Just West of Victoria there is an extensive wilderness green spaced called Goldstream Provincial Park. It features hiking, camping and a nature house among other amenities. If you know where to look, it also serves as an access point to the disused E&N rail line and some pretty cool train trestles.
The first trestle (known as the Goldstream trestle) is extremely well known about, and until recently, was a frequent destination for hikers. Sadly, within the last year a high-profile suicide at this very location, prompted calls to erect fencing around the bridge and within the last 6 months fencing has been put up on both sides of the trestle and the area has been officially closed to the public.
Of course, this blog post wouldn’t exist if I respected 100% of the fences I encountered! Reports online also indicated the fence was relatively easy to bypass, and so it was on a warm June day that I decided to gather a couple of buddies and finally checkout the infamous Goldstream trestle. We set out early in the day for our grand adventure!
Goldstream park spans a vast area on both sides of Highway 1; the major road which connects the Northern parts of Vancouver Island to the South. The park’s campgrounds, nature hut and parking lot are on one side of the highway, while many of the hiking trails and access to the E&N rail line are on the other side. Crossing the highway can be dicey, however, during the summer months it is possible to pass right underneath the road by walking through a short tunnel. In the rainy season this tunnel is actually a stream and full of water, but in the dry summer months it’s bone dry and becomes an easy crossing to the other side of the highway.
A quick 10 minute stroll from the parking lot brought us to the crossing, and I was surprised by the number of people using it – the secret is definitely out about this being an easy place to cross.
On the other side of the tunnel we found ourselves standing in the bed of a seasonal stream, broken rocks and gravel underfoot and banks on either side. We took a moment to get our bearings and then headed off to the right which is where the trail to the trestle began.
This first stretch of hiking was mostly easy going, with a very steep initial climb and then some easier strolling. After maybe 10 minutes we stopped to take a brief rest at an old chain-link fence.
Looking over the fence I remarked at how steep the drop seemed to be. Behind us was what looked like an animal trail, to our right the path continued. We paused for some water, and allowed some clearly more experienced hikers to pass us by.
This next phase of the hike was much more difficult then the first. I had read online that this hike was considered “moderate,” however, moderate is clearly a relative term! We hiked for about 20 mins, most of it straight up hill and much of the journey with a sheer drop to our right. It was a good workout and a good experience, but for beginner hikers I wouldn’t consider it to be a “moderate” trail!
After about 25 minutes the trail seemed to flatten out and we caught a glimpse of the old trestle through the trees!
A few minutes later we found ourselves behind a chain-link fence. Thinking this was the liability fence recently erected I chuckled as we easily slipped around it and scrambled up past a “no trespassing” sign. We then emerged from the trees and found ourselves walking along the old rail line and face to face with a much more impressive barrier!
I have to give the Island Rail Corridor credit – the fence was a well engineered piece of equipment. With barbed wire along the top and sides that extended well beyond the cliff’s edge it is actually enough to deter most people from venturing out onto the trestle. Fortunately for us, some helpful person had broken a couple of the clasps along the bottom of the fencing and with a bit of effort we were able to slip under the fence and onto the trestle itself!
While I generally don’t have a fear of heights, the experience walking across this trestle was nerve wracking. There were, of course, no railings and the rail ties were spaced far enough apart that it was possible to see daylight and the stream waaaaaaaay down below. Logically, I knew the spacing wasn’t enough to slip through, and I knew the trestle was wide enough that I wouldn’t slip off the edge, but logic rarely has a place in an emotional response and so I very gingerly crept across the structure. By looking straight down the rails I was able to shake most of my inhibitions and by the halfway point, I even managed to snap a couple pictures, though I had a death grip on my phone, suddenly paranoid that I would drop it.
On either side of the trestle there were platforms which jutted out over the edge. I suspect these were designed be places to stand if one was caught while a train was rolling by. One one such platform I spotted a small memorial – a sobering reminder of the tragic circumstances which lead to the erection of the fence.
While my friends were bold enough to walk out onto the platforms, I was still sketched out enough to avoid it. Perhaps leaning over the abyss is something I can work myself up to in the future. Slow and steady, step by step I continued to the other side of the trestle.
Upon arriving at the other side we were presented with another fence just as impressive as the first. It almost seemed like our adventure had come to an end – with no obvious way around this fence I feared we would need to turn back and return to the trail. Fortunately, perseverance paid off and we eventually managed to wiggle our way under this fence and onto the other side of the tracks.
