Empress Mountain via Todd Creek and Peden Lake

Length:  28.2 km  4:45

Technical Difficulty:  4/5  Very steep hills, following creek beds, plenty of fallen trees to carry bike over

Ascent:  1212m

Summary:  A long loop to Empress starting near the Potholes, via Todd Creek, which is somewhat challenging as a hiking track, never mind carrying a bike.  Loop around through Crabapple Lake, and through to Harbourview Rd, and back along Goose to parking lot.  A lot more difficult than riding in and out from Harbourview Rd.  Also, would be much easier riding the opposite direction.  Not recommended for the faint of heart.

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Description:  Drive towards Sooke from Victoria via Sooke Rd / Highway 14.  Take the turnoff to the Sooke Potholes, and drive 2.3 km to where the Galloping Goose crosses the road the second time.  There is a parking lot on the right.  Start cycling north along the Goose.

parking lot to goose
parking lot to goose

Cross Charters Creek trestle at 0.9 km;

Charters Creek Trestle from below
Charters Creek Trestle from below
Trestle on top
Trestle on top

At 3.3, just before Todd trestle, take the right path leaving the Goose, just after a big “W” sign (not sure what that is supposed to signify)

Trailhead of Todd Creek Trail.  Can just walk here from Potholes parking lot as well.
Trailhead of Todd Creek Trail. Can just walk here from Potholes parking lot as well.

Strawberries will soon be in season IMG_6849 Bears are always in season IMG_6848 At 4.5, stay left. The right fork, or Harrison Trail climbs to Grassy Lake, and is absolutely not suitable for a bike. Even downhill, it’s tough. Hard to believe that this was once driveable IMG_6855 Some of the prettiest Turkey Tail that I’ve ever seen:

Trametes Versicolor
Trametes Versicolor

At 5.7, again stay left. Lots of climbing, pushing bike. At 6.8 take a right up the steep boulders. The left fork goes on to Peden Lake, a nice little spot with a small cabin and canoe. But why would anybody want to hang out at a cabin and canoe around a peaceful lake when the other option is to walk up a creekbed?

No, this is not a creek, this is your cyclepath
No, this is not a creek, this is your cyclepath

There is a brief respite in the climbing after leaving the creek bed.  At 8.2, a fork to the right goes to Grassy Lake.  Continue straight along the creekbed until it finally flattens out, just before another fork at 10.1.  Left goes to the Emperor and apparently back down some fairly steep contours to Leechtown.  The right climbs steeply towards the cleft between Empress Mountain and Screen Hill.  Since you will be walking / carrying your bike mostly up this long and steep climb, pay attention to the pretty rocks and mushrooms at your footsteps:

Colourful winter polypores.  Somebody forgot to tell them that winter is over
Colourful winter polypores. Somebody forgot to tell them that winter is over

Near the top, a multitude of pansies appear IMG_6862 But purples too IMG_6868 If legs permit, take the steep path (leave bike behind of course!) at either 11.3 or 11.5. and climb for 15 minutes to the top IMG_6864-2 At the top, views towards Sooke: IMG_6870 And Victoria IMG_6873 And north towards Sooke Lake IMG_6877 Now, back down the mountain to your stashed bike and continue along east past Screen Hill fork at 13.0.  Take the right fork at 13.1, and drop your seat for a very steep ride down towards Crabapple.  Take the left at 14.2 if you wish to see the lake.  Otherwise, if in a hurry, take the right.  The track skirts around the north end of the lake. IMG_6881   Take a moment to hang out on the dock outside Eric’s cabin foundation:

Newts?  or salamanders?
Newts? or salamanders?

IMG_6888 Continue south along the track taking the right fork at 15.6 and 16.2 (both obvious which way to go).  At 17.3, hook back onto Harbourview Rd towards the parking lot (see Empress Mountain via Crabapple description) IMG_6894

A rare panther out in the spring.
A rare panther out in the spring.  Or is it amanita muscaria?

Cycle back along Goose to starting point.  Voilà, you won’t do that again now will you?

Victoria Cycle Paths for Cyclepaths