Strathcona Provincial Park lies to the South West of Campbell River and dominates central Vancouver Island. It is the largest park on the island and the oldest in BC. It spans almost the width of the island extending from Clayoquot Sound on the West Coast to within 13 km of the sea near Comox on the East Coast. Contained within this rugged wilderness park is the highest peak on Vancouver Island (the Golden Hinde), the highest waterfall in Canada (and one of the top 10 highest falls in the world: Della Falls, 440m), glaciers and a fantastic variety of alpine and subalpine beauty.
One of the ‘easiest’ (relative term) ways to access this backcountry masterpiece is the Bedwell Trail. The trail to Bedwell Lake is 6 km one way and gains 600 m in elevation making for a fairly strenuous trail ascent. There is a designated camping area at Baby Bedwell lake and a variety of side trips or longer hikes from there are possible. I just did the hike as a day trip.
From Campbell River, take Highway 28 West to the bridge over Upper Campbell Lake/Buttle Lake. Do not cross the bridge, but take the road down the East side of Buttle Lake. Follow Buttle Lake road south to Jim Mitchell Lake road which is on the left just after the Thelwood Creek Bridge. Follow this dirt road about 7 km to the trailhead. The road doesn’t typically require a 4×4 but it is gravel and somewhat rough so low slung cars might have some problems.
When you turn onto Jim Mitchell Lake road keep an eye to the left for some beautiful scenery.
The trailhead is an obvious parking area with a BC Parks map posted.
The first short section of the hike is relatively flat and crosses a stream using a very well maintained bridge.
Its not long before the trail turns uphill and starts the ascent. Most of this trail is uphill and will get your heart pumping. Parks Canada has done a lot of trail engineering, including some metal staircases, to make the trail safe and lessen the impact of hikers on the area. The lower section of trail is in the forest but it’s not long before the trees thin out and you begin to get views of the surrounding mountains.
As you finish the climb you hit a relatively flat area with boardwalks and wetlands.
Just before Baby Bedwell Lake you encounter a small pond with a tantalizing view. This is a teaser for what’s to come.
When you reach Baby Bedwell Lake the views are even nicer.
There is a designated camping area here with the most spectacular views from your tent that I’ve ever seen.
From Baby Bedwell the trail continues uphill with some nice views of Mt Tom Taylor and it’s glacier.
Its not long before you come to a viewpoint overlooking Bedwell Lake. The payoff for all that sweat you left on the tail up is this view of prime Vancouver Island alpine. Big Interior Mountain is on the left and Mt Tom Taylor is on the right.
Driving time from Nanaimo to the trailhead: about 2.5 hours
Round trip distance from the trailhead to the Bedwell Lake viewpoint and back: about 12 km
Hiking time: about 3 hours up, 2 hours down but you’ll want to spend some time at the top enjoying the views.
Starting Elevation: 250 m
Max Elevation: 975 m
Trail Difficulty: Moderate. The route is well marked and all the trail engineering makes walking fairly easy but this trail has a long continuous steep section making it strenuous. Assess your level of fitness before attempting it.
Suggestions: Bring a camera! What’s the point of all that pain if you can’t show your friends the beauty you’ve seen? Hiking poles help a great deal with all the uphill on this trail.