3/13/2010

Francis/King Regional Park: Trees and Trails

One of the moss-covered, deeply fissured, centuries old Douglas firs
in the Heritage Grove of Francis/King Park.





Francis/King Regional Park is a very accessible and beautiful park in Saanich, BC. At about 200 acres, it sits just north of the Trans Canada highway, and preserves some of the biggest and tallest Douglas fir trees in the Victoria area.


A few of these sky-scraping giants are upwards of 500 years old. As they are protected within the park, they could live another 500 to 1000 years. The park is a welcome natural landscape in an area that is increasingly under pressure from development.


This sanctuary is ideal for all levels of mobility and fitness, and for all ages. Children will love the nature center, and parents can enjoy a stroller-friendly interpretive loop trail that begins and finishes right by the parking lot and nature house.








There are 11 kilometers of trails running through the park, ranging from a 750 m wheelchair accessible trail, to rough single track trails through the forest many kilometers in length.


This regional park also offers a nature center, pit toilets and a picnicking area.











Francis/King Regional Park borders on Thetis Lake Regional Park to the west (1600 acres of lake, swamp, and woodland landscape), and Mill Hill Regional Park to the southwest.




An eager hiker could link up longer hikes that take in a combination of all the parks. Wet swampy areas harbour big Western red cedars, and dryer rocky areas have beautiful groves of threatened Garry oaks and rare wildflowers.








The biggest trees are in the Heritage Grove of Francis/King. This magnificent grove is on the opposite side of Munn Road from the parking lot, and is well worth the short 5 min hike. Signage at the parking lot area will help you find this grove of survivors.







The thick trunks of these big trees are massive (3 m/10 ft), as is their height (75 m/245 ft.). From some of the trails in the park you can see the tops of the tallest trees in Heritage Grove emerging from the surrounding canopy, revealing their location.




As you cross Munn Road and head into the forest and toward Heritage Grove, you descend into darkness, even on a sunny day. The canopy overhead gathers up much of the sunlight leaving the open forest floor sparse with vegetation.


Look up through the gnarled branches of these old timers, and see the light breaking through almost 300 feet up. These trees were hundreds of years old when Europeans first gathered on the shores of this land. That they still stand today in all their woody glory is somewhat of a minor miracle, and we have two nature enthusiasts to thank.


James Francis and Freeman King stepped forward years ago and donated the lands that they loved so deeply so that we could enjoy them now. Their forward thinking ways have ensured that visitors will be able to enjoy this spectacular natural area for generations to come.


Directions to Francis/King Regional Park

Follow the Trans-Canada Highway from Victoria, and take the Helmcken Road exit. Turn left on Burnside Road West, then right on Prospect Lake Road. Turn left on Munn Road, which leads to the park entrance on the right. About 20 minutes driving time from Victoria.





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