What made me fall in love with Victoria’s lakes was that they were natural spaces I could get to on my own—without a car. The book I wrote, the Lakes of Victoria, BC Guidebook, was born largely out of my experiences exploring local lakes on two wheels.
With another beautiful summer weekend upon us, I want to share some of my favorites with you.
The Province of BC has officially proclaimed July 2022 as “Lakes Appreciation Month,” so there’s no better time to get out there and see them for yourself. This is the first of three articles celebrating lakes—stay tuned for another article looking at the health of Victoria’s lakes coming soon.
Thetis Lake (View Royal, Craigflower Creek Watershed)
Thetis Lake Regional Park. Photograph by Ernie Dickie.
Thetis Lake should be your first lake destination if you are new to cycling, or heading out with the family in tow. The site of Canada’s first formal nature sanctuary, Thetis Lake is close, the cycling route is mostly flat, paved, and generally car-free, and once you arrive there’s a sprawling regional park to explore surrounded by a majestic forest of mid-growth hemlock , cedar, arbutus, and Douglas fir.
While the main beach is well equipped with facilities such as change rooms, washrooms, picnic tables, and a water fountain, the hiking trails throughout the park lead past beaches, cliffs, and secluded coves, providing a chance for everyone to connect with nature in its finest form. After you’ve fallen in love with this unique place you can seek out two other smaller lakes with shorelines in the park, Prior Lake (Victoria’s clothing optional favourite) and McKenzie Lake.
The best access to Thetis Lake for cyclists is via the Galloping Goose Regional Trail and Six Mile Road, or the Thetis-Langford Connector Trail. Cycling is not permitted on many trails within the park, but there are some designated mountain biking trails—watch for signage. Bike racks are provided at the Main Beach and West Beach, as well as the intersection between the Lower Thetis Lake Trail and the Trillium Trail.
Did you know? Thetis Lake was not named after a character in Greek mythology, but rather a ship in the British navy: the HMS Thetis. The ship was sent to protect British rights to gold found in Haida Gwaii (formerly the Queen Charlotte Islands) in 1852. Thetis Island, near Chemainus, was also named after this ship.
Glen Lake (Langford, Colwood Creek Watershed)
The fishing pier at Glen Lake Beach Park. Photograph by Adam Ungstad.
An urban haven, Glen Lake is a favorite for families and cyclists alike. While the lake is mostly surrounded by private residences, Glen Lake Beach Park has all of the facilities you could ask for including a special beach just for dogs, an accessible playground, and an outdoor shower. Other access points around the lake feature swimming docks, a floating boardwalk, and “pocket parks” for those looking for a quieter space.
Like many of Victoria’s lakes, Glen Lake is known as an “ice kettle lake,” as it was formed by a glacier that melted thousands of years ago—but don’t let that fool you into thinking the water is too cold for a swim ! In the right season, bird watchers can expect to see chipping sparrows, hairy woodpeckers, belted kingfishers, northern flickers, and rufous hummingbirds at Glen Lake.
Cyclists using the Galloping Goose Regional Trail will see a swimming dock directly off the trail on the lake’s southeast corner, while those interested in a beach atmosphere should continue along the Goose a bit further, and head to Glen Lake Beach Park via Glen Lake Road.
On your way back, consider a detour to the campus of the Royal Roads University, and explore a trail known as “Charlie’s Trail.” This is where the water from the Colwood Creek Watershed—including water from Glen Lake—empties into the Esquimalt Lagoon. You’ll need to park your bike to explore the trail, but it’s well worth it to see the flashy finish of this watershed, particularly in the spring.
Did you know? While it may seem hard to separate Glen Lake from its neighbours, Langford Lake and Florence Lake, the three lakes are actually in separate watersheds, meaning water in each lake flows into the Pacific ocean at different places. While Glen Lake is part of the Colwood Creek Watershed, Langford Lake is part of the Goldstream River Watershed, and Florence Lake is part of the Millstream Creek Watershed.
Matheson Lake (Metchosin, Wildwood Creek Watershed)
Swimmers enjoying the sun at Ian Gillespie Island in Matheson Lake Regional Park. Photograph by Adam Ungstad.
Referred to as a “precious jewel” in a 1979 edition of the newspaper that would become the Times Colonist, Matheson Lake is a wonderful feature of Metchosin, found at the base of a steep coastal mountain, surrounded by mid-growth forest with plenty of trails to explore nearby.
