Strathcona Provincial Park
Strathcona Provincial Park is the oldest provincial park in British Columbia and the largest provincial park on Vancouver Island. Founded in 1911, this awe-inspiring 250,000-hectare park stretches from the glaciers of Forbidden Plateau up to the northern peaks beyond Buttle Lake, offering up recreational activities for all tastes and abilities. This majestic wilderness can challenge the most extreme outdoor enthusiast, or delight a senior with their grandchildren, exploring nature as they discover the park together. Strathcona has it all, mountain peaks (some perpetually capped with snow), lakes and alpine tarns dotting a landscape laced with rivers, creeks, streams, waterfalls, and an extensive network of trails. By land or air, the park’s vast ruggedness will take your breath away.
Strathcona can be reached by two main access points: Highway 28 to Buttle Lake or Strathcona Parkway to Forbidden Plateau. It is about an hour drive to the beginning of Buttle Lake, the gateway to Strathcona, and an additional half hour to the end of the lake. Buttle Lake is nestled in a valley surrounded by high peaks, providing spectacular views right from the road. There is a wide range of hikes around Buttle Lake, ranging from short waterfall walks to multi-day backcountry expeditions. The Forbidden Plateau area of Strathcona makes the subalpine accessible with ease. It is about a 45-minute drive from Campbell River to the Raven Lodge parking lot, where you will embark on your journey through the meadows. Forbidden Plateau offers a wide variety of hikes and is a great spot to see alpine flowers.
Leave no trace
Please remember to follow leave no trace principles while exploring Strathcona Park. Alpine and subalpine ecosystems are very delicate and can take years and years to repair the damage that humans do. Strathcona Provincial Park is home to populations of the Vancouver Island Marmot and the Vancouver Island White-Tailed Ptarmigan, which are both endangered species with tracking and protection programs in place. It is very important to pack in what you pack out, stay on the trail, and don’t feed the wildlife.
Strathcona Provincial Park offers trails for all skill levels. Before attempting any trails make sure to research the current park conditions, trail difficulty. Before heading out to the park make sure to make a trip plan and bring the proper gear with you. Head over to adventure smart for more info on what to bring and how to stay safe while out exploring the outdoors!
Recommended Hikes and Trails (Buttle Lake Access)
Elk River Trail/Landslide Lake:
22 km, 600m elevation gain, 7-10 hours
The Elk River Trail can be done as a long day hike or an overnight excursion. The trail follows the scenic Elk River Valley. Campsites are located at the 6 km mark and the 9 km mark. It is important to note that camping is not allowed at Landslide Lake in order to reduce environmental impact.
10 km, 1250m elevation gain, 5-8 hours
Crest Mountain is a great option for day hikers looking to get panoramic mountain views. The switchbacking trail winds its way through dense forest for much of the hike and then breaks out into a subalpine meadow with a beautiful lake and breathtaking views.
12km, 600m elevation gain, 6-7 hours
The Bedwell Lake area is a great backpacking and day hiking destination. Camping is available at Baby Bedwell Lake (4 km) and Bedwell Lake (6km) and there is an excellent viewpoint between the two lakes.
900m, 20 minutes
Wind your way through the rainforest to the viewing platform overlooking the stunning Lady Falls.
800m, 20 minutes
A forested trail winds its way to a small secluded waterfall.
Lower Myra Falls
1km, 25 minutes
A beautiful cascading waterfall with crystal clear pools great for swimming.
Recommended Hikes and Trails (Paradise Meadows Access)
Centennial Loop Trail
4km, 1 hour
The Centennial trail is a barrier-free trail which makes experiencing the beauty of Paradise Meadows accessible to everyone.
Helen Mackenzie-Battleship Loop
8km, 3 hours, 70m elevation gain
A beautiful walk through subalpine meadows passing several ponds and two picturesque lakes. A backcountry campsite is available at Lake Helen Mackenzie.
Cruikshank Canyon Lookout
17km, 8 hours, 250m elevation gain
Meander past subalpine lakes and meadows en route to a viewpoint overlooking the vast Cruikshank Canyon and surrounding mountains.
Mount Albert Edward
32 km, 1000m, 12 hours
Mount Albert Edward is a fantastic hike for those wanting the thrill of reaching a high alpine summit. This hike is best done as a two or three-day hike with a base camp at Circlet Lake.
Buttle Lake is a great place to explore by kayak, canoe, or stand up paddleboard. You can bring your own or rentals are available seasonally at Strathcona Park Lodge. It is important to note that it gets windy in the afternoon, so try for a morning paddle and keep close to the shore. Check out the camping section below for some great marine campsite options for an overnight paddling expedition.
Strathcona Park is rich with freshwater fishing opportunities from mountain-fringed Buttle Lake to Battleship Lake nestled right in the meadows. The Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC shows which lakes are stocked. Cutthroat and Rainbow Trout are common catches in Strathcona. Make sure to check the fishing regulations and purchase a freshwater fishing license before heading out.
There are two vehicle accessible campgrounds in Strathcona Park: Buttle Lake and Ralph River. For more information on these campgrounds please see the Camping, Cabins and RV Parks section of our website. Strathcona Park is home to many backcountry campgrounds equipped with bear caches and outhouses. In the Forbidden Plateau area of the park Lake Helen Mackenzie, Kwai Lake, Circlet Lake, and Croteau Lake (group campground) all have backcountry campsites. Camping is only allowed in the designated sites in this core area of Strathcona. There are backcountry sites at Baby Bedwell Lake, Bedwell Lake, Arnica Lake (Phillips Ridge Trail), two spots along the Elk River Trail and on the Della Falls Trail. Pay your backcountry camping fees at the trailhead dropbox using cash or on the BC Parks Discover Camping website. Campfires in the Strathcona Park backcountry are strictly prohibited. Strathcona Park also hosts 4 marine access campgrounds: Rainbow Island (4 sites), Titus (5 sites), Wolf River (4 sites) and Phillips Creek (4 sites).
Crest Creek Crags is home to many different climbing routes suitable for all skill levels. There are sport, trad, and aid climbing routes available. Wild Isle Publications puts out an excellent guidebook called Crest Creek Rock Climbs which is available online and at local retailers.
Strathcona Park is a magical place in the winter with unlimited snowshoeing and ski touring potential. The paradise meadows area is transformed into a maze of cross country skiing and snowshoeing trails maintained by Mount Washington Alpine Resort. Snowshoeing and cross country ski rentals and passes are available at the Raven Lodge. If you plan on venturing beyond the paradise meadows area be sure to bring navigational tools and have a good sense of where you are going as all of the signage is buried by snow in the winter months. Winter operations at Mount Washington run from December to April and you can usually expect the snow to be melted in the meadows by late June. The use of snowmobiles in Strathcona Park is strictly prohibited.