Elfin Lakes Trex Backpacking Trip

Am I really going to write yet another post about Elfin Lakes? My blog, my rules, so yes I am.

I always say that the Skyline II Trail in Manning Park is my favourite hike, but I might have to eventually cede the number one spot to Elfin Lakes because I never get tired of visiting. I’ve been in Autumn, I’ve been in Winter, I’ve backpacked to Opal Cone, I’ve backpacked to Mamquam Lake. It’s not even my first time going with Guide Girls. The first time I went with girl guides, I accompanied a group from the North Shore as a back-up guider. This time, I took my own troop for a one night trip in late September. But it’s always interesting no matter when you go because the weather makes it a different experience every time!


Both of my trips with girl guides took place on the last weekend in September, but the first trip dumped about 15cm of snow on us, while this trip was sunny and warm enough for shorts! Trex is a special ops unit in Guiding that only does outdoor adventure (as opposed to the full program). I’ve wanted a trex unit for years, so I finally started my own in New West last year and we focused on a backpacking series for our first year. We hiked to Viewpoint Beach in Golden Ears in June, 3 Brothers Mountain in Manning Park in August, and Elfin Lakes in Garibaldi Park in September to finish the series.

It was the longest distance they had done carrying their backpacks, but they did very well. It was pretty cloudy and chilly when we started, but we made good time going up towards the Red Heather Hut. We’d been warned of bears by the park rangers, so we made sure to be loud on the way up and didn’t see any, but some of the trex were really nervous about it.


We stopped for a nice hot lunch at the hut before continuing on to the lake. From there things got interesting. The trail branches when you leave the hut, with the mountain bike trail on top and the hiking trail below it. We immediately ran into a mama bear with cubs, but you’re probably not surprised to hear that bears are even more afraid of a noisy group of 10 girls than we were of it, so they quickly scampered. They were the only bears we saw on the way up, but we saw a lot more coming back down and I think our final bear count at the end of the weekend was 10 bears! Definitely a record for me. They weren’t interested in people at all though and were only interested in bulking up on the late season berries.


I love the hike from Red Heather Hut to Elfin Lakes. It’s so scenic as you traverse up and over the ridge. Trex enjoyed it too and they made really good time to the hut. The sleeping hut is still closed due to COVID, but there are 50 tent pads you can avail of instead. We set up our tents and had lots of time to relax and soak in the views. We had an earlier supper so that we could watch the sunset over the lake.

I don’t really plan any activities once we’ve arrived because it usually takes most of the day to get there, set up camp, and eat. But I decided to run a little workshop on star photography for anyone who was interested, which was everyone! I love the long days in the summer, but one of my favourite parts of the diminishing light is not having to stay up late to watch the stars. I lugged my tripod up and we went up on the hill overlooking the lake to try our luck. Fortunately it was a clear night and the moon was no where to be seen, so it was a great opportunity.


Very shortly after we started (I hadn’t even set up the tripod yet), trex started freaking out when a series of lights started flashing across the sky! They were even more concerned when I didn’t know what it was. It was super creepy and felt very end-of-days when you’re not expecting it. It was a series of lights that were moving in a perfectly straight line across the sky – they were all spaced equidistant and moving at the same pace. They did this for about 5 minutes before the last one finally disappeared. I made a guess that it was a satellite launch and another camper confirmed for us later that it was indeed Starlink! So our timing was excellent. We didn’t get any photos on the camera, but the girls were able to capture a few cell phone pictures of the phenomenon and it was quite a treat to see.


After that we settled into actual star photography and everyone got really into it for the better part of an hour. We did portraits of everyone with the starscape before turning in for the night. It was a completely clear morning and ended up being a very hot day, so we were driven out of our tents by the sun when it peaked over the mountains and illuminated the campsite. Staying at Elfin is a real treat because it’s definitely one of the most scenic campsites with the 360 degree view of the mountains.


We had a quick breakfast and packed up our campsites to head back the way we came. We made a slower pace as we came up to the hut because the whole area was crawling with bears and there were a lot of people. One cub had been scared up a tree, which made us nervous because we didn’t know where Mama was, but we passed through without any incident and had a hot lunch in Red Heather Hut before hiking back to the parking lot.

