Ruckle Provincial Park on Salt Spring Island is one of the places we visit fairly regularly. Getting there isn’t too difficult and it somehow seems less onerous driving down to Crofton and then the single ferry over to Vesuvius Bay than the odyssey to get to Hornby Island. Make sure to get a BC Ferries Experience Card—you’ll reduce your Salt Spring Island fare by close to 30%.
Ruckle is definitely a good destination for families with young children. The loop trails aren’t too long, but they’re long enough that children under 5 can complete them without too many piggy-backs. Add an active farm and free range turkeys into the mix, and there is plenty to see along the way to keep them motivated and occupied.
The 3 km southern trail loops from the main parking lot out to Beaver Point and down through the walk-in campsite. This grassy meadow is a good place to look for typical Gulf Island flowers that prefer coastal habitat. In early April when we visited, several spring flowers were in bloom including the small and beautiful red maids (Calandrinia ciliata). These bloom early and are often missed due to their small size (about the diameter of a pencil eraser).
The trail continues following the shoreline and then enters a slightly eerie mixed arbutus and Douglas-fir forest.
At this point (about half-way), younger hikers might need some encouragement. Good thing that the Ruckle farm and the turkeys aren’t far away. The Ruckles homesteaded this land in the 1870s and continue to farm here across the road from the historic farm house and outbuildings. It is the oldest, continuously operated farm in British Columbia.
In addition to the historic outbuildings, this is also good place to find the free ranging turkeys.
A bit of a walk along the road takes you back to the main parking area.
For our two little ones (5 and 3) this was enough for one day. We came back the following afternoon and did the 3.4 km northern loop which circles around the working Ruckle farm. The trail is a little rougher and there are more junction points. It is mostly in forest, but there are several good access points to views out over Swanson Channel.
Ruckle Provincial Park is an excellent family destination whether you’re looking for a place to go for a short hike, enjoy a Gulf Island picnic, or do some walk-in camping (there are 78 walk-in and 8 drive in spots available). Many interesting plants and a mix of Garry oak/arbutus/Douglas-fir ecosystems makes for good botanizing. And of course, there are the turkeys.