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 Home > Discover BC > Recreation > Trails > Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary

Swan Lake Christmas Hill
One hidden oasis that exists in Saanich along the Lochside Trail inbetween Saanich Road and the Pat Bay Highway (Hwy 17) is at the Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary. Owned by the District of Saanich and operated by the Nature Sanctuary Society through a land-management agreement, the area offers a number of nature trails and panoramic vistas of Swan Lake and other parts of the CRD.

McKenzie Avenue

Entrance to the Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary can be found off McKenzie Avenue at Rainbow Street or at the traffic light at Nelthorpe Street, then Sevenoaks Road to Rainbow Street. From Rainbow Street, then turn onto Ralph Street to the east, leading to 3873 Swan Lake Road and the Nature House.

Parking Lot
The best parking to access either Swan Lake or Christmas Hill can be found at the Nature House where you can access the trail system, nature gardens, boardwalk onto the lake and entrance to the Nature House. Inside the building, there are descriptive sign displays, artifacts, washrooms and general information regarding the surrounding area and park.

Lake Loop Trail
There are a number of trails and areas that stand out but one you can't miss is the floating boardwalk located on the south-west side of the lake near the Nature House on the Lake Loop Trail. From here, there are tremendous views of the lake, marshlands and the abundant nature, especially the large amount of waterfowl such as ducks and grebes including other birds such as Great Blue Herons, Barred Owls, wrens, swallows and hawks.

Grasslands
The Lake Loop Trail continues on and passes through grasslands and forested areas paralleling the Lochside Regional Trail on the south side. From here there are beautiful views of Swan Lake with Christmas Hill in the background. Through the mixed Garry Oak-rock-quarry forest, there are chances to catch rare glances of other animals including threatened Western Painted Turtle, Muskrat, Gartner snakes and river otters.

Micro-Climates
Throughout the walk, the Lake Loop Trail around Swan Lake leads you through a number of micro-climates and ecosystems including wetlands, Garry Oak Meadows and grasslands. There is a small creek that enters the lake on the north side near Saanich Road called Blenkinsop Creek. This small creek comes from the direction of Lochside Regional Trail and the Swan Trestle to Saanich Centre, eventually coming to the source at Blenkinsop Lake.

Southern Vancouver Island
The Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary is a favourite of many schools in the area plus various Boy Scouts, Girl Guides or volunteer groups for learning about nature in the Southern Vancouver Island Region. If you happen to be visiting from out of town with either a sports team or any other group of young adults or kids, the lake makes a great diversion for learning about nature.

Christmas Hill
There is a trail that leads from Swan Lake up to the top of Christmas Hill at 109 metres (358 feet). The trail starts from near the north-west corner of the Lake Loop Trail onto Nelthorpe Street. From here it crosses at the traffic light at McKenzie Avenue near St Andrew's Regional High School up to the Sacred Heart Catholic Church and to the top of Nicholson Street. From here the trail criss-crosses a rock bluff through Garry Oak Meadows to the top of Christmas Hill.

Unparalleled View
From the top of Christmas Hill you will have an unparallelled 360-degree view of parts of Saanich including Swan Lake and Mount Douglas, plus the Westshore, Esquimalt, Victoria and the Saalish Sea at the Strait of Georgia. The walk will probably take you about 45 minutes from the Nature House but is well worth the effort.

Uptown Centre
If you happen to be shopping or near Uptown Centre, the lake is about a 10-minute brisk walk north of the shopping centre parking lot on the Lochside Regional Trail. Look for access trails when you are just past the Saanich municipal offices and entrance to the Saanich police station.

Seasonal Change
Also, if you are visiting Saanich or the rest of the CRD in late fall or winter, there is still lots to see in the Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary. From dramatic water changes such as lime green on an algae bloom in the summer to the browning of the grasslands and the haunting forms of the Garry Oaks in the winter. Remember though, the wood boardwalks can be slippery, so take caution when on the trails, especially during heavy rainfalls.

Information on Swan Lake Christmas Hill

Floating Boardwalk
Floating Boardwalk

 

Lake Loop Trail Grasslands
Lake Loop Trail Grasslands

 

Blenkinsop Creek
Blenkinsop Creek

 

Lake Loop Trail
Lake Loop Trail

 

View From Christmas Hill
View From Christmas Hill

 

Lake Loop Trail
Lake Loop Trail

 

Great Blue Heron
Great Blue Heron

 
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