Length: 3.5 hrs, 26.6 km
Difficulty: 3/5. First steep uphill section large loose rocks. Second uphill section is long.
Ascent: 955 m
Highlights: Rocky uphills, three lakes including Rat Lake and Oliphaunt Lake, vistas of Finlayson Arm, mostly logging roads
Summary: A long loop, climbing first around the east shoulder of Mt Jeffrey, stunning vista of Finlayson Arm before descending into arbutus forest parallel to the north end of the Malahat Highway. Continuing along north until Rat Lake near Mill Bay, before heading back up the Malahat Ridge via a long reasonable grade logging road and returning via Oliphaunt Lake.
Description: Park at the junction of the Malahat highway and Whittaker Rd. Orchids are growing just inside the forest beside the road!
Cycle along the paved road straight through the first intersection (don’t turn towards Spectacle Lake), which becomes Ebadora Lane. At 0.9 km, take the left turn onto what is called “Blanshard Rd”, but hardly looks any different than the other gravel driveways along this road, except there is a stop sign visible at the intersection. Go past a Timberwest gate into a clear cut and start climbing through mostly broom:
At 1.4, continue up the hill taking the right over the most challenging terrain of this loop: large loose rocks and fairly steep grade. Expect to walk 100 – 500 m this next section depending on your skill.
Near the top of this first uphill section, at 2.2 is a spur to the left. Open Cycle Map suggests that this continues towards the top of Mt Jeffrey and might be an alternative to going straight. First, the path ends abruptly nowhere near the summit, and it would be a long bushwhack through thick underbrush to get to the top where it is entirely treed, so no view. Secondly, the continuation of this path is not suitable for cycling due to thick overgrowth of alders and blackberries. If you really want an alternative, take the right fork at 2.4 which will bring you right back around to the main track again (at 3.6). There is a short sharp uphill section through the forest before the track forks at 3.9. The left fork continues along to an unnamed rather large lake, and also loops back around the north side of the smaller lake that the right fork goes to directly:
There is a small spur 4.2 that meanders to the edge of a rather steep east side of the Malahat Ridge, with some spectacular views of Finlayson Arm, Saanich Peninsula and Saltspring Island:
There is clear evidence of activity up here
As well as road signs to avoid getting lost
The street sign sits at a fork at 4.8. The left fork loops back to another larger lake as well as an access road to a TV antenna which is clearly visible from the Malahat. Turn right and descend along a gravel road and then pavement after you pass a very pretty log house overlooking Saanich Inlet. This road continues all the way down to the Malahat. At the last hairpin turn at 6.7, continue straight north along a sketchy looking gravel road which is choked with broom.
I love how the odd broom is bicoloured.
This is an old logging access road, probably 10 years old going through mostly clearcut, but quite pretty on account of the continued view of Saanich Inlet to the right, and passing through stands of arbutus.
Honeysuckle is abundant in the spring, and if you stop for a moment, the whir of hummingbirds is evident.
At 8.6, there is a fork which goes left up a fairly steep and long hill towards the powerline and then drops down towards Mill Bay, or the right will take you down to Mill Bay Road with gates at 9.7 and 10.1. Past this second gate, this is entirely paved until the turnoff to Rat Lake, either the road at 12.2, or a path at 12.4 just opposite a major unpaved trunk on the left. Once on the road, Rat Lake becomes visible very soon, and it is quite easy to amble 10 m through the bush onto the Rat Lake Trail. It appears rather shallow, filled with lily pads and irises, so I don’t imagine swimming in it would be all that pleasant.
At 13.5 (not marked as a trail on the map), take the trail to the left which crosses over a bridge and then back along the west side of Rat Lake. There are some impressive 5 foot Douglas Firs and Western Red Cedars along the lake edge, as well as a little picnic table. At 14.0, cut to the right and back onto the paved Old Bamberton Haul Road back to where the original path to Rat Lake was taken. This time, take the large gravel road to the right and start climbing at an easy gradient. The powerline is crossed at 14.9, continue straight ahead, and continue up the hill at 15.2 ignoring the forks to the right. Follow the signs marked MH4200 past forks at 15.6, 15.9 (unlike me, lol), 16.4, 16.7 and 16.9. There is a major fork at 17.0, stay left and continue climbing. There’s a bit of a respite as the track travels along the contours coming over to the west side of Malahat Ridge. There are nice views of Old Baldy Mountain before the steepest parts of this hill.
At 18.9, the climbing is pretty much finished. There are some rolling hills through cutblocks. Deer are conspicuous. At 20.3, the right fork makes a long loop back to Oliphaunt Lk and the left goes straight through to the lake which becomes visible soon as the road descends a little near 20.6.
Again, it’s not the prettiest lake, presumably a pond that was dammed years ago to make a reservoir.
Once past Oliphaunt, take the right fork at 22.5 back to Aikman Rd, or take the left fork to return along the Spectacle Lake trail or the powerline.