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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
on Swan Lake Christmas Hill