Written by Neil Judson We don't need to go far to experience a bird's eye view of the surrounding ocean, islands and mountain ranges. Nor must we scale precarious cliffs or even pack a lunch (although picnics are highly recommended). Mount Douglas Park offers one of the area's most majestic and accessible viewpoints. Affectionately known locally as “Mount Doug,” the park's centrepiece reaches 227 metres elevation and showcases 360-degree vistas of the South Island and beyond. Originally known as the “hill of cedars” by the local Songhess people, it is really more of a large hill than a mountain, but that doesn't take away from the extent of its beauty. There are various ways to reach the top, requiring various levels of effort. A paved road starting at the main parking lot, located where Shelbourne Street meets Cedar Hill Road, leads to a beautiful viewpoint near the top, just south of the summit. From there, trails lead in all directions, including a paved walkway to the nearby summit. The road's gate opens to vehicles at noon, but the route is also popular for parents pushing strollers, cyclists and others who prefer a smooth ascent. Those taking the road up should keep an eye out for a short trail on the left that reveals gorgeous eastern views of Cormorant Point, the San Juan Islands and, on a clear day, Mount Baker. I usually take a combination of hiking trails, surrounded by towering cedars and Douglas-fir, up the north side of the hill. These trails eventually lead to a clearing marked with a few steep rocks slabs overlooking Cordova Bay and rural Saanich before leading hikers to a viewpoint platform at the summit. The level of difficulty varies from even grade trails near the base to more scrambling steep, rooty and rocky paths near the top. Black diamond signs identify the more difficult trails. Once atop Mount Doug, it's easy to explore all sides by following the many minor trails leading to various viewpoints and splendid picnic nooks, each revealing a different landscape. One of my favourite viewpoints is on the south side, overlooking a blanket of Garry Oaks and a horizon lined by the Olympic Mountains. I was not surprised to learn Victoria artist Emily Carr found inspiration in Mount Douglas. It's easy to feel isolated yet connected to the Island when hiking under huge cedars or peering down at soaring birds. We're lucky to have such a setting that is both accessible and difficult not to lose ourselves in.