Five places to connect to nature in Victoria

Lifestyle Sports | Lifestyle

Hikes and walks for UVic students

Photo of Swan Lake by Alexandra Mehl.
Photo by Alexandra Mehl.

With a transition to online classes, students are spending most of their days at home. With the compounding stress students face, turning to nature may be a way to find a few moments to connect to ourselves. 

Victoria’s location on the coast makes it no surprise that there are many places where students can connect to nature, move their bodies, and take a break from the stresses of online school.

Many studies have shown that getting outside and connecting to nature has benefits for mental health. A study conducted in Japan concluded that spending time outside in nature decreases adrenaline, a stress hormone. 

While not all students are currently in Victoria, for those who are, I’ve compiled a short list of hikes and walks to go on in between and after a day of classes. I’ve found it incredibly important for my mental health, physical health, and success as a student to get outside in nature and connect with the ecosystems that surround me. While out exploring what nature has to offer, it is important to maintain a two-metre distance from others. 

Pkols (Mount Doug)

Pkols is a place where I’ve spent a lot of time during my degree. From exploring the network of trails to climbing the lookout, identifying the variety of plants, or hanging out with spectacular bird species, each moment of exploration has been thoroughly exciting to me. 

At an elevation of 205 metres, and with a view that reaches over the entire city and beyond to the Salish Sea, Pkols is always a great view to have a lunch from. Whether you are looking for a brief walk through the forest or a full hike, Pkols has a network of paths to accommodate.

Mystic Vale

Mystic Vale, a ravine that runs along the edge of UVic’s campus, has always been a place where students can leave the world of academia and enjoy what the forest has to offer while on campus. Although most classes don’t require us to be in person right now, Mystic Vale is still available to students. After a day of online classes, following this 2.3-kilometre loop — weaving itself in and around Douglas fir, grand fir trees, maple, black cottonwood, and willow trees  — may be the perfect way to de-stress. 

Swan Lake Christmas Hill Sanctuary 

From gazing upon the marsh to climbing Christmas Tree Hill, Swan Lake Christmas Hill Sanctuary offers many ways to enjoy the outdoors. The sanctuary is home to 180 different species of birds. Not only is this a sanctuary for these birds, it is a sanctuary for students to root into self care with a simple walk around the marsh and/or up Christmas Tree Hill.

I’ve spent lots of time walking the Swan Lake loop, and enjoy stopping along the boardwalk to admire the variety of birds existing among the marsh. 

Beacon Hill Park

Snuggled next to downtown, Beacon Hill Park is no secret to the Victoria community. With a beautifully vibrant garden and easily traversed paths that span out to the coastal bluffs, the park has become iconic to Victoria. The 74 hectares are known to host small outdoor concerts, a petting zoo, and roaming peacocks. While activities might be on hold because of the pandemic, the park’s trees and vibrant ecosystem remain to grow. One such endangered ecosystem continues to thrive: a Garry oak ecosystem.

Beacon Hill Park has always been a popular place for students to gather — I have many wonderful memories of getting to know those who are now my dear friends in this park. Although coming together physically may not be an option, getting close to the ecosystems that surround us is. 

Victoria’s beaches

From Willows Beach to Cadboro Bay to Spiral Beach, this coastal city has countless beaches to wander. As the tides roll in and out, the sound of the waves dancing upon the shoreline, and the feeling of cold spring air brushes your cheeks, a beach walk is a great way to spend some time in between classes in the company of the sea. Bringing a thermos of tea, warm clothes, and a mind for a bit of an adventure can lead to a great afternoon of discovery among the sand.

There are many adventures still to be had, even in such uncertain times. Planning sunrise/sunset hikes and walks, picnics, or plant identification activities and bringing a warm drink while adventuring can provide some added fun. Make sure to stay safe, and take care!