Goldstream Provincial Park near Victoria offers much to its visitors. The two large waterfalls, an old-growth forest, and a salmon spawning stream make this park popular. And during the summer, vehicle-accessible campsites are a hot commodity.
Quick Park Facts
- Features: Camping; majestic waterfalls; old-growth forest; wildlife viewing opportunities; salmon spawning stream; lots of hiking opportunities
- Park Size: 477 hectares
- Trails: Trail systems of approximately 16 km throughout the park
- Suitability: Some facilities at this park are wheelchair accessible
- Hazards: Park straddles the Malahat, a very busy highway; creeks and riverbeds can be very slippery; frequent sightings of bears and sometimes even cougars in the area.
- Bike Trails: no designated biking trails
- Camping: 167 year-round vehicle-accessible sites and two large group campsites
- Washrooms: Several pit toilets are available throughout the park; Flush toilet buildings are located in the day-use area, and main campground; A Sani-dump station is also available but closed during the winter season
- Pets: As this is a Provincial Park, dogs must remain on a leash at all times
A Bit of History
While no evidence of any First Nations community has been found within the park boundaries (yet!), Goldstream River is considered a traditional fishing ground.
The area was noted for its recreational values as early as 1880. An announcement in The Colonist on July 30, 1880, regarding the opening of a new resort, stated:
Pure Goldstream water provided free of charge. This water smooths wrinkles of the old, gives health to the sick, beauty to the young, and wisdom to all.
Before the official creation of Goldstream Provincial Park in 1958 and its significance to the First Nations, the area had a great history. And that history presents itself in today’s world via the many trail systems within the park.
Something to Note
The park straddles the highway and there is no direct (nor easy) pedestrian access between the two distinct sides. Crossing the busy Malahat highway is NOT recommended!
While vehicle access is available on both sides, it isn’t as straightforward as it should be. There are separate entrances for the day-use area, main campground, and group campsites.
Much of the Malahat has physical barriers between the two sides of the highway. And a few of the parking areas mentioned below are only accessible from one side.
For example, if you are camping at the main campground, getting back to the area where Niagara Falls is, is not an easy task. There is no direct vehicle access to that waterfall if you are heading north (towards Nanaimo). However, if you are willing to get your feet wet, see below for a secret walking route from the Visitor Centre/Day Use Area to Niagara Falls.
Gold Mine Trail
Peter J. Leech was said to have named the river in 1858 after discovering traces of gold along the banks. However, nothing was done about it until 1863, when James Douglas sent four prospectors to the river to rediscover gold. During this same time, Victoria was full of miners in the wake of the Interior gold rush. So when news got out about the discovery of gold, an instant but short-lived gold rush happened at Goldstream River.
In 1897, another mining prospect was reported in the area, this time for copper. Tunnels were created in 1899 to access the copper; however, by the early 1900s, this prospect also faded.
Today, one can still access the openings of one of the gold mines, as well as the copper mine, along the Gold Mine Trail. You might be happy to know that the entrance to the gold mine is open! I enjoy caving, but there was something about this one that creeped me out and I couldn’t convince myself to go in. If you’ve explored this mineshaft, I’d love to know how far it actually goes. (Let us know in the comment section below).
The Gold Mine Trail is a 3.5 km out and back trail that winds through a lush temperate rainforest full of large moss-covered trees. You can also access two waterfalls at the beginning and the end of this trail (Little Niagara and Hidden Springs). See directions below in the waterfall section.
Robert Dunsmuir, a coal Barron with several mines in and around Nanaimo, wanted rail access to Victoria for his mines. So, in 1884, he commissioned former CPR Engineer, Joseph Hunter, to construct the railway. The first regular train service between Nanaimo and Victoria opened on September 24, 1886.
A few distinctive features of the railway can be found just outside the park boundaries, including high trestle bridges, a train tunnel (currently blocked off), and a wide sweeping curve to the rail line.
At 130 meters long and 80 meters high, the most impressive trestle can be found near Little Niagara Falls. It is outside the park boundaries, so the offshoot trail leading to the trestle is considered private property. The trestle itself is fenced off, so you cannot walk across it. However, seeing it from the bottom is equally impressive. If you decide to venture to the trestle, you are doing so at your own risk.
Goldstream Provincial Park Waterfalls
Two significant waterfalls are found in the park: Little Niagara and Goldstream Falls.
Named after the famous falls in Ontario (and New York), this waterfall in Goldstream Provincial Park is nearly as tall. This not-to-be-missed beauty plunges 47.5 meters down a rock cliff into a clear pond below. The moss-covered cavern surrounding the falls makes it feel like you’ve been whisked away to another world. And yet, you can access this waterfall within a 5-minute walk from the Malahat Highway.
If you are heading south towards Victoria, there is a parking area on this side of the highway with quick access to the falls. However, it does sneak up on you, and there are no signs, so you need to keep watch. After you enter the park boundaries (along the highway), the parking area will be on your right-hand side, where the road starts to level out.
If you find the correct parking area, head down the steps and/or hill towards the waterfall. You can see the waterfall from the bank; however, carefully walk down the steep bank to the shoreline for optimal views.
After viewing Niagara Falls, head back towards the drainpipe (tunnel underneath the highway) and cross the creek. You don’t need to enter the tunnel, but it’s near where the trail connects to the other side of the stream.
This trail is one of the access points to the Gold Mine Trail and, ultimately, the trestle and the Goldstream Gold Mine. Following this trail for the entire 3.5 km also leads you to Hidden Springs Falls.
If you want a much shorter route to these small yet pretty falls, there is another highway pullout a bit further down the Malahat. The Gold Mine is found about halfway down the trail from either waterfall.
Hint: Entering any of the above-bolded text into Google Maps will give you a general reference point that should hopefully make your search easier.
Secret Walking Route
Unfortunately, if you accidentally drive past this parking area, you can’t make a u-turn until well after the park boundaries. However, don’t despair; there’s a secret walking route…as long as you don’t mind getting your feet wet.
Pull into the Visitor Centre in the Day Use Area of Goldstream Provincial Park. It will be on the LEFT-hand side of the highway on Finlayson Arm Road. Park in the main parking lot and walk towards the visitor centre. Follow a trail that leads under the highway through a large drain pipe (hence your feet getting wet!). Once you emerge from that tunnel, you will see the falls ahead.
Goldstream Falls is accessed via the campground along the Upper Goldstream Trail system. Park your vehicle in the visitors-only area near the gatehouse and follow the signs to the falls.
For quicker access, and if you are staying in the campground, head towards sites #60, 61, and 123. No matter which way you get there, a set of very steep stairs lead you down to the waterfall.
Several other beautiful trails are found near the waterfall trail, including the Arbutus Loop.
Day Use Area
The Day Use Area is part of the park’s Eastside and accessed off Finlayson Arm Road. This area is where you will find the salmon spawning stream, a visitor centre, and access to Mount Finlayson.
The Freeman King Visitor Centre offers programs, exhibits, a gift shop, coffee and snacks, and interpretive programming.
The salmon run, plus the many large deciduous trees, make it especially attractive in the fall. Riverside trails and observation platforms provide fantastic opportunities to view the salmon run. Bald eagles and sometimes black bears are seen devouring the bodies of the spawned-out salmon along the shore.
Further up Finlayson Arm Road, one can access Mount Finlayson, one of the highest points in Greater Victoria. Although only 4 km, this hike is considered difficult due to the extremely steep terrain.
The Campground at Goldstream Provincial Park
The campground has 167 vehicle-accessible sites and two large group sites. While the park does accept first-come-first-serve guests, reservations are highly recommended! As it’s located only 16 km from downtown Victoria, this is a very popular park, especially in the summer.
RLC Park Services operate Goldstream, and they offer trailers rentals right in the park! Everything you need is provided, including a fully equipped RV kitchen, full hook-ups (water, sewer, and electricity), and one bundle of firewood for the first night of your stay. All you need to bring are your sleeping bags, linens and food to enjoy your stay!
There are also two group campsites at this park, equipped with picnic shelters, woodstoves, electricity and water. Both sites are surrounded by forest and have a large lawn area. Reservations are accepted during the main camping season.
This campground offers hot showers and cold drinking water taps, and each site is equipped with a fire ring. Firewood is available for sale from the park operator.
While the campground is located on the west side of the park, the entrance is quite far from the other areas mentioned above.
You need to use Amy Road via Westshore Parkway to access the campground.
- Take the Westshore Parkway
- Turn right onto Amy Road
- Left on Sooke Lake Road and follow the signs
When’s the last time you’ve visited Goldstream Provincial Park? What are your favourite things to do while there? Let us know in the comment section below.
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For a full list of parks found on the island, please read Vancouver Island Provincial Parks.