The innovatively planned, sustainably focused Westhills community is a marvelous place to stay active and enjoy the great outdoors in the Greater Victoria area on Vancouver Island. Within its bounds and across its hinterland, you can enjoy pleasant strolls through residential neighbourhoods, bolster your strength and endurance on outdoor fitness equipment, and trek into the wilder country abutting Westhills for an up-close-and-personal communion with Vancouver Island ecology and scenery.
At City Centre Park, you’ll improve your endurance and muscle strength and enjoy a cardiovascular workout on the innovative HealthBeat outdoor fitness structures. This infrastructure provides a whole range of different exercises targeting multiple areas and systems of the body, and many of the structures include adjustable resistances and configurations so you can advance as you strengthen. They provide an acute and efficient workout away from the sterile environment of the indoor gym: Here, you’ll be huffing and puffing in the fresh air, under trees and rolling clouds. And, naturally, you’ll be able to easily round out your exercise with the park’s other recreational activities.
Some 40 percent of Westhills’ extent is comprised of public space, so you’ll never be far from an invigorating stroll. The paths circumambulating the community’s lakes are particularly serene. Be sure, too, to consider the Westhills hinterland for hiking opportunities: Just as it is part of a human-community mosaic with the City of Langford and Victoria, so it sits at the fringe of a wilder swath of country sprawling westward. The 121-hectare Mount Wells Regional Park is a beautiful, rugged transition from the Westhills spread up to the deeply forested highlands of the Sooke Hills, a critical wilderness reserve for Greater Victoria’s watershed.
Numerous treks in the region offer the scenic and ecological delights—not to mention the vigorous physical workout—of the 1.3-kilometer hike to the crest of 352-meter Mount Wells. The views from the summit are outstanding; you’ll see the glimmering waters of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the landmarks of Victoria, and the ridges and valleys of Sooke Hills Wilderness Regional Park Preserve to the west, presently closed to the public to protect the water supply. Spending some time up there savouring the vista helps set the Westhills community in its broader ecological and geographic context—which, not incidentally, helps ground you even more firmly in both bioregional and social dimensions.
But the fine prospect isn’t the only attraction. Breaking a sweat on the steep ascent to Mount Wells’ crown, you’ll pass through some of Vancouver Island’s most unique ecosystems: The slope-side open woodlands of Garry oaks and the rocky scrub of beautiful Arbutus (or Pacific madrone) trees—their unmistakable orange, peeling bark and glossy, evergreen leaves giving them a decidedly tropical look—and dense thickets of manzanita are drier, rainshadow ecological communities that seem worlds away from the dripping, conifer-dominated temperate rainforests elsewhere on the island. Such ecosystems are more widespread in western Oregon and Washington, with strong Californian analogues, and are at their northernmost limit in this part of British Columbia, so it’s a rare privilege to hike through them. As you do so, keep your eyes peeled for local wildlife, from big-headed alligator lizards to fleet, furtive black-tailed deer. You may see large soaring birds—bald eagles, turkey vultures, red-tailed hawks—or flashy scrub jays along the route, as well.
At Westhills, you also aren’t far away from the Galloping Goose Regional Trail, which runs from Victoria to Sooke along an old Canadian National Railroad right-of-way. A wonderful travel corridor seamlessly marrying city, town, country, and near-wilderness, the Galloping Goose accommodates walkers, bicyclists, and equestrians, so you have no shortage of transportation options along its 60-kilometer stretch. This is an incomparable way to practice a little outdoor-recreation fitness while intimately exploring local ecology, culture, and history, and the myriad ways these themes intersect and overlap.
Whether you’re using stair-stepper equipment with a few friends on a social city-park workout or watching a husky raven alight on a Douglas-fir spire from a switchback trail, you’ll love the options for outdoor exercise in Westhills and its surroundings.