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……and take lots of photos along the way!

Vancouver Island: Bedwell Trail

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.

Trail Notes:

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.

GPS Track:

Trail Map:

  • MJ says:

    Hi Lorne…found your link on it! Thank you!!
    Where would you suggest we camp if we were to hike this trail in Strathcona..we are from Nanoose…Cheers…MJ

    July 16, 2012 at 7:15 pm
    • Lorne says:

      There is a great camping spot right at Baby Bedwell Lake (see photos above). There is also camping on Bedwell Lake but I didn’t hike down to see it. You can also continue hiking and camp at Cream Lake if you are feeling fit and adventurous.

      July 17, 2012 at 12:10 am
  • bob says:

    I see the trail goes on to cream lake does it also linc up with a trail going to Della falls

    September 9, 2012 at 9:09 pm
    • Lorne says:

      I’ve heard of a trail that heads on to Della Falls but it sounds like its pretty hard and sketchy in places. Not for the faint of heart.

      September 10, 2012 at 4:13 am
      • bob says:

        thanks i’ve heard the same but it was years ago i was hoping it would be some what better by now. i’ll keep looking into it.


        September 11, 2012 at 3:20 am
  • pipo says:

    Great info, Lorne.
    My wife and I are planning to do the rest of the hike, moving Eastward, being dropped at the top of Bedwell Inlet on the West Coast and hiking back to Bedwell Lake. Any info on that part to the trail?

    February 12, 2013 at 7:01 am
  • Nadine says:

    Hi Lorne, you provided the best info I found so far. Very comprehensive – thank you! Would you recommend to do this trail right now (March)? It’s been very nice and sunny and quite mild as well, but I just don’t want to get into trouble at the higher elevation. If you have any info please let me know! Thanks! Nadine

    March 4, 2015 at 5:01 am
    • Lorne says:

      Hard to say Nadine. It’s unlikely that there is any snow on the road into the trail head right now so that is good but it’s very likely there is snow on the upper portion of the tail. The question is how much and in what condition. It’s probably not too bad but you know your limits better than anyone.

      March 4, 2015 at 5:26 am

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