Leechtown Loop

Length: 3.0 hrs, 38.0 km
Technical Difficulty: 1/5
Ascent: 713 m

Summary:  A long loop devoid of any meaningful gradient change (other than into and leaving Boneyard Lake), starting on the Galloping Goose past the Sooke Potholes, along the Sooke River and then crossing the Sooke River at Leechtown before returning along Boneyard Mainline forest road.

Highlights:
Sooke Potholes, including the northern end that is much less visited, Kapoor Regional Park is a nice place for a break.  Leechtown is difficult to visit and explore as there really is no information there, other than the map in Kapoor, and it looks like access might be restricted judging from a new CRD watershed gate on Boneyard Main.  Boneyard Lake is pretty and swimmable.

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Description:  To start, drive to the junction of Sooke Rd and Sooke River Rd. There’s a cafe there as well as a Park and Ride where I like to park. Cycle up Sooke River Rd until 2.9 km where to can hook onto the Galloping Goose at the parking lot on your right. At 3.5, cross the Charters Ck trestle and then at 5.7, the Todd Ck trestle

Impressive wood structure
Impressive wood structure

The grade is steadily up as we follow the track up past the Sooke Potholes Park.  At 10.2 is the campground, and just after that are great views of the more secluded potholes:

IMG_0033-2

Looking south
Looking south
Looking north
Looking north
Not alone in enjoying the view
Not alone in enjoying the view
The wildflowers in the spring are pretty
The wildflowers in the spring are pretty
Boneyard Mainline across the river
Boneyard Mainline across the river

At 14.6 you enter Kapoor Regional park.  This region is of historical significant to the T’souke Nation.   and then ride along Kapoor’s massive cutblock to the east (behind a chainlink fence!), and then leave the goose at 15.2.  If you continue along the goose, you will merely find one of the CRD’s red gates keeping you out of the watershed.  If you don’t go up this deadend, subtract 1.3 km off all the remaining distances.  This is the only tricky part here, as you go down the little path, you will get to a flat rocky riverbed.  This is where the Sooke and Leech Rivers join.  The Sooke River here is just a small creek (except in the winter), and you can cross a fallen log to the right of the path at 16.7 and into Leechtown proper.  Here is where Peter Leech first found gold in 1864 and sparked a mini-gold rush.  Leechtown in its heyday was larger than Victoria.

Leechtown existed on both sides of the Sooke River.
Leechtown existed on both sides of the Sooke River.

The Kapoor family operated a logging mill in 1929 and owned (and presumably still owns) vast tracts of land.  The land here was donated to the CRD in 2000.  If you have time, explore and look for the lost gold buried in Leechtown or further afield towards Jordan Meadows.  Otherwise, once onto Boneyard Main at 16.8, hang left and cross the Leech River, where you can look back on the bridge to where you came off the goose.

confluence of Leech and Sooke Rivers
confluence of Leech and Sooke Rivers

Interestingly, at 18.2 is a gate that wasn’t present last year.  It’s relatively easy to skirt along the river side of the gate, even carrying a bike.  The signs on the opposite side warn of video surveillance, but there’s no “no trespassing” or “private property” or “restricted access” sign.  Two trucks going up the road clearly made it past the gate while I was there.  I’m guessing that the CRD watershed is expanding its ‘no go’ zone.  So maybe soon, Boneyard Main will be off limits.  Enjoy it while you can!!  It is difficult to imagine how CRD will be able to restrict access across the Sooke River however.

Coming to the gate from the north side
Coming to the gate from the north side

Once you leave the Sooke River, just past the campground on the opposite side, there’s a long steady climb.  At 25.1, Boneyard Lake is to the right.  Really nice and refreshing swim in the summer as it’s almost at the top of the hill.

IMG_2119-2Careful when coming down the descent as I’ve often surprised bears meandering across the road!

At 30.7, another gate, and then you’re onto pavement, Butler Mainline.  Take the first left at 31.2 onto Young Lake Rd, and then the left onto Otter Point Rd at 31.8.  That will take you back into town for a well-deserved lunch and then a quick ride back along Sooke Rd to your vehicle.  Or, it would be easy enough to do this via public transit, and take the Victoria Transit bus to / from Sooke.

 

Victoria Cycle Paths for Cyclepaths