3 Backcountry Sites to Visit this Summer for Responsible Recreating
The summer weather is finally here. Sunshine, warmer temperatures and retreating snowlines on the horizon. If you haven’t already hit the trails this season, it’s time to start dreaming up where to explore.
The call of Strathcona Park has been attracting hiking enthusiasts and alpine explorers for many generations for good reason. It’s home to an abundance of natural wonders. From the highest peak on the Island (Golden Hinde) to the tallest waterfall in Canada (Della Falls) to the remarkable wildflowers that grow next to turquoise alpine lakes (Cream Lake). The vast network of trails that criss-cross through Strathcona’s ecological diversity beg to be admired.
If you’re heading out this summer here’s our recommendations for three backcountry sites that have great facilities to support responsible exploration. The influx of visitors during the summer season can put pressure on the park if it’s not done responsibly. Limiting our impact on the sensitive ecosystems that we recreate in by concentrating our footprint to areas that have specially-designed facilities like urine diversion toilets, tent pads and greywater systems helps protect the vitality of the larger area.
Here’s three areas we recommend setting up base camp in Strathcona to explore this summer (and why!)
- Circlet Lake
A trip to the alpine and subalpine areas of Strathcona during summertime is a must. Circlet Lake is a stunning area of the Forbidden Plateau that recently got a major infrastructure upgrade. At the end of 2019, crews installed 60 new tent pads along with three state of the art urine diversion toilets and two new group areas. New tent pads mean less impact on surrounding plants, soil and vegetation by providing more camping spots to fill overflow demand. Urine diversion toilets mean less people using the woods and bushes for relief, and less reliance on fuel-hungry helicopters to fly out waste. Responsible greywater dispersal systems mean the lake water stays cleaner. Plenty of bear caches keep curious wildlife away. Please use these facilities and help contribute to the wellbeing of the park!
Circlet Lake itself is very popular for summer swimming and relaxing in the sunshine. It is nearby to some seriously impressive trails for days of exploration if you’re blessed with time. There are also lots of other lakes nearby, such as Helen MacKenzie, Battleship and Kwai for a day of lake hopping. A detailed map of the trails in the Plateau can be found here.
Also, Strathcona Wilderness Institute has a Wilderness Centre at the trailhead. You can stop by and speak to their staff to find out information about the plants and animals that call the area home. It’s a wonderful and educational start to any hike. Plus, then you know what to look out for during your visit!
2. Croteau Lake Groupsite
Planning a family reunion? An outdoor education workshop? School visit or retreat?? If that’s the case, then head to Croteau Lake. Croteau Lake is home to BC Park’s first backcountry groupsite. The beautiful lakeside area can accommodate up to 25 people in a serene and peaceful setting. It features 12 tent pads, a large yurt, urine diversion toilet facilities, bear caches, and a small (private!) dock to access the water. The concept is pretty unique. A fully reservable backcountry area that can be booked just for your group to facilitate a special experience. Just need to get in early (or plan to visit mid-week!) to ensure availability, which you can check here.
It’s an hour and a half from the Forbidden Plateau Trailhead, where many beautiful alpine and subalpine hikes begin. The Plateau is home to many picturesque lakes, stunning wildflowers, and an astounding network of trails. It’s dwarfed by the jagged peaks of massive surrounding mountains. One of them is on every Vancouver Islander’s bucket list, Mount Albert Edward. From the Forbidden Plateau trailhead, Mount Albert Edward is a 32-kilometer round-trip hike. When camping at Croteau, the hike and ascent is roughly a half day from the site, and approximately the same to return.
There are many other popular hikes that are accessible from Croteau Lake: Castlecrag Mountain, Cruickshank Canyon, and Circlet Lake are all moderate day hikes from the Croteau basecamp.
3. Bedwell Lakes
Bedwell Lakes is another area in Strathcona that has recently received some upgrades to better support visitation. This spring, several urine diversion toilets were installed in the area so that waste can be treated more effectively. The area is home to 21 tent pads spread across two lakes that are perfect for swimming in summer. It is a slightly more challenging hike than Croteau or Circlet Lake with plenty of switchbacks, staircases and portions of dense forest to test you on the way in. Believe us, it’s worth it though. Once you’ve made it to the lakeside, there’s nothing to do but relax and take in the subalpine setting.
Cream Lake is the preferred destination for hikers who want to day trip from Bedwell and Baby Bedwell Campsites. It’s a moderately challenging five km hike each way, with plenty of wildflowers to identify in July and August. If you’ve worked up a sweat, the chilly lake is a welcoming arctic dip on a hot summer day. There’s lots of great vantage points to bask in the huge mountain faces around you. It’s close to the Elk River Corridor which is home to the many peaks where many mountaineers spend their summers exploring. From the Bedwell Lakes area you can appreciate the towering monsters of snow capped mountains in every direction. It’s a treat.
Have a great summer on the trails!
Meet the team at Stratchona Park for the 2022 season!