Matheson Lake Regional Park - Vancouver Island

Difficulty: Easy or moderate hiking trails, you choose. There's an easy walk to the other side of the lake or a more challenging loop trail along the shore.

Matheson Lake Regional Park
Tiny Gillespie Island in Matheson Lake Regional Park. The park is 35 minutes from downtown Victoria, BC.

Swimming at Matheson Lake
Swimming and sunbathing on a hot summer day.

Matheson Lake Regional Park is a quiet oasis set amongst a thick rainforest at the base of a steep coastal mountain. The park encompasses 157 hectares that includes a fresh-water lake and heavily-forested terrain at the base of Mount Matheson in Metchosin, British Columbia. This local sanctuary is 20 minutes from Madrona Cottage or 35 minutes from downtown Victoria, BC. It's located the rural community of Metchosin, which neighbours East Sooke, and is a local favourite for swimming and fishing.

Matheson Lake Park has a sandy, pocket beach that's crowded on hot summer days. On days like these, people float on air-mattresses and lounge on the small island off the eastern shore. The lake is protected by the surrounding hills and large trees which makes this a quiet refuge for people wanting to escape. During the rest of the year, the park is usually pretty deserted except for fishermen, hikers and nature lovers.

A loop trail surrounds Matheson Lake and offers 3.4 kilometers of undulating terrain through the lush rainforest. You'll pass large Douglas Fir, red cedars, huge maples, Hemlock and Arbutus groves. On the eastern side, some of the Douglas Firs have a circumference of over 20 feet!

The narrow loop path winds around Matheson Lake and, at some points, clings to cliff-tops which have spectacular views high above the water. The trail is rated as moderate since its rocky shores have lots of up and down sections on exposed rock faces. In winter and spring, wet and muddy sections make for some slippery surfaces, especially on the western side of the lake. Hiking boots should be worn if you're planning to explore the loop trail.

Starting from the parking lot, the western portion of the loop trail starts to the left of the park information and greeting signs. The trail quickly narrows as it hugs the lake. Lake views can be seen through the thick trees and a lookout point near the centre offers a commanding lake view from atop a cliff. As the trail continues, the forest thickens and leads to a bridge over Matheson Creek which drains the lake into neighbouring Roche Cove and the Pacific Ocean. The return path is along the Galloping Goose Trail which also connects Matheson Lake Park to Roche Cove Park.

The return along the eastern side of the Matheson Lake offers hikers two choices: continue to follow the easy route along the Galloping Goose trail, or venture along the winding path next to the lake. Both lead back to the Matheson Lake parking lot but offer hikers different views of this gorgeous freshwater lake on southern Vancouver Island.

Hikers taking the Galloping Goose Trail travel through a forest of Douglas Fir and maple trees. In autumn, the maple trees explode in a profusion of colour, the leaves turning shades of gold and orange before dropping from the trees to blanket the trails. Step off the path at marked locations for scenic views of Matheson Lake, 25 meters above the water.

If you decide instead to opt for the lakeshore trail, be prepared for hilly sections. The water level changes throughout the year and the trail sometimes becomes a little marshy in the winter and spring. A boardwalk helps hikers stay dry in the some of the low lying sections.

An emergency phone and toilet facilities/outhouse are available year round.

Matheson Lake Park
Matheson Lake at sunset.
Galloping Goose Trail near Sooke, BC
The Galloping Goose Trail by Matheson Lake.

Local History

  • The trail from Matheson Lake to Roche Cove was used as a portage trail in the mid-1800's. This was a part of the original trail network that took natives and pioneers from Sooke to Victoria, BC.

  • The island in Matheson Lake is named Gillespie Island, after Ian Gillespie, a local pilot who was killed at age 20 in WWII during an air-battle off the coast of Norway. His boyhood hangout was on Matheson Lake and area.

  • The park was created from donated land from the Matheson Family in the 1950's.

How to Get to Matheson Lake Park (from Madrona Cottage)

The park is about 20 minutes away from Madrona Cottage and is located in the neighbouring community of Metchosin, British Columbia.

  1. Turn left onto East Sooke Road (towards town).
  2. Continue straight through the T-intersection at Bill's Food 'n Feed.
  3. Travel through the Becher Bay reserve all the way to the stop sign.
  4. Turn left on Rocky Point Road (to the right is the road to a Department of National Defense Armory).
  5. The turn into Matheson Lake Regional Park is 200 meters on the left-hand side.

Official Links


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