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Mount Maxwell Provincial Park
About This Park
Originally established for its distinctive landmark viewing point in 1938, Mount Maxwell Provincial Park contains one of the highest points on Salt Spring Island in the Southern Gulf Islands. This point, called Baynes Peak, offers superb views of Vancouver Island, the surrounding Gulf Islands and the mainland of British Columbia.
Also found in this day-use only park and surrounding protected area are stands of old-growth Douglas fir, Garry oak meadows, salmon bearing creeks and the largest undeveloped estuary in the Gulf Islands. Mount Maxwell Provincial Park is a popular destination for residents and visitors, who come here to picnic, hike, and enjoy the spectacular views. From the top of Mount Maxwell visitors have a unique opportunity to see the topside of soaring raptors, or to peer through the mist and marvel at the panoramic views.
Mount Maxwell Provincial Park, contiguous with Mount Maxwell Ecological Reserve and Burgoyne Bay Provincial Park, combine to create over 1100 ha of protected area stretching from mountain top to shoreline and across Burgoyne Bay to the slopes of Mount Bruce.
Park Size: 231 hectares
Date Established: October 21, 1938
Know Before You Go
- The gravel road to the summit of Mount Maxwell is steep, narrow and rough. Four-wheel-drive vehicles with higher than average clearance are strongly recommended for those wanting to use the road.
- Please stay on designated trails. Some sections of the trail travel are very close to the cliff edge; use extreme caution in these areas.
- Bring your own drinking water, as potable water is not available in the park.
Location and Maps
Maps and Brochures
Nature and Culture
- History: Originally established for its distinctive landmark viewing point in 1938, the 199-hectare mountain-top park was expanded to its current size of 231-hectares in 2004. The park lies adjacent to Mount Maxwell Ecological Reserve, which was also expanded in 2004 to protect Canada’s largest Garry oak meadow. These two protected areas, combined with Burgoyne Bay Provincial Park now stretch from mountain top to shoreline and across Burgoyne Bay to the slopes of Mount Bruce.
- Cultural Heritage: Mount Maxwell is an important place in the Cowichan First Nation traditions. Known as Hwmat’etsum, or “bent over place,” it features in origin stories about the relationship of man and the land. Archaeological sites of spiritual significance lie below the adjacent Mount Maxwell Ecological Reserve, while extensive middens marking 3,000 year-old settlements circle the bay, known as Hwaaqwum, or “place of the merganser.” Pioneers, such as the Maxwell brothers, cleared the lowlands and remnants of their settlements remain in the park today.
- Conservation: Mount Maxwell is one of the largest contiguous protected areas in the Gulf Islands and includes a mosaic of habitats – from estuary to Garry oak ecosystems. Old-growth Douglas fir forest and cliffs serve as important nesting areas for species at risk, including turkey vultures, Peregrine falcons and several species of bat. The estuary has three species of salmon and Burgoyne Bay is home to eel-grass beds and seabird populations. Several threatened plant species are protected in the park, including scalepod, Gray’s desert parsley, California hedge parsley and elfin moss.
Activities Available at this Park
Mount Maxwell Provincial Park offers a number of walking/hiking opportunities with spectacular views. Approximately 6 km of maintained trails all start at the parking lot and range from easy strolls to more demanding hikes. Trails to the north and east travel through wooded areas of old-growth and second-growth Douglas fir. The trail to the west follows along the ridge of Mount Maxwell and links up with the park entrance road approximately 2 km from the parking lot. Excellent views can be had from various points along the trails, particularly at Baynes Peak, Salt Spring Island’s highest point. From here visitors can get a panoramic look at Vancouver Island, the surrounding Gulf Islands and the mainland of British Columbia.
Please stay on designated trails. Some sections of the trail travel very close to the cliff edge. Use extreme caution in these areas.