The hiking opportunities in Strathcona Provincial Park far exceed our capacity here to describe them all. We have provided a short description for each of the following trails:
Bedwell Lake Trail
BC Parks has developed the Bedwell Lake Trail as an opportunity for less experienced hikers to access an alpine/subalpine area, especially on a day-use basis. This trail links with the Bedwell River Trail to form a through route between the Pacific Ocean (at Bedwell Bay) and Buttle Lake.
The use of steel stairways offends some hikers while being appreciated by others. This trail is extremely popular, with a significant impact on a sensitive and fragile area. One of the best ways to see this area without further impact it is to visit as a day hiker. With just a day pack, the trail will flow beneath your feet and you will gain elevation without stress.
Hikers should note that there are many black bears in this area. Due to a concern that the Bedwell Lake area’s natural resources should not become depleted, BC Parks has designated this as a “core area”, within which campfires are not allowed and camping is restricted to specific, hardened sites. Camp stoves are now essential.
The trail is 6 km long, gains 600 metres in elevation, and takes about 3 hours. It ascends a steep forested valley with numerous bridge crossings and breaks out into a hilly subalpine area with two lakes and many tarns and creeks.
There is designated camping at Baby Bedwell Lake, with six tent platforms and a pit toilet, and on the eastern shore of Bedwell Lake where there are 10 tent platforms and a toilet. The Bedwell Trail is becoming a popular way to reach Cream Lake, and other side trips from Bedwell Lake include hikes up Mount Tom Taylor and Big Interior Mountain, each requiring a full day.
Access the trailhead from the south end of Buttle lake, leaving the Buttle Lake Parkway as if for Jim Mitchell Lake, following signs for the trailhead 6.8 km up a rough 2-wheel-drive road to an information shelter and parking at the trailhead.
Della Falls Trail
The Della Falls Trail near Port Alberni leads hikers from the head of Great Central Lake to the base of the highest waterfall in Canada (440 metres high, 1443 feet), a cascade from Della Lake.
This 16-km trail, by way of Drinkwater Creek, is a long hike taking about 7 hours one way, and suitable for intermediate level hikers. The trail was originally built by a trapper, Joe Drinkwater, who also started the Ark Resort. Della Falls is named after his wife.
The trail starts at the lakehead’s eastern shore, where BC Parks has developed a campground with a bear-proof cache and a pit toilet. Along the trail, all the suspension bridges have been replaced with timber bridges. Much of the 16 km trail follows an old roadbed left behind from logging and mining early in this century. The first 7 km follows a flat road bed through a mixed second growth forest to Margaret Creek. Once across the bridge at this creek the road bed continues through some old growth forest for 4 km, gently gaining elevation.
Eleven kilometres up the valley a new bridge over a nice gorge crosses Drinkwater Creek and from there the trail continues more roughly to a bridge at 12.5 km. Beyond this bridge the roughest section of the trail passes through a rock slide which pushes you close to the creek. Gaining elevation again, the road bed leads up to the Love Lake trail/Mount Septimus junction at about 15 km. The last kilometre to Della Falls emerges from open old growth forest into an avalanche run-out zone to the base of the falls. Campfires are permitted, but discouraged.
During the summers of 1983 and 1984 work crews improved the trail up to the falls and built several bridges. In 1995 it was in good shape because BC Parks has concentrated on new bridge construction. Camping is good on the north side of Drinkwater Creek about 1 km below the falls, which are visible from the campsite. These well-known falls are in three successive drops, each about 150 m. A climb to the top of the falls is possible, but a little dangerous.
There is much evidence of the extensive mining activity in this area. Please do not remove or destroy any of the remaining mining equipment, which now forms part of the historical record.
For Great Central Lake drive 13 km west of Port Alberni on Highway 4 and instead of turning towards Sproat Lake go straight ahead on Great Central Lake Road for 8 km. It takes 20 minutes to the Ark Resort, where you can park for a small fee and take a boat to Della Falls trailhead. Allow three days for a round trip if using a power boat, and six by canoe.
A useful alternative if you have your own boat is to drive to another access road about halfway down the lake on the north side. For this approach, drive out on the great Central Lake Road, and just before reaching the Ark Resort, turn right onto a gravel logging road. After about 7 km turn left onto Ash Power Plant Road. About 1 km on, bear right, then after just under 5 km bear left downhill. After about another 4.5 km make 2 sharp lefts.
The road continues about 1.5 km to an undeveloped camping area and the lakeshore. From here a 2.5 km trail follows up a wide valley to Lowry Lake where great fishing is to be found. From the lakeshore camping area, canoeing time to the head of the lake is about four or five hours.
The north and south shores of this narrow lake (about 33 km long) are very precipitous, so if canoeing, an early start is recommended. The lake is usually windswept by west winds in mid-afternoon and the water can be very rough with whitecaps. There are a few possible campsites about halfway along the north shore; those along the south shore are a little better.
Elk River Trail
Elk River Trail between Campbell River and Gold River is a very pleasant and popular trail through a forested valley, suitable for families. Strong hikers with only light packs can make a return trip to Landslide Lake in a day.
The trail is essentially an old elk trail that has been improved over the years. The trail has been cleared nicely up to the gravel flats at Landslide Lake and upper river flats. It is now quite a good trail, and hazardous log crossings at Butterwort, Volcano and Puzzle Creeks have been replaced by sturdy bridges built by the Island Mountain Ramblers in conjunction with BC Parks.
