Saturday, 7 March 2015

Horth Hill

Parking lot on Tatlow Road
Dogs permitted off-leash
Horses permitted. no bicycles


Just a smidge west off the Pat Bay highway before you reach the ferry, you'll find Horth Hill park.   Tucked close to the border of Sidney and North Saanich just off Wain Road, this 36 hectare park provides a variety of walking and horseback riding trails through the woods up to the summit, and some spectacular wildflower displays in spring. There are pit toilets located near the parking lot.


History:

Horth Hill park is named after the Horth brothers - early pioneers who arrived from England and settle in North Saanich in the mid-late 1800's.  The family was active in local politics, and the family home of Rufus and Alice Horth (nee Wain) which was built in 1912, can still be seen at the corner of Deep Cove and Downey Roads.


This park was established in 1966 and is maintained today by the CRD.

Hiking trails:

Horth Hill has several clearly marked trail loops - the Ridge trail leads up to the summit with a view of the Saanich peninsula, Gulf islands and the San Juan islands. Trail difficulty is moderate, but the loop up to the summit and back can be easily done in under one hour, even if you are making stops along the way to birdwatch or take a closer look at the flora.

The lower levels of the hill are more densely wooded with Douglas fir, cedar and hemlock, and the typical Vancouver Island understory of sword ferns, salal and oregon grape.  The upper elevations open up onto rocky outcroppings with wildflower patches, Arbutus and Garry Oak meadow.  Several portions of the park are currently undergoing restoration allow the native wildflowers to reestablish themselves.  (These are clearly marked as no-go areas).


This park is also a prime birdwatching spot.  On our visit on a cool February day, we saw flickers and woodpeckers, and saw and heard many different songbirds.  We also saw a number of turkey vultures and an eagle circling overhead.  With the lower levels being more of a wetlands environment, you may catch a chorus of frogsong at the start and end of your journey.


Horth Hill park is technically an off-leash park although dogs must be under control at all times, and restricted to the trails.  Horseback riding is permitted on designated trails. Bicycles are not permitted on the trails, so if you cycle out here, you will need to leave your bike locked in the parking lot.


Links:
North Saanich Guide to Parks, trails and Beach Accesses
CRD information about Horth Hill

All images © 2015 Janice Mansfield