Highlands is a beautiful rural district of lakes and parkland in the Greater Victoria region of Vancouver Island, bordering on the eastern shore of Finlayson Arm.
Highlands is one of the West Shore municipalities of Langford, Colwood, Metchosin, and View Royal, located to the west of Victoria. This region is known as the Western Communities, or West Shore, and stretches from Esquimalt Harbour to Rocky Point, along the shoreline of Juan de Fuca Strait.
In the afterglow of goodwill that followed Victoria’s hosting of the 1994 Commonwealth Games, local and provincial governments, as well as private companies, joined together to create the Commonwealth Nature Legacy. The grand purpose of the project is to further protect the remaining natural spaces that surround the ever-expanding city.
Gowlland Tod Provincial Park in the Highlands protects a significant part of the Gowlland Range, one of the last remaining natural areas in Greater Victoria, and a portion of the natural shoreline and uplands in Tod Inlet, which adjoins the Saanich Inlet south of Brentwood Bay near Butchart Gardens. Included in this park are representative examples of the rare, dry coastal Douglas fir habitat that features old-growth forest, wildflowers, and stands of arbutus and manzanita. Old mining and logging roads in the park now serve as hiking trails.
A treasure in the Highlands is the historic Caleb Pike Homestead at 1589 Millstone Road. Caleb Pike was a farmer who arrived in 1850 to work for the Hudson’s Bay Company. He established this first homestead in the Highlands – constructed of handhewn logs – and a sheep and cattle ranch in 1878. Caleb Pike died in 1888, and his restored log homestead is now a popular heritage site, used today as a community meeting place.
The monthly Highlands Market is held on the last Sunday of each month from May to September (10 am to 1 pm). Located at the Caleb Pike Homestead at 1589 Millstream Road, the market offers locally-grown fresh vegetables and locally-made products, including preserves and jams, eggs, honey, crafts, quilting, baby crafts, plants, and more.
The Highlands Winter Craft Fair (late November), is a cozy old-fashioned craft fair in the heritage log house in the Highlands, complete with hot apple cider from the homestead’s orchard. A lovely selection of handcrafted gifts.
There are three access points to the Gowlland Tod Provincial Park, which shares a common boundary with Mount Work Regional Park. There are over 25 miles (40 km) of trails for those hikers who enjoy easygoing trails coupled with access to Tod Inlet’s shoreline. Take Wallace Drive from either of its two intersections with Hwy 17A. The trailhead at the north end of the park is located on the west side of Wallis Road opposite Quarry Lake. A second trailhead is located on Willis Point Road west of Wallace Drive and is shared with Mount Work Regional Park.
Trails provide seaside access to McKenzie Bight and climb to spectacular viewpoints and rocky outcroppings on Partridge Hills and Jocelyn Hill. The southern entrance to the park is reached by following Millstream Road north from Hwy 1 to Caleb Pike Road, then a short distance west to the trailhead. From here trails lead to Holmes Peak, Mount Finlayson, and Jocelyn Hill.
The 536-hectare Mount Work Regional Park borders on Gowlland Tod Provincial Park in the Highlands area of the Saanich Peninsula. A very popular recreation spot, Mount Work offers a variety of landscapes and activities. A feature of the park is the Summit Trail that provides great wilderness hiking through a cedar forest and open areas to the summit of Mount Work. The trailhead is at the parking lot opposite the head of the McKenzie Bight trail on Durrance Road. Mount Work Park is accessed via West Saanich Road, Wallace Drive, Willis Point Road and Durrance Road.
Three small freshwater lakes dot the slopes of Mount Work Regional Park. Depending on your mood, the weather, and the season, freshen up in Durrance Lake or Pease Lake on the north side of the park, once you’ve completed the hike to the top of the mountain, or just relax at the lakeside and enjoy the woodland ambience. Fork Lake lies at the south end of the hiking trail to the summit of Mount Work.
The Lone Tree Hill Regional Park on the slopes of Lone Hill in the Highlands hosts a brilliant show of native wildflowers in spring, including one of the most beautiful of all, the Western Columbine. A feature of the park is the wonderful 360-degree panorama from atop Lone Hill. A fairly steep but easy climb through Douglas-fir, Western Red Cedar, open dry-land and Arbutus trees brings the visitor to the rocky hilltop. The original Lone Tree, now a twisted decaying trunk of a 200 year-old Douglas-fir, is survived by a lone Arbutus tree struggling to survive the dry, exposed conditions. Turn north onto Millstream Road off Highway 1 and continue to the parking area.
The neighbouring Francis/King Regional Park offers 6 miles (11 km) of secluded trails where the forest buffers the hum from the nearby Island Highway. The park is the ideal recreational spot for anyone using a wheelchair, walker or cane – check out the gentle Elsie King Trail with its convenient and pleasant cedar boardwalk. Francis/King Regional Park is located on Munn Road in nearby Saanich. Follow Hwy 1 to Helmcken Road. Turn north on Helmcken, west on W Burnside, then north on Prospect Lake Road to Munn Road.
Golf: The adjacent community of Langford boasts the spectacular new Bear Mountain Golf and Country Club. Nearby Victoria offers 8 championship golf courses in close proximity, including Cordova Bay Golf Club, Olympic View Golf Club, Gorge Vale Golf Club, and Royal Colwood Golf Club. Oak Bay has the Uplands Golf Course and Victoria Golf Club.
Victoria Golf Vacations.
Vancouver Island Golf Vacations.
Mountain Biking: The Mountain Bike Park (also known as the Hartland Surplus Lands) in neighbouring Saanich is located next to the Hartland Disposal Site. Park to the right of the gate before entering the landfill. Short, technically challenging trails begin on the opposite side of the road from the parking area beneath the power wires. Rough singletrack feeds off into the forest from the power service road. To find the trailhead, drive to the west end of Hartland Avenue off West Saanich Road, 20 minutes from downtown Victoria. Even though the area is designated multi-use, mountain biking is the primary activity. It even sports a bike wash-down facility.
An amazing maze of mountain biking trails crisscross the hillsides of Millstream Highlands, 11 miles (18 km) from downtown Victoria. Take Hwy 1 west of the city centre to Millstream Road, then go north for almost 2 miles (3 km) until you see concrete barriers and a steel gate where power lines cross the road. There are both double-track and single-track trails to challenge every skill level. Novice riders will want to head for the top, as the trails here are smoother and more level. It takes 30 minutes to bike up the hill on good double-track road, but it’s worth the effort for the view from the top of Skirt Mountain. More experienced mountain bikers will want to play on the steeper, more technical singletrack on the lower north-facing slopes, where the terrain is often wet. Note: Once at the top of Skirt Mountain, make sure to descend across the southeast face of the mountain to avoid a steep hill climb in advance of your return to the trailhead on Millstream.
Neighbouring Highlands is the small community of View Royal, and the Gorge, a meandering waterway that leads from Victoria’s upper harbour through a landscaped urban environment, before finally widening into Portage Inlet in View Royal.
South of Highlands is the the West Shore community of Langford, which offers an accessible diversity of beautiful parks and lakes and limitless recreational activities.