Everyone did really well on the trip, so we treated ourselves to ice cream at Alice & Brohm before heading back to town to conclude the trip. I think this trail lends itself well to a girl guide group because it’s a challenge, but not too hard, and it has lots of tent pads and an amazing view. I just have to work on convincing the girls to go back and stay again in the winter!


The Waterfalls of Strathcona Park

This has turned into quite the series about Strathcona Park, with my backpacking trips to Landslide Lake and Bedwell Bay being some of the highlights. But I want to spend a bit of time talking about waterfalls because there are so many to explore in the park and most of them are extremely easy to get to!

First up is Lady Falls. It’s located in the North end of the park along Highway 28 (as opposed to the road along Buttle Lake). If you’re going to Landslide Lake or Gold River, it’s a good stop along the way. There’s a small parking lot and it’s 500 metres each way (and 50m elevation gain) to get to the waterfall. There’s a platform from which to watch the falls thundering down into the ravine and you even catch some of the spray. Of the short waterfall hikes, Lady Falls is the easiest to get to and more impressive than Lupin Falls.


If you’re heading down Western Mines Road to the south end of the park, make sure to stop at Lupin Falls on the way there. It wasn’t as impressive as Lady Falls when we visited, but that’s because it was early September and extremely dry – I suspect it has a much higher flow in the Spring. It’s flat and less than 1km as a round trip hike through the woods. The waterfall was more of a trickle when we visited, but there are some beautiful tall trees to enjoy along the way.


Continuing on Western Mines Road, you’ll hit the parking lot for Lower Myra Falls at the south end of the lake, after the road for Bedwell Lakes. It’s a further drive than Lady Falls and Lupin Falls, but in my opinion, Lower Myra Falls is the best waterfall in the park (except for Della Falls). It starts with a steep hike down towards the lake, about 500 metres, but with 100m in elevation loss. There are two options for viewing – you can take the first left and see the upper falls and pool at the viewpoint – and then you can continue down to the middle falls where there’s another pool and you can explore around the rocks. You can walk along the edge of the falls as it cascades down towards the lake.


Our first trip was in the early morning, so it was too cold to swim and we decided to come back later in the afternoon. On the second visit, we went for a dip in the middle pool before climbing down over the rocks to the lake – “climbing” being the key word. There are various paths cutting through the woods, but none of them are official, so we just found the least dangerous route down to the lake where there was a large sandbar. I’m not sure if the sandbar is there year round though (lake level was very low when we visited), so exercise caution around the rocks as it would be easy to slip and fall.


We loved swimming in the lake. The waterfall pool was freezing cold, but the lake was a very balmy temperature and we enjoyed a proper swim before climbing back up to the parking lot. There’s a dam on the lake, so there are still all kinds of large tree stumps in the water from when they impounded the reservoir. It’s fun to swim out and stand on them, but be careful because they are slippery and have lots of sharp edges.


Our last waterfall was Upper Myra Falls. At 8km round trip, this is the longest waterfall hike in the park (that we did). If I we’re to rank them all, I would put Upper Myra Falls below Lower Myra Falls and Lady Falls, but above Lupin Falls. It’s a very high, narrow waterfall that comes out through the trees and cascades down to the forest floor. There’s no accessible pool, but there is a platform from which you can view it. It took us about an hour to hike the 4km to the platform and we hung around for a half hour and had lunch before heading back again. There’s only about 80m of elevation gain along the whole trail, so it’s not very difficult.


While it wasn’t my favourite waterfall, it still made for a nice little adventure. You have to drive through the active Westin Mine to get to the trailhead, which is an experience in itself, and the forest on the way to the falls is amazing! This trail is through old-growth forest, which is pretty rare in BC these days, so I enjoyed the tall, wide trees, and the chaos that makes up the undergrowth of an old growth forest.

