is a good viewpoint/ picnic spot about 700m after you leave the service road at the upper service gate. You will encounter a sign warning bicycles of a 250m downgrade, the sweet spot is just before it on the right side. Views of the Saanich Peninsula and Mt. Baker, U.S.A, are good on a clear day. If it is foggy, you can see your feet.

There are few, if any, water crossings between Mt. Wells parking lot and Stebbings Rd. crossing. Two or three seasonal water crossings are found between Stebbings Rd. and Sooke Lake Rd. parking lot. These may dry up in summer and early fall.

No potable water is provided at any of the service points on this trail. Seasonal surface water for treatment may be available at creek crossings between Stebbings Rd. and Sooke Lake Rd. These creeks may dry up in summer/ early fall. The south end of the trail is the nearest supply point. Full services are available in Langford, about 5km east of the Mt. Wells parking trailhead. After that, there are no supply services.

past-upper-service-gate-crushed-gravel-path-through-clearcut-forest

Past the upper service gate the path is crushed gravel travelling through clearcut forest.

nice-viewpoint-to-the-rightr-east-at-9-4km-at-this-sign

There is a nice viewpoint to the right or east at about 9.4km beside this signage.

short-section-of-paved-road-that-bikes-and-horses-must-follow

This is a short section of paved road that bikes and horses must follow.

Outhouses are provided at the Mt. Wells parking lot, at kilometre 6, and at the Sooke Lake Rd. parking lot. The proximity of this trail to municipal water sources, surface water, and private property requires proper disposal of all waste material. Please don’t poop in the woods here.

Fat tire or mountain bikes are recommended on the section between Mt. Wells parking lot and the Stebbings Rd. crossing as there are some very steep grades with loose gravel surfaces.

souther-section-of-trail-passes-adjacent-to-victoria-watershed

The southern section of the trail passes adjacent to the Victoria Watershed.

Photos: photo-file-mt-wells-parking-lot-to-sooke-lake-road

all distances given from Mt. Wells parking lot in photo file

Driving Directions & GPS Coordinates to the Trailhead

From Victoria: Take the TransCanada Highway (route 1) west. About 15km west of Victoria, turn left at the light onto West Shore Parkway. After 250m, exit right at the roundabout onto Amy Rd. After 850m, turn left onto Sooke Lake Rd. After 350m turn left onto Humpback Rd. After 1.5 km turn right and find the parking lot about 100m from the intersection with Irwin Rd. Note that a connection between Irwin Rd. and the Langford Parkway was under construction in the summer of 2017, and in future will provide access to Irwin Rd. from Langford, bypassing route 1.

GPS coordinates, Mt. Wells parking lot: 48 26.86N  123 33.29W

Parking

The Mt. Wells and Sooke Lake Rd. parking lots have roughly 15 spaces for standard sized vehicles. Vehicles with large trailers may have difficulty at both locations, as the roads are narrow and the parking lots have no pull through. Finlayson View Rd. is a cul de sac suitable only for drop off or pick up, with no parking provided. Stebbings Rd. crossing has no parking lot, but does have roadside parking for 5 or 6 standard sized vehicles.

sooke-lake-road-parking-lot

Parking lot at Sooke Lake Road.

parking-lot-at-mt-wells-humpback-reservoir

Parking lot at Mt. Wells, Humpback Reservoir.

Other trail options in the area

The Mt. Wells parking lot is the trailhead for the trail up Mt. Wells. It is about 1.5km to the top of the hill.

Other links on the web on features along the trail

This section is part of the Trans Canada Trail (TCT): http://www.tctrail.ca/

The north portion of this trail (after Finlayson View Rd.) follows the Cowichan Valley Trail, also part of the TCT: https://www.cvrd.bc.ca/121/Cowichan-Valley-Trail

Interesting Info about this trail

This trail is newly developed and opened in June 2017. The fresh construction and road sections give it a kind of industrial feel, though this will fade as nature seeds. The trail has a lot of aggressive grades.  Basically it’s all up and down as you ascend above the infamous Malahat Drive, and then descend more gradually to near your starting elevation. You’ll have to be in good shape to tackle the whole thing, whether you are northbound or southbound. Doing portions of the trail instead will suit most trail goers.

GPS Coordinates of the ENDPOINT of the TRAIL

GPS coordinates, Sooke Lake Rd. parking lot: 48 34.85N  123 37.89W

Date/Recorded by: 

June 2017/M Ister Wyman

 

 

 

 

 

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