While my buddies and I were squeezing and wiggling our way through this tiny hole, another pair of explorers approached us and and took the arguably easier approach of hopping the fence, gingerly avoiding the barbed wire ontop.
“You guys know if there’s anything further down these tracks?” they asked us. I replied that I thought there was another trestle which was visible from satellite imagery. “Maybe we’ll see you there” was the reply and they set off along the rails. Before too long my group was all beyond the fence and we too turned towards the seemingly endless tracks which disappeared off into the distance.
After about 5 minutes of walking we encountered another couple who were coming in the opposite direction. They stopped us and inquired about the second trestle, saying that they had heard about it but had yet to see it. I pulled out my phone and indicated where it was supposed to be – apparently I was quickly becoming the tour guide for the area! The other couple ultimately decided not to continue so my friends and I left them and continued our walk onward
After about 20 minutes we rounded a bend and before us was the second trestle – no fences and nothing to stop us from continuing our adventure!
This trestle was in worse shape then the first one. There were places where the wood appeared to be a bit squishy, and the platforms were leaning at a rather alarming angle. Nevertheless, emboldened by my success on the first trestle, and encouraged by the fact that the other explorers were already more then halfway across I stepped onto the first of the ties and began another slow, deliberate march to the other side.
The spacing between the ties on this trestle was wider then the first, and there were spots that a fall the wrong way might actually allow me to slip through but I managed to cross without feeling nearly as sketched out as I did on the first. I even managed to stop for a few minutes on the middle and admire the spectacular view of the creek, the forest, and the ocean far below.
After we regrouped on the far side of the trestle we decided to continue along the tracks a little ways – the day was still early, we all still had water and enough energy to continue. Besides, there was supposed to be a tunnel “just down the tracks” which is something I could never say no to.
Our hike along the old tracks continued for about another 25 minutes at which point we found ourselves at the entrance to the tunnel!
The tunnel itself wasn’t terribly long, only about 50 ft in total length, but it was tall – at least 4x my height and wide – at least 3x the width of my outstretched arms. The tunnel was cut directly through the bare rock, the rough edges giving the impression that it was built a long time ago.
The interior was also full of graffiti, I found it kind of amusing that people are carting painting supplies all this way. I was pleased to see that not much in the way of debris or garbage had been left behind either.
Just on the other side of the tunnel we discovered a wooden structure and camp site. The structure consists of several rail ties interlocked with eachother in a circular pattern. While I’m not 100% sure what it was built for, the proximity to a campsite suggests it might be used for a shelter while camping. The area is certainly nice and I can definitely see the appeal to camping here, the only difficult part would be carting in enough water.
We poked around the area a bit, but didn’t find anything else terribly interesting and began the 45 min walk back to the first trestle to begin trip home. As we walked back discussion turned to a potential alternate trail back since none of us was keen to slip underneath the fence of the first trestle again. One of my buddies was sure that there was an alternate trail back into the park.
About 5 minutes away from reaching the first trestle and with no sign of the fabled second trail we encountered yet another group of people walking along the tracks. We stopped them and inquired as to if they had come across the first trestle or had found another way up. We were informed that there was another trail, just off to the side of the main trestle. Encouraged by this news, we parted ways and continued our march back towards the first trestle.
As we approached the fence my friend spotted it! A small trail off to the right hand side which appeared to lead into the bushes. We scrambled down the embankment and onto the trail.
While the first trail was an official hiking trail, this one was clearly not. The ground was mostly made up of loose sand and we constantly found ourselves scrambling over fallen trees or other debris. It did seem to be less steep then the original hiking trail, however.
After 10 minutes of slipping, sliding and scrambling we found ourselves crashing through a final downward slope and onto the main trail… in exactly the same spot we had taken our first water break on the way up. The trail we found ourselves on was actually the animal trail I had spotted on the way up!
We retraced our steps down the hiking trail and before too long found ourselves standing in the river bed where our journey had began. Before heading out we stopped to check out the Niagara Falls, which is a small waterfall into the river that we were standing in.
Afterwards we retraced our steps through the river tunnel, past the campsites and into the parking lot. Tired, a bit sore but satisfied with our grand adventure we called it a day and headed back into town.