Once again, we have been blessed by a wonderfully mild West Coast autumn. If you’re from elsewhere in Canada, like Alberta or Ontario, you’re probably feeling extra lucky to be enjoying double-digit temperatures and minimal rainfall this November. But, if you’re anything like me, you might get so caught up in studying and essay-writing and Netflix-binging that you don’t get out to enjoy the nice weather as much as you would like. But fresh air, stunning views, and exercise are all great ways to boost your mental health, and, as nice as the weather is now, winter will be setting in soon (even if it is a West Coast winter). For ideas on where to go to take advantage of the natural beauty in Victoria, check out the list below, where I compile 7 local walks and hikes that make excellent study breaks. And don’t worry if you’ve been on a bit of a hiatus from physical activity (trust me, I know all about that). I’ve listed them in order of least to most intense, so you can start small, if need be.

1. The Breakwater

Intensity: Low

Distance from campus: Medium to long (depending on method of transportation)

Length: 15 to 30 minutes

Let’s start with an easy one. The breakwater is a beautiful, relaxing place to stroll by the ocean. You can either walk along the beach and then up the breakwater, or skip the beach and only walk the breakwater. It’s a great way to get a bit of fresh air without taking up too much of your time.

Getting there from campus: Located a little ways from downtown, the breakwater is relatively easy to get to by bus. You can take the number 7, 14, or 15, and then catch the 2, which will bring you very close.

2. Cedar Hill Golf Course

Intensity: Low 

Distance from campus: Short

Length: 30 minutes to an hour

Cedar Hill Golf Course has a lovely little trail that guides you around it. You can walk around half of the course, which takes about a half hour, or the full course, which takes about an hour. It’s not entirely flat, but it is very low intensity. Plus, the trail goes past several ponds and there’s almost always ducks to hang out with!

Getting there from campus: Take the number 14 bus and get off at Richmond and Cedar Ave. Walk down Cedar, turn left on Shelbourne, and then right on Derby Rd. Keep going straight until you reach the Golf Course. Alternatively, you can walk there in 30 minutes, if you would like to get in the extra exercise!

3. Thetis Lake

Intensity: Low to medium

Distance from campus: Long

Length: 45 minutes to an 1.5 hours

With several beaches, lots of forest, and the odd lake otter to say hello to, this is a beautiful and relatively short walk, although it is quite a trip from campus. There are two lakes: Upper Thetis and Lower Thetis, and you can walk around either one or both of them. Bonus: this is a popular dog walking trail, so chances of interacting with puppies are wonderfully high.

Getting there from campus: Because the lake is located in View Royal, the easiest way to get there is by driving (or carpooling with friends!) But, it is still possible to go by bus, if you don’t mind a long ride. The number 50 bus will take you close, so you can take the 4, 14, or 15 downtown or the 26 or 16 to Uptown and catch the 50 from either location.

4. Elk Lake/Beaver Lake

Intensity: Low to medium (flat, but long)

Distance from campus: Long

Length: 2 – 3 hours

The 10 kilometre trail around the Elk and Beaver Lakes is another beautiful place to walk. It is a long trail, so depending on your gate, it may take a long time to completely circumvent the water. However, the whole trail is pretty much flat, so it’s good for those wanting something a little less intense. For more info on the trail, check out the page on Victoria Trails’ website.

Getting there from campus: Like Thetis Lake, this trail is quite a ways from campus, so if you or someone you know has access to a car, that’s probably your best bet. However, it’s not impossible to bus to. You can take a bus downtown (number 4, 14, or 15) or to Uptown (16 or 26) and catch the 72, which will take you almost right to the trail.

5. Mt. Doug

Intensity: Medium to high

Distance from campus: Short

Length: 45 minutes to 1.5 hours

This is a mountain with a ton of trails and a beautiful view of the city and the ocean. My favourite part about Mt. Doug is that there are trails of varying intensity levels. And, they’re all well labelled, like ski trails! If you want a good leg workout, you can take a blue or black trail, which generally go straight up to the top, at times involving a little bush-whacking and steep climbing. Otherwise, you can always take a green trail for a lower intensity walk, although these trails don’t all go to the summit. Alternatively, you can walk up the road for a consistent slope upwards.

Getting there from campus: Mt. Doug is much easier to get to than the previous two trails. From UVic, you can take the number 12 bus or the 39 to get there.

6. Goldstream Park (Niagara Falls)

Intensity: High

Distance from campus: Long

Length: 1 to 2 hours

Located on the other side of the highway from the infamous Mt. Finlayson, this trail is a lesser-known (and less intense) gem in the Victoria area. While the Niagara Falls in this area is far from the grandeur of the famous waterfall of the same name, it is still breathtaking to stand below it or above it. The trail is accessible from the Goldstream campsite, or across the highway from the Nature Centre. As part of your hike, you can see the old railway tracks and stand on the trestle (unless you’re scared of heights, like me), or keep to the trail and walk up and around the waterfall.

Getting there from campus: This one is unfortunately not accessible by public transit, but it well worth a drive if you can do it!

7. Mt. Finlayson

Intensity: Very High

Distance from campus: Long

Length: 1.5 to 2 hours

Those of you who are from the island, like me, have probably heard of this one. It’s a bit of a beast and, I’ll be honest, I haven’t gotten around to giving it a try yet. The trail is a bit treacherous, and there is some climbing involved, so it’s probably not the best hike for beginners. But if you’re looking for some good exercise and a good view, this might just be the hike for you.

Getting there from campus: Mt. Finlayson is located right across the highway from Goldstream (see above), so directions are relatively the same.

Have you walked or hiked any of these trails? Which one is your favourite? Did I miss any? Let me know in the comments!

Thanks for reading,