John Dean Park: Saanich's Largest Old Growth Forest

The parking lot is in the heart of John Dean Park, and trees hundreds of years old tower overhead
John Dean Provincial Park, north of Victoria, is a special place. The area has been known as a sanctuary for the original peoples since time immemorial. Visiting this out of the way, quiet ancient forest will reveal why. Here you can stroll through the lands of the Pauquachin 1st Nation, and be surrounded by wrinkled, grey-barked trees in a forest that drips with ghostly antiquity.

Big trees everywhere!
In more recent times, a European settler also found sanctuary in the groves on Mount Newton. The park is named after the man whose land gift started the park, it was the first donation of its kind in British Columbia. John Dean was against the rapid development of the Victoria area during his day, and actively opposed what he saw as the destruction of the area's natural beauty. He saw his donation as a way to preserve a bit of what was left.

A Western hemlock growing on a previously logged Western red-cedar stump is a common association
- downed logs and stumps provide nutrients for the forest's next generation of trees
Recognizing a good idea when they saw it, four other neighbours (and the province), chipped in with land donations of their own, increasing the size of the park from Dean's original 32 hectares in 1921, to 173 hectares by 1960. It is the largest tract of mature Douglas-fir forest left on the Saanich Peninsula.

Culturally modified trees remind visitors that 1st Nations continue to use the forest as they have
for thousands of years
Along with Douglas-fir that are so huge that they are free of branches for the first 30 meters up their fat trunks, there are also large Western red-cedar, Grand fir, Hemlock, and Garry oak in exposed rocky outcrops. The largest trees are 70 meters (210 ft) tall and 3 meters (9 ft) wide, and in some places are densely packed throughout the shady forest.

Some of the big trees are very accessible, others have restricted access to protect them and their fragile surroundings

There are a variety of trails throughout the park's 400 plus acres. The largest trees can be found via the Valley Mist Trail, or Illahie Loop. A steeper trail descends to the right of the park map sign leading to a T-junction. Turn left for the Illahie Loop, and right to hike to a beautiful lily pond and beyond. Some of the park's biggest trees are scattered about the forest in this area.

This lily pond, a short hike from the parking lot, is a great place to sit and contemplate the dragonflies hunting over the water
John Dean Park provides a sanctuary from the hustle of modern life, as well as from the heat on a scorching August day. The park with its many well-marked trails, mature forest, and abundant wildlife, make it a worthy destination for a day of exploration and revitalization. Here you can visit some of the largest Douglas-fir trees on southern Vancouver Island.

Directions To John Dean Park

John Dean Provincial Park is located near Sidney on southern Vancouver Island. The park can be accessed off Hwy #17. Turn west onto McTavish Road, south onto East Saanich Road, then west onto Dean Park Road. Follow Dean Park Road until you reach the park.

Note: The access road into the park is closed between November and March.

A park Western red-cedar - tree of life


  1. Anonymous1/2/13

    The largest trees are just east of the pond, forming a triangle. The largest is 70.9 metres, then comes one with a 69.9 m height.


    1. Hey Sam,

      Thanks for sharing the information on these impressive trees.


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