Destination Trail Run: Thetis Lake, Canada
Year round, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more casually gorgeous all-purpose track than Thetis Lake Trail on Vancouver Island. Winding a scenic figure eight around the lake, the main Upper and Lower Thetis Lake trail has a pleasant mixture of uphill, downhill and flat with unending forest and lake views. There is actually a whole network of trails crisscrossing over Thetis Lake Regional Park. Depending on what you’re looking for, you can take a leisurely family stroll, have a casual jog with just the right amount of cardio, or you can push your limits on the many trail running tracks that zigzag up and away from the main trail. The lake is refreshingly swimmable, dog-friendly, and open to kayaking and canoeing. You can even follow some of the trails into the ‘backcountry’ – just miles from the famous city of Victoria, you will feel like you are in the deep wilds of Canada.
Thetis Lake Regional Park
Thetis Lake Regional Park is just 20 minutes from downtown Victoria. If you take the trail to the right from the main parking lot, it leads straight into a forest (the park has many Garry Oak and Douglas Fir trees, so you’ll be surrounded by green no matter what time of year it is). Within minutes, you’ll arrive at the beach area of the lake known as Thetis Lake beach. This family-friendly area has public restrooms and a nice sandy beach for lounging and swimming. Described as moderate, the main Upper and Lower Thetis Lake trail is a 4.8mi (or 7.7km) meandering loop around the upper and lower sections of the lake. This main track is popular with locals taking their dogs for a run or families going for a walk, but it’s normally only lightly trafficked during the weekdays. Because there are many trails leading off of the main Upper and Lower Thetis Lake track, it’s helpful to know where you’re going before you head out.
The trails all run through a luxurious West coast rainforest and most of them have picturesque views of Thetis or other lakes. The well-maintained main trail is mostly gravel and cuts a fairly wide path. What we’ll focus on in this article is the main trail, but there are dozens upon dozens of very fun running trails all over Thetis Lake Regional Park. One of the locals’ favorites is the Thetis Lake to Stewart Mountain route, which covers several trails in one (Lower Thetis Lake Trail to Seaborn Trail to McKenzie Creek Trail to Stewart Mountain Trail to Upper Thetis Lake Trail) and offers stunning, varied scenery in a roughly two-hour run.
Tips to Remember
- The only public restrooms in the park are the restrooms on Thetis Lake beach, the main beach area near the main parking lot.
- Thetis Lake Park is dog-friendly, but dogs must be on a leash.
- Camping is not allowed in the park.
- Bring snacks or a picnic lunch. There are so many beautiful, quiet lookout points!
- Definitely wear your all-terrain running shoes! The path is dirt in places with roots and rocks.
Main Trail (all purpose) – Upper and Lower Thetis Lake
From the initial sandy beach area near the restrooms, follow the trail to the right of the lake. At the first junction, turn left and left again at a second junction (crossing a bridge), continuing to keep the lake on your left. When you reach a major crossroads junction, turn left and then make your first right (about 20 yards away) – this will lead you up and onto a rocky outcropping with beautiful views of Upper Thetis Lake. You will pass several other smaller junctions, but continue to follow the main trail and keep the lake on your left. There are many lovely, quiet viewpoints on this section of the trail – perfect to stop for a snack, picnic, or pictures. Keep making left turns when necessary to stay on the main trail until you reach the Trillium Trail Junction – turn right here and you will shortly arrive at a small beach with a boat launch and little parking lot. Continue on the trail until you reach another small junction. If you go left here, it’s a short 15 minutes side trail with views of Lower Thetis Lake. If you go straight, turn left at the next junction and you’ll soon find yourself back at Thetis Lake beach where the restrooms are.
Highland Rd, View Royal
British Columbia V9B 5Z6, Canada
Driving: Head north out of Victoria on the Trans Canada Highway. Take the Royal View/Colwood Exit 10 and follow the road until you reach Six Mile Road, then turn right and you will soon see the sign for Thetis Lake Regional Park and parking lot.
Public Transportation: You can jump on Bus #50 (Langford / Downtown via Coldstream), near the Parliament buildings on Government street. The bus ride will take less than an hour (about 40 minutes depending on the time of year) from Victoria. However, you will need to walk about 20 minutes from the bus stop where the bus drops you off, and the start of the Thetis Lake Trail.