Leechtown via Peden Lake and Old Man Lake

Length:  24.4 km (including getting a bit lost),  4 hrs

Difficulty:  5/5.  Not recommended unless you’re a cyclepath!  Why not?  Not much to see beyond Peden Lake, thick overgrown trail with much blowdown, trail is difficult to follow along a rocky bluff and is easy to get lost.  Expect abrasions from salmonberry bushes, salal, tree branches, etc.

Ascent:  604 m

Highlights:  Peden Lake, nice views overlooking Leechtown.  Solitude (translation:  nobody dumb enough to travel along this track)

Summary:  A loop to Leechtown going up into Sooke Hills via Todd Creek Trail to Peden Lake, an overgrown track leading to and away from Old Man Lake, and return via Galloping Goose.

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Description:  Drive along Highway 14 towards Sooke.  Just past the Edward Milne Secondary School, and immediately before the Sooke River Bridge, turn right along Sooke River Rd.  Drive north 2.3 km until the Galloping Goose crosses the road the second time where there is a parking lot adjoining the Goose.

Start cycling north along the Goose, past Charters Creek trestle at 0.9 km, and turn right off the Goose at 2.6, just after a large “W” sign:

"W"hy?
“W”hy?

Climb a rocky track (looks like an old logging access road), most of it rideable, but somewhat challenging due to steepness and loose large rocks.  Ignore the right fork at 3.6 and again at 4.8.

Pansies along lower Todd Creek Trail
Pansies along lower Todd Creek Trail

At 5.8, the path makes a sharp right turn towards a steep climb with large rocks.  Look straight and there will be a little path.  For 500 m, most of this is unrideable, due to narrow twisting path with many branches and logs.  It is necessary to carry the bike up the steepest portion which is about 200 m long.  Then a short sharp descent into Peden Lake.  At 6.5, turn right (the left fork goes towards a network of trails, including Mary Vine Trail back down to the Goose).  The trail around Peden Lake is very pleasant and easy to ride, including a spur at 6.8 that goes to a small cabin on the lake.  Western Coralroot grows around the lake.

Such pretty orchids!
Such pretty orchids!

When I was there last, there was a large group, so I didn’t stick around, but there used to be a canoe as well.

Peden Lake from the cabin
Peden Lake from the cabin

Although I don’t think much of this entire loop, I do have to say that the most amazing rope swing that I have ever seen is on the shore of Upper Peden Lake.  There is a horizontal rope tied between two trees about 10 m off the ground.  Tied to the middle of this rope is the rope swing where you can launch yourself from the steep shore a formidable distance and / or height.  I wouldn’t recommend doing this alone…

Craziest yet most awesome rope swing I have ever seen
Craziest yet most awesome rope swing I have ever seen

The path then continues along the east then west shore of the lake, before passing an unnamed little lake to the right and continuing north along a valley, slowly climbing and then descending into Old Man Lake.  The track is quite rideable at first, but gradually narrows with increasing amounts of fallen trees to clamber over.  Many abrasive plants await your tender arms and unprotected shins.

You will need strong arms and shoulders to carry your bike over hundreds of these
You will need strong arms and shoulders to carry your bike over hundreds of these

Old Man Lake is quite the disappointment.  The track wanders past the lake as though it doesn’t even exist.  There is no campsite there, and only two points to access the lake itself:  a fallen Doug Fir in the middle, and a couple of boulders along the north end.  The lake is deep enough to swim in, but the only place to get in would be the fallen log.

You came all the way for this?!!
You came all the way for this?!!
And now you can return the same way along the overgrown path, or chance the road ahead.  Choose wisely!
And now you can return the same way along the overgrown path, or chance the road ahead. Choose wisely!

At 10.9, marked by some strangely fertile-appearing shoots, the path drops down.

Nature's 'danger ahead' sign
Nature’s ‘danger ahead’ sign

OK,  it isn’t completely horrible.  However, it isn’t rideable at all.  The bike must be hoisted and heaved over many a fallen tree.  Even without a bike it would be tiring.  At 11.4, the contour levels out, but is a bit misleading.  There isn’t a constant gradient here.  You’re on a small rocky plateau full of moss and stonecrop.

laughing stonecrop
laughing stonecrop

The track is very difficult to follow here as hardly anybody ever comes up here, and on the rock, it is difficult to follow the path.  I took the wrong turn twice:  once I ended up on a rocky ledge overlooking Leechtown.  The second time, I followed a blue and yellow flag which took me into a gully (speed with a bike through this is about 100 m in 30 minutes).

Overlooking Leechtown and beyond.  The road just to the left of the large patch of broom is Cragg Mainline.
Overlooking Leechtown and beyond. The road just to the left of the large patch of broom is Cragg Mainline.

Further descent into thick bush with fallen trees and invisible rocks follows shortly if you are lucky enough to find the track which is just east of the rocky bluff but not into the thick vegetation.  My suggestion is to look for the faded pink tape, and don’t come off the bluff until you see a definite path.  At 12.7, take the left fork along a decommisioned forest road until it arrives at Leechtown.  When I’m not so scratched and bruised, I’ll try the right fork (but arrive via the Goose instead!) which apparently goes to Jack Lake.

Luckily, the bus has not yet left.
Luckily, the bus has not yet left.

I have to say that the washroom, information signs, and bench at the entrance to Kapoor Park seem out of place.

Welcome to Kapoor, after dragging yourself out of the bush.
Welcome to Kapoor, after dragging yourself out of the bush.

Although 4 hrs long, I probably got lost for at least 30 minutes.  So, it took about 3.5 hrs to get to Leechtown via Peden, and about 30 minutes to return to the parking lot along the Goose.

All in all, I’m glad I took that path.  It would make for a very nice (but long) hike.  If I were to hike this loop, I would start at Mary Vine Trail at the Potholes to cut off the large portion of Goose.  I don’t think that I would cycle it again as the difficulty of the cycle isn’t worth visiting Old Man Lake and getting lost along the bluffs.

A sample of what to expect if you choose to cycle.
A sample of what to expect if you choose to cycle.

Victoria Cycle Paths for Cyclepaths