While researching things to do on Vancouver Island, I came across a cool biking road called the Galloping Goose Trail right in the neighborhood of Victoria, a short 30-minute drive from downtown. The whole 31-mile (55 km) trail runs from Victoria to Sooke, going through Saanich, View Royal, Langford, Colwood, and Metchosin. A local favorite, the trail wanders through different landscapes, from urban settings to forests, rivers, beaches, and lakes. Only 25% of the trail (about 9 mi / 15 km) is paved, and mostly at the beginning of the trail from Victoria. The trail is connected to several other trail systems and makes it popular with locals who enjoy using the trail for walking, running, biking, and even horseback riding in parts of it.
The whole trail is quite long, and we did not want to bike the whole way. We were also more interested in the remote section, biking through the forest and over an older wooden bridge. So we decided to take on the 15-mile (23 km) long section from Sooke to Leechtown.
We had reserved rental bikes from West Coast Outdoor Adventure in the outskirts of Sooke where we picked them up first thing in the morning. In order to reach the section of the Galloping Goose Trail we wanted to bike for the day, we had to cross through Sooke, which was somewhat tricky given the car traffic and road constructions. Add to that a long stretch uphill, the start of the day was a bit challenging for me. Bruno was further away, not minding the cars skirting us along the way.
Soon enough though, we rejoined the Sooke River Road, leaving Sooke behind and heading into the forest. The bike store had told us we could find food at the crossroad and we stopped at the Sooke River Store & Grill, where we bought a couple of sandwiches and bags of chips for lunch.
Biking the Galloping Goose Trail
From that point on, the trail was no longer paved, and would vary from gravel to dirt road. We still felt the urban environment as we biked past several houses and ranches. Thanks to our map, we found the tiny trail connection that led us to old railway line of the famous Galloping Goose Trail. A large flat trail surrounded by large trees, I started to relax and enjoy the trail better. What was amazing is that, except for a few other bikers, we were all by ourselves. Probably the benefit of tackling the most remote part of the trail and the further away from any urban setting.
The trail was really nice and well-graded, thanks to its legacy of the railway. We gained a little elevation, biking through the forest, and going over the Charters Creek Trestle. Gradually the path rose above the forest area and reached rocky ridges and little canyons where we enjoyed more open views of the area.
Chilling by the Sooke Potholes
We soon reached the side of the Sooke River where the little Todd Creek merged in, and biked over the nice Todd Creek Trestle, our first wooden bridge. The bridge was a little intimidating. High from the ground, just wood, I wondered how strong it was. But it did look well maintained that I dared push ahead. Biking over the wooden planks was somewhat jumpy and noisy but I soon felt comfortable and stopped to enjoy the view from the bridge. Right after the bridge, we realized we had arrived at the famous Sooke Potholes.
Since we were in October, the area was deserted and to be honest, I did not feel like going for a dip either. The weather was nice and warm, and we were hot from biking but the water was lacking several degrees for my liking.
But the scenery was nice, the river carving several pools along its way down a small gorge, and the open terrain left the sun come through. We could not have found a better spot for our lunch break. Leaving our bikes by the side, we sat on the lush grass and just chilled, enjoying our lunch with a view. Birds, crickets, river roars, all singing around us. The place was so relaxing we could have stayed for a nap!
We pushed back on our bike and headed to Leechtown. The trail reached a clearing and almost immediately we came across the gate closing the trail. Maps show Leechtown as the end of the trail but this is, in fact, a restricted area part of the island water supply and a locked gate prevents anyone from going closer. Not much to see there and it was time to retrieve our steps anyway.
The return went even faster as we could roll down the trail. We gained speed and were almost racing down. Still no one in sight! Too soon, we reached the paved road again and hit the afternoon traffic. Before we could reach the bike rental store, we had one more hill to go over.
This was, of course, no Himalaya to climb but after a day on the bike, my poor legs were rather tired and the slow elevation never seemed to end… Bruno managed to bike all the way up, and I almost made it too, if it was not for a truck trying to take over too closely and cutting my lead. I had no option but stop, or fear an unwanted encounter with a large truck. The good news was nothing happened, but that meant I stopped biking and I could not pick up the pace again.
I finished the last yards on foot, pushing the bike but glad to still be in one piece.
We reached the store just in time for closure. It had been a great day though it had been a long bike ride – 19 miles (30 km) from the store, and another to come back, and I definitely could feel the almost 40 miles (60 km) and my legs were ready for a break
History of the Galloping Goose Trail
The trail follows the old Victoria – Leechtown railway line of the Canadian National Railway, which first run in 1922, linking the island main city to this mining town, where gold had been discovered in the late 1800s in the nearby Sooke River. Once the gold rush was over, the line usage declined and closed about 9-10 years.
The name of the trail is supposedly based on a noisy gas-powered passenger railcar that runs for 9 years from 1922. Local residents and museum are contesting this, contending that specific car did not run that route.
Today Leechtown is an abandoned mine, and the forest has regained the whole surface.
- Given the length of the trail, you can either just do a shorter distance or plan for accommodation along the way.
- If you are doing one way, you will need to organize a shuttle or transportation for the return.
- The urban section around Victoria can be challenging given the cars, highways and road crossing.
- The part between Sooke and Leechtown is quite isolated and doesn’t see many visitors. Be sure to let someone know about your plans in case of emergency.
- Make sure to take food and water as there is nothing north of Sooke.
- The weather can change rapidly and I would recommend taking wind and rain gear.
- If you think you might come back at night, check the bike lamp or take a headlamp with you. We did not check ours and we made it at twilight with no distinct light.
Distance: 31 miles one way (55 km)
Location: Victoria to Leechtown
Altitude Gain: 1,462 ft (180 m)