A 600 metre elevated walkway through a west coast forest of Arbutus and Douglas Firs, and then ascension of a 10-story spiral tower to take in the stunning 360-degree view of islands, fjords, forests and mountains. Who wouldn’t want that?! We Explore Contributor Ron Pradinuk walks us through how to get the most of our visit.
Just over a half hour out of Victoria, British Columbia awaits the Vancouver Island’s newest, and perhaps most fascinating, destination. Whether you are exploring its interior or driving along its beautiful coastline, from almost any part of Vancouver Island there is almost always a spectacular ground view, where some the best scenery in the world opens up to you.
But to be above it all–to see these lands and waters from a totally different perspective–is what makes the Malahat Skywalk so unique. It is constructed to take you to new heights –to capture what you can’t from ground level.
Exploring Vancouver Island’s Malahat Skywalk
As you leave the entry building, you will walk up a gentle incline to begin what is truly a fascinating interactive stroll—20 metres above the forest base as you traverse along the tops of the trees, immersing you into a part of nature you could only imagine in the past.
At the end of this 600-metre trail, you will reach the tower. It starts upwards into a gentle five-degree circular climb, raising you to a spectacular view of the land, waters and mountains nearby—each direction a photo postcard-like perspective, which will forever live in your memory.
The Malahat Skywalk is built on the historical lands of the Malahat Nation. It has quickly become an important economic driver for the peoples who have depended upon this land for centuries. Even though it was only opened in July of 2021, it has already succeeded in welcoming well over 250,000 visitors—and the visitors are arriving from around the globe.
That reality became underlined as I recognized the backgrounds of the people I encountered during my walk and climb, by the languages spoken. They were tourists from Germany, Japan and France—along with the various US accents from the deep south to the near northern states.
A One of a Kind Structure in Canada
Ken Bailey is the General Manager of the Malahat Skywalk. While there are similar structures in Europe, he explains that this is the first such site in Canada. He speaks with pride when he says this is also the first that is “built within the natural environment in where it is presented—not bulldozed, not destroying heritage lands—and built without the huge concrete structures,” which seem to be common in the others.
He added, “Here there are no hard edges, no squares, no 90 degrees turns.” Designed by architects from Whistler, with Engineers from Vancouver and General Contractors from nearby Mill Bay—this is a proudly Canadian Creation.
Every point of planning and construction was dedicated to preserving the land it occupied, while ensuring visitors would also be educated and encouraged to appreciate how the historical residents of these lands lived—as they were always dedicated to protecting and preserving the relationship between their people and the nature that encapsulated them and made them the stewards of their lands.
An Opportunity for Education and Immersion
In this natural environment of the protective Malahat lands—the 600 metre walk to the tower is an immersive education unto itself. As you look down 20 metres onto the natural tree floor below, or as you gaze around to find bird’s nests and occasional encounters with the small animals who really own the territory you are passing through at this level, it is easy to feel gratitude for this opportunity.
The Malahat Skywalk has benches all along its way to the tower, so visitors can truly be part of an immersive experience—stopping as often as they like to quietly spy on the wildlife playfulness taking place in front of them.
Unforgettable Vantage Points
While the tower is ten stories high, at only a five percent grade, the spiral walk is easy for most people. It is fully handicap accessible as well. The walkway itself is 2.4 metres wide—also with many rest-stops provided along the way.
With more and more exceptional views at each rotation going up, even though I was not tired in the least, I was happy to stop and admire what was unfolding before me,
The top of the tower is what photographic dreams are made of. As described by their promotion literature it is “a stunning 360-degree view of islands, fjords, forests and mountains. The tower offers some of the best views on Vancouver Island.”
A true statement indeed. From the top you can look at islands in both Canada and the United States. You will have one of the islands best views of famous Mount Baker, as well as the Saanich Peninsula.
I spent over an hour at the top. As I moved around the entire platform, breathing in the fresh air at that height, I found myself constantly giving thanks for what I was lucky to experience in this truly great country—on a land that has been cared for over millenniums by the Malahat Nation.
What Else Can You Do at the Malahat Skywalk?
The Adventure Net
Want to capture a true sense of the 10-story height of the Malahat Tower? Described as “the Adventure Net”, visitors can climb onto an interwoven net, which gives those willing, a safe opportunity to marvel at the true height of the structure from its centre, looking down to the ground and forest base below.
My fear of heights, was not ready to be challenged by looking straight down to the open space going 10 stories down—regardless of how safe it was.
While I do have acrophobia when I am on what I deem to be unsupported heights, I had no problems on the skywalk at any point, including looking over the top to the land below. But gazing over the edge of this 84 square net, I knew it was an experience which was not in the cards for me. However, because the netting is so tightly woven, it is completely safe–and for those who were climbed on, it clearly was a fun, positive extra attraction. If I one day return back, I will overcome my trepidations.
For those who think roller coaster rides are a thrill to pursue, a few spirals below the top of the tower there is a slide where many, especially those who were younger and braver, line up anxiously to climb aboard for the 20 metre slide, which races along the inner spiral to the bottom in only a few seconds.
Many of the people who were there were choosing to climb back up many times to repeat the slide experience.
As you may have already guessed, I did not join this group either—but I genuinely felt regret for my cowardess about this adventure as well.
While the elevated walkway is the route taken to get to the tower, a return alternative is to take the carved pathway back to the starting point. It winds along the forest base, bringing you face to face with even more of nature’s wonders. I definitely recommend this option. When you get back, make sure you visit the gift shop. The sale items here are remarkably different from most other attractions’ stores—with a number of unique items created by the Malahat artists.
The Malahat Skywalk Awaits
Getting to the Malahat is easy and convenient. It truly is on the doorstep of Victoria. Along the Malahat Highway—which is a part of the Trans-Canada Highway, it will take you less than 35 minutes to get there. It is a beautiful drive with much to see along the way–with easy stops for visits to vineyards, or at some of the beautiful orchards which are part of the identifying symbols of British Columbia.
However you get here, I’m sure you’ll be awfully happy when you arrive, and see all that the Malahat Skywalk has in store for you.
Ron is a dedicated traveller, having explored the width and breadth of Canada many times, and has visited 65 countries around the world as well. He is a long-time writer, broadcaster and podcaster, focusing most of his time in the travel and hospitality sectors. As a previous owner of a marketing agency creating campaigns for three Canadian provinces, he understands what travellers are wanting to learn as they finalize their travel decisions. And subsequently owning a larger travel goods store, he knows which products work best for travellers.