And those are the waterfalls of Strathcona Park! There are more waterfalls that are accessible through other park entrances, the most notable of which is Della Falls and is only accessible by boat, but we only had time for the core area of the park on this trip. Overall I had a blast and would highly recommend this park, which is so large it feels more like a National Park!


Bedwell Lake Backpacking Trip

One backpacking trip wasn’t enough for Brandon and I when we went to Strathcona Provincial Park and we ended the visit with a second trip to Bedwell Lake. Like Landslide Lake, it seems that Bedwell Lake is another popular hike. The trail to Bedwell Lake is located in the center of the park, at the far south end of Buttle Lake, so it’s a longer drive to get to. Once you get to the toe of the lake, there’s a side road that goes up into the mountains towards the trailhead. There are warnings that you need 4WD to get to the trailhead, but it really depends on the time of year and when the road was last graded. It’s a gravel road, but it was in pretty good condition when we visited and 4WD definitely wasn’t required, but I’d want to have a bit of clearance (i.e., an SUV over a little car).


Get your permit online in advance or bring cash for the self-pay permit box. I don’t usually avail of self-pay, but we didn’t pre-plan this trip and there was no service in the park, so we used cash to get our passes. The trail is pretty flat for the first kilometre, but it’s a steady uphill after that. The trail isn’t very technical, but it gets steeper as you go and there are several metal stair and chain sections closer to the top. It’s roughly 4.5km to Baby Bedwell Lake, which is just before Bedwell Lake and where the first campsite is located. From there, it’s another 2km to the back of Bedwell Lake, which is where the main campsite is. The section between Baby Bedwell and the main lake is the most challenging because you go over the headland between the lakes and it’s mostly stairs and ladders.


From the main campsite, you can climb up over the saddle and continue to Cream Lake, which is about 5km further. It’s supposedly very scenic up on the ridge, but it started to get foggy the closer we got to Bedwell Lake. There wasn’t any rain in the forecast, but the weather can do weird things in the mountains and on the day we visited, the clouds got caught up around the mountain peaks. The visibility deteriorated the higher we got and we were pretty cold climbing up to the lake.

We got there around 12:30pm and stopped for lunch, but at the same time I turned on my inreach and got a flood of messages from Seth at home. It turns out someone had stolen the catalytic converter from our car and Seth was having a really hard time making a claim since the car is in my name. So I spent the better part of an hour messaging with him to help get things sorted and then we had to decide what to do about the rest of the hike.


It was really cold sitting by lake in the fog, so we knew we had to keep hiking to stay warm and kill some time, but neither of us were feeling up to lugging our backpacks uphill to Cream Lake. I was feeling anxious about Seth and I didn’t really see the point of hiking uphill in the fog for no view. So we decided to set up camp at Bedwell and go for a day hike up to Little Jim Lake, which is the halfway point between Bedwell and Cream Lakes. In retrospect, I kind of regret not going the whole way to Cream Lake. The fog was like soup up there, so we definitely wouldn’t have seen anything, but it did start to clear a bit the next day, so we may have gotten lucky on the return trip. But it’s hard to say either way and I think we made the best decision we could based on how we felt at the time. I had a great trip to Strathcona with Brandon, but I had hiked 130km on the SCT just a week previous and this was the last thing we were doing in Strathcona, so I admit I was a little fatigued and ready to go home by this point.


In any case, we made the best of it and hiked up over the ridge to Little Jim Lake. It was still an entertaining experience walking around in the fog. It was so thick we could barely see in front of us and it made for a bit of a spooky experience around the lake. Sound travels really well over the water, so we could hear other hikers on their return trip, but it seemed to be forever before they would actually materialize out of the fog, even though we’d been listening to the din of their voices across the water for many minutes before. We had a snack by the lake and then turned around in time to go back to Bedwell Lake for supper.


At this point it hadn’t yet rained, but it was getting a bit misty at the lake when we returned, so we quickly starting on our evening chores and ate supper before it truly rained. We made friends with 2 dads, one of whom was bemoaning the fact that his son-in-law had misplaced part of his tent without telling him and now he’d been left without a fly for the weekend. So the two were whining that they would have to share a 1 person tent overnight, which we found a lