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Vancouver Island Tour Tips?

Old 04-26-19, 12:12 PM
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Matadors
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Vancouver Island Tour Tips?

This summer I am planning a trip from Victoria to Sooke, Port Renfrew, Lake Cowichan and back.

I have read about the Galloping Goose and Cowichan Valley Trails. Are they better than the roads?

Has anyone done this loop?

We are staying in campgrounds all three nights. We have reservations for all but Port Renfrew.

Any advice on route, conditions, weather?
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Old 04-27-19, 03:55 AM
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Originally Posted by Matadors View Post
This summer I am planning a trip from Victoria to Sooke, Port Renfrew, Lake Cowichan and back.

I have read about the Galloping Goose and Cowichan Valley Trails. Are they better than the roads?

Has anyone done this loop?

We are staying in campgrounds all three nights. We have reservations for all but Port Renfrew.

Any advice on route, conditions, weather?
We've done the reverse direction as a 200K Randonnee with the BC Randonneurs.

It was HOT, HOT, HOT that day.


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Old 04-27-19, 07:09 AM
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you randonneuring types are real tough sons of guns thats for sure. 212 klicks and 2700m, 11+hrs seat time, 13+ total time....ooooof
I'm always impressed by you folks.
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Old 04-27-19, 07:48 AM
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Galloping Goose was quite nice, we did it in the opposite direction. The road from Renfrew to Sooke was a bit average with the traffic and being narrow. The Campground in Port Renfrew was notable for having the worst facilities to cost ratio we encountered between Vancouver Island and San Francisco. $25 for a patch of sand and a drop toilet, and somebody else camped on our patch of sand, leaving us with an even less attractive bit of sand. Plus there was the 2km ride to the campground office tap to get drinking water. We did a logging road from Cowichan to Renfrew, past the Avatar Grove. The road was steep and rough, but scenic. The log trucks were the best vehicles we encountered. When we heard them coming we got off the road. They must have passed the word around, because we noticed the would slow down before they got to us (even before they could see us - probably talking on the CB) and just cruise past at 15-20mph, give us a wave, the speed up.
Not sure about the Cowichan Trail, we rode down from Bamfield.
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Old 04-27-19, 08:44 AM
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Excellent information. I expect cold and wet, but will be prepared for super hot!

Also good to know the logging trucks pay attention.

The Renfrew beach camp does not have any valid contact information. We are just going to have to take our chances on getting a piece of sand to sleep on. Has anyone tried the marina campground? They also do not take reservations, but it might be our fallback option.

Thank you all...
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Old 04-27-19, 11:14 AM
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I’d like to try this route one day. I’ll be looking for your report.
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Old 04-27-19, 03:02 PM
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You might want to do research on fire season before booking your trip. I had this trip all planned a couple of years ago. I woosed out and canceled because I found I would be going solo. Still visited the Seattle area to see a friend, And when I got there I realized how glad I was to cancel. Nothing but air quality warnings coming from the island.

Have a great trip. Those trails look awesome.
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Old 04-27-19, 05:09 PM
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Just to add to Machka's stuff, Vancouver Island remains one of the really impressive places that I have visited anywhere in the world. It remains on my list of destinations to ride, particularly out the western coast way, as well as back up north where we have driven.

The randonnee was just as impressive to ride despite the steepness of hills -- the views along the coast were impressive.

Even the city down south, Victoria, has its fascinations and certainly some ride cycling paths.

Also, there are ferries that will take you across to some of the the other islands near the mainland that also can be interesting to explore.

Yeah, Matadors, let us know how it goes.
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Old 04-27-19, 05:20 PM
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are bears a particular issue on the island, well anymore than anymore else out west, ie having to really use common sense of campsites and all that with food?
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Old 04-27-19, 05:33 PM
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Originally Posted by djb View Post
are bears a particular issue on the island, well anymore than anymore else out west, ie having to really use common sense of campsites and all that with food?
Yep, shedloads of black bears there. Especially on the logging roads. We bought Air Zounds in MEC in Vancouver and used them vigorously while riding, and still saw lots of bears. The commercial sites would be OK, maybe the one at Renfrew is a little average for bears, but there were heaps of rednecks there when we were there, I suspect a bear wouldn't last 5 minutes. The campsite there is in a forest, so they'll be able to fit you in somewhere. I don't remember seeing any other campgrounds there, we would have moved if we could.
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Old 04-27-19, 08:50 PM
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Originally Posted by Trevtassie View Post
Yep, shedloads of black bears there. Especially on the logging roads. We bought Air Zounds in MEC in Vancouver and used them vigorously while riding, and still saw lots of bears. The commercial sites would be OK, maybe the one at Renfrew is a little average for bears, but there were heaps of rednecks there when we were there, I suspect a bear wouldn't last 5 minutes. The campsite there is in a forest, so they'll be able to fit you in somewhere. I don't remember seeing any other campgrounds there, we would have moved if we could.
It's been so long since I've been to Vancouver island that I just don't remember the bear situation. But I've never biked there and just did a bit of car camping. Good to keep in mind, thanks.
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Old 04-27-19, 09:31 PM
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Originally Posted by djb View Post
are bears a particular issue on the island, well anymore than anymore else out west, ie having to really use common sense of campsites and all that with food?
I've never seen a bear or sign of a bear in the southern part of the island (where Matadors is going) ... however, they are apparently around in the northern part of the island.

Just in case, however, I would go with common sense in campsites.
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Old 04-27-19, 09:33 PM
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Thanks
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Old 04-27-19, 11:48 PM
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Originally Posted by Machka View Post
I've never seen a bear or sign of a bear in the southern part of the island (where Matadors is going) ... however, they are apparently around in the northern part of the island.

Just in case, however, I would go with common sense in campsites.
Definitely saw some just north of Lake Cowichan. Pretty hard to miss, standing in the middle of the road. I reckon you'd be fine on the main roads but that back road between Cowichan and Port Renfrew (if you went that way) had scat on it.
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Old 04-29-19, 06:25 PM
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I’ve run into lots of bears on the Island but they don’t seem aggressive at all. More the further north you go but they’re all around. Not a big concern.

Cougars (aka mountain lions) on the other hand are a very real concern. Lots of mauling, occasional fatality. However, if you’re over about 120 lbs./ 50 kg your chance of being attacked is much lower.

I was also attacked by a Roosevelt Elk one time on Vancouver Island. Chased me around the campsite. I think he was trying to prove my theory that ungulates are more dangerous than carnivores!

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Old 04-30-19, 03:56 AM
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Originally Posted by Mountain Mitch View Post
Iíve run into lots of bears on the Island but they donít seem aggressive at all. More the further north you go but theyíre all around. Not a big concern.

Cougars (aka mountain lions) on the other hand are a very real concern. Lots of mauling, occasional fatality. However, if youíre over about 120 lbs./ 50 kg your chance of being attacked is much lower.

I was also attacked by a Roosevelt Elk one time on Vancouver Island. Chased me around the campsite. I think he was trying to prove my theory that ungulates are more dangerous than carnivores!
I would definitely be more concerned about cougars than black bears. I've done a lot of cycling in Alberta and BC and have seen quite a few black bears. They're all right.

I've seen one cougar ... that scared me.
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Old 04-30-19, 01:18 PM
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It's the cougars I don't see that scare me! By the time you see them they have been stalking you for quite a while...
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Old 04-30-19, 02:07 PM
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I've ridden this route in reverse order. It's mostly a gorgeous ride, but the roads between Sooke and Port Renfrew are narrow in spots with no shoulder and plenty of blind corners. It's not much of a big deal unless there's active logging going on.

But if there is, those trucks are enormous and they haul some massive loads. The good thing is that you would be encountering empty trucks on your side of the road given the direction you are planning on riding, but they are still substantially wider than a normal vehicle. Heck they are substantially wider than a bus, definitely something to be aware of.

There are plenty of black bears in southern Vancouver Island, though it's very rare to have any issues with them. As mentioned, plenty of cougars too, those scare me though I've never encountered one.

Are you staying at Fairy Lake by any chance? That's past Port Renfrew, but I thought it was pretty decent when I stayed there last.

The Galloping Goose is a nice way to get from Victoria to Sooke and I definitely prefer it to riding on the roads though it is slower. If you are camping at Sooke Potholes the trail will take you right there. If you are going on to say, French Beach to camp the trail will just take to you the outskirts of Sooke and you'll have to ride through the town, continuing on west to the campground. One bonus is that you'd get a portion of the narrow roads over with on that leg.

I haven't ridden the Cowichan Valley trail so I really don't have any comment. I thought the roads were all very good except for portions west of Sooke that I mentioned where you lose the shoulder and there are plenty of blind spots. Still, it's an exhilarating ride.

One other thing: when I ride anywhere towards Cowichan on the highway side I prefer to take the Mill Bay - Brentwood Bay ferry over riding the Malahat highway. The Malahat climb isn't so bad, but the highway shoulder is strewn with debris, vehicles are flying by and to me it's just unpleasant. The ferry is a much nicer way to get across if you are not in a great rush.
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Old 05-01-19, 10:35 AM
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One thing that I think might be worth mentioning is that there are some pretty steep hills between Sooke & Port Renfrew. I found that section more challenging than climbing the mountain on the logging road - the latter is more of a steady climb, but the former has a number of steep climbs & descents on a sometimes quite twisty road.

Even so, parts of it are really beautiful and well worth the effort.
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Old 05-04-19, 06:04 PM
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Originally Posted by winston63 View Post
One thing that I think might be worth mentioning is that there are some pretty steep hills between Sooke & Port Renfrew. I found that section more challenging than climbing the mountain on the logging road - the latter is more of a steady climb, but the former has a number of steep climbs & descents on a sometimes quite twisty road.

Even so, parts of it are really beautiful and well worth the effort.

That is good to know. I planned to ride from Sooke to Port Renfrew in one day and then Port Renfrew to Lake Cowichan the next day to keep the milage down so that I can enjoy the scenery.
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Old 05-04-19, 06:13 PM
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Originally Posted by winston63 View Post
One thing that I think might be worth mentioning is that there are some pretty steep hills between Sooke & Port Renfrew. I found that section more challenging than climbing the mountain on the logging road - the latter is more of a steady climb, but the former has a number of steep climbs & descents on a sometimes quite twisty road.

Even so, parts of it are really beautiful and well worth the effort.
And I though the real challenge was going to be Port Renfrew and Lake Cowichan. How does that compare to Sook to Port Renfrew?
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Old 05-04-19, 08:19 PM
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Originally Posted by spinnaker View Post
And I though the real challenge was going to be Port Renfrew and Lake Cowichan. How does that compare to Sook to Port Renfrew?
If you go to the link I posted further up, and then go to the link in my story ...

Peace to Parliament - 4 brevets from Fort St John to Victoria in June 2017

You might be able to find some elevation profiles.


But on that 200K, the bit from Duncan to Port Renfrew was great. The bit from Port Renfrew to Victoria, on the other hand, was very challenging.
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Old 05-05-19, 01:49 PM
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Originally Posted by spinnaker View Post
And I though the real challenge was going to be Port Renfrew and Lake Cowichan. How does that compare to Sook to Port Renfrew?
Well, one thing I should say is that I did it in reverse order, but without question I found going from Lake Cowichan to Port Renfrew easier than Port Renfrew to Sooke.

I didnít mind the ride from Lake Cowichan to Port Renfrew really, but some of the hills after that point really had me working!
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Old 05-05-19, 02:54 PM
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Originally Posted by winston63 View Post
Well, one thing I should say is that I did it in reverse order, but without question I found going from Lake Cowichan to Port Renfrew easier than Port Renfrew to Sooke.

I didn’t mind the ride from Lake Cowichan to Port Renfrew really, but some of the hills after that point really had me working!
Well Lake Cowichan to Port Renfrew is all downhill so.....
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Old 05-05-19, 04:21 PM
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Originally Posted by spinnaker View Post
Well Lake Cowichan to Port Renfrew is all downhill so.....
You do have a point in a way - Lake Cowichan is something like 170 m above sea level and Port Renfrew is sea level. But you still have a mountain to climb regardless of the direction of travel

But sure, that section might be worse going clockwise, and Sooke to Port Renfrew might be a bit easier than the opposite direction.

Maybe I’ll ride this the other way to find out!
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