Due to the popularity of this trail, BC Parks has developed management strategies, including concentrating tent camping at sites that can take the impact. Waste management is a high priority and BC Parks has provided pit toilets at these sites.
At Volcano Creek there have been numerous bear sightings. It is about a 3-hour hike for a hiker with full overnight gear to the Butterwort Creek gravel bar, and about 6 hours to the gravel flats. From here one can make day excursions, especially to Landslide Lake.
Elk River Trail is accessed via Highway 28 to Gold River. From the bridge at Buttle Narrows drive about 23 km on Highway 28, and find a sign to Elk River Trail, just before Drum Lakes. Driving time from Campbell River is about 1 hour. Follow the signs to the start of the trail. BC Parks has relocated the start of the trail and also built a new parking lot. The new trail creates an unnecessary climb and descent that is not appreciated by hikers just staring out with heavy packs. Old hands prefer the original trail start located closer to the river.
Kwai Loop Trail
The Kwai Lake Loop Trail is located in Strathcona Provincial Park in Central Vancouver Island. At Lake Helen Mackenzie, turn west to follow a rough but easy grade trail that ascends to subalpine meadows near the Park Rangers’ cabin, and your first good views of Mount Albert Edward and Mount Regan.
Turn left at Hairtrigger Lake and pass Kwai Lake on your left, a very beautiful and rewarding destination. To return, follow the signs to Croteau Lake, and from there to Battleship Lake. This 15 km loop requires a full day, but is not difficult. Camping is permitted at Kwai Lake, and the site does have pit toilets. Be prepared for a small camping fee.
From Courtenay take the public road to Mount Washington’s nordic ski parking lot, and the start of trail – approximately 26 km.
Landslide Lake Trail
During the strong earthquake of June 24, 1946, a part of Mount Colonel Foster fell away into the lake below, now officially named Landslide Lake. The water was displaced so violently that it caused havoc in this part of the valley, taking out hundreds of trees down to bedrock for about 800 metres. This scar is still clearly visible.
Though part of a main route to the Golden Hinde (3/4 days one way), the Elk River Trail is used mostly by those who want to hike in to Landslide Lake. They camp en route and take a daypack on the second day, either camping a second night or heading out. Note that camping at Landslide Lake is not allowed.
At about 9.5 km, a side trail to Landslide Lake leaves the Elk River Trail after it crosses the outfall stream where BC Parks has installed a new bridge. A newly constructed trail climbs to the side of a waterfall (very impressive in flood) and leads to Landslide Lake.
For those en route to the Golden Hinde this makes a pleasant lunch break, provided that backpacks are stashed and not carried up to the lake and down again.
Accessed via Highway 28 to Gold River. From the bridge at Buttle Narrows drive about 23 km on Highway 28, and find a sign to Elk River Trail just before Drum Lakes. Driving time from Campbell River is about 1 hour.
Lupin Falls Nature Walk
A very pleasant short walk through open “big tree” forest brings you to Lupin Falls, an impressive little waterfall that encourages contemplation of the peaceful surroundings. On the lake side there are some picnic tables and walking access to the beach. The Lupin Falls Nature Walk trailhead is on Westmin Road, about 8 km south of Buttle Lake bridge on Highway 28 to the town of Campbell River.
Mount Albert Edward Trail
Mount Albert Edward is a prominent peak that dominates the skyline as seen from Mount Washington Ski Resort. From the Rangers’ cabin, described in the Kwai Loop Trail, maintain your elevation to pass Hairtrigger Lake on your left. Another hour brings you to a short side trail leading to Circlet Lake.
Camping at this popular location has heavily impacted on the area, but it is a good place to stop before a steep climb onto the ridge leading to Albert Edward – especially with full packs. The trail becomes a route after the shoulder and tarns at 1,400 metres. The summit is about 6 hours from the parking lot, one way.
Many groups camp at Circlet Lake and travel light for a summit day-return (6 km and 4 hours one way). Remember to pack for a long day, and carry what you will need for exposed ridge travel and sudden weather changes.
Hikers can challenge the tough trip from Mount Edward to Comox Glacier. The route follows rocky barren ridges that provide few sheltered spots able to accommodate more than a couple of tents. However, there is rugged beauty to the route, especially if you appreciate interesting rocks.
Paradise Meadows Loop
Paradise Meadows Loop Trail starts at nordic ski parking lot at Mount Washington, runs down to the brown bridge on the old Battleship Lake Trail and returns on the other side of Paradise Creek.
Paradise Meadows Loop Trail is a beautiful walk of about 2.2 km in length (45 minutes) through subalpine meadows, and is suitable for all ages. The trail offers opportunities to see deer, black bears, eagles and marmots.
From Courtenay take the public road to Mount Washington’s nordic ski parking lot, and the start of trail, a distance of approximately 26 km. The Paradise Meadows Trailhead is located at Raven Lodge at an elevation of 1,100 metres.
Named informally by hikers because it is built up with wood chips, the 2.9-km Sawdust Trail from Paradise Meadows winds gently through rolling meadows to bring walkers of almost any ability to Lake Helen Mackenzie.
Follow the lakeshore trail eastwards (i.e. to the left) that leads to the west side of Battleship Lake where you join the main trail back to Paradise Meadows. This pleasant loop requires about 3 hours, excluding rest stops.
From Courtenay take the public road to Mount Washington’s nordic ski parking lot, and the start of trail, a distance of approximately 26 km.