While the ride to Matheson Lake via the Galloping Goose Trail is generally flat and car-free with the exception of intersections, it is also a longer trek at about 30 km each way from downtown Victoria, so you’ll want to leave early and pack plenty of food and water. Depending on where you depart from and your fitness level, budget 2-3 hours each way to get to Matheson Lake Regional Park. Bikes are not allowed in the park, but ample bike racks are provided at the parking lot.
Chances are when you arrive you will be quite happy to simply spend your time at the main beach, and perhaps swim out to Ian Gillespie island. The entire 3.4 km hiking trail around the lake can be more challenging than many people expect, however the trail on the north side leading from the beach connects with the Galloping Goose again, making for an enjoyable loop back to the bike racks.
Along the lakeside trail you’ll pass through Douglas fir, arbutus, and western red cedar trees, cross exposed rock faces, and catch views of emergent aquatic plants lining the shores of the lake. Matheson Lake is part of the Wildwood Creek Watershed, and empties into the Pacific ocean at Roche Cove.
Did you know? Indigenous lore tells of all-powerful giants called sheyeyas who guard Matheson Lake. Superior in intelligence and larger than sasquatches, sheyeyas are invisible and can take on any shape they wish. It is believed that the sheyeyas took the shapes of swans to guard Matheson Lake in years past.
Durrance Lake (Saanich Peninsula, Tod Creek Watershed)
Fishing at Durrance Lake in the fall. Photograph by Adam Ungstad.
For experienced road cyclists looking for a full day’s worth of a ride, consider arriving at Durrance Lake via the narrow, winding, and shady roads in the District of Highlands.
The largest lake in Mount Work Regional Park, Durrance Lake is a fantastic place to soak up the sun, swim, fish, and enjoy a lake atmosphere. There is a small beach, carry-in boats are welcome, a walking trail circles the lake, and plenty of opportunities for hiking and mountain biking are close by.
The lake and surrounding woods provide homes for birds such as Steller’s jay (BC’s official bird), woodpeckers, and hummingbirds. Trees such as arbutus, grand fir, Douglas fir, red alder, and cedar line the lakeside trail.
For cyclists comfortable sharing the road with cars and somewhat hilly terrain, exit the Galloping Goose Regional Trail at Millstream Lake Road, and continue along Ross Durrance Road, eventually arriving at Durrance Lake via Willis Point Road . Watch for a glimpse of Pease Lake on your way.
After a swim at Durrance Lake, make your trip a loop by returning via Willis Point Road and the Interurban Rail Trail. From there you can either make your way to the multi-use Lochside Regional Trail via West Saanich Road and McTavish, or head back into the heart of town via Interurban.
Durrance Lake is part of the Tod Creek Watershed. Water leaves Durrance Lake via Durrance Creek, which then connects with Heal Creek before joining Tod Creek, and ultimately makes its way northwards, emptying into Tod Inlet.
Did you know? While Durrance Lake is on the Saanich Peninsula, in terms of political boundaries it is not in the District of Saanich, nor in the neighboring District of Highlands. Rather, Durrance Lake is part of the Juan de Fuca Electoral Area (JdFEA), which stretches along the west side of Vancouver Island, from the community of Otter Point (just beyond Sooke) to Port Renfrew.
Before you go, make sure you and those around you stay safe:
- Plan your route before you leave using the latest Bike Map from the CRD.
- Take a bike skills course to ensure your safety while riding, particularly on roads.
- Take plenty of food and water with you. Paniers are a good investment if it’s possible!
- When cycling off-road, always stay on well-defined trails. Watch for signage about where you can ride within municipal and regional parks.
Enjoyed this article? Get your copy of the book to learn more about Victoria’s lakes!
There are many more lakes near Victoria that make for great cycling destinations—and the Lakes of Victoria, BC Guidebook is the perfect resource for discovering them!
The book includes 31 lakes with public access in the Saanich Peninsula, Highlands, View Royal, Langford, Colwood, Malahat, Metchosin, Sea to Sea Regional Park, and Sooke.
With illustrations of local plants and animals, topographical trail maps, stunning photos from local photographers, and plenty of fascinating local trivia on Victoria’s local history and freshwater ecosystems, everyone will learn something new about the lakes that bring Victoria to life.
“Delightful and enchanting… a lovely book.”
“A comprehensive guidebook. An excellent resource on local lakes.”
– BC Lake Stewardship Society
Buy your copy of the book—a perfect companion for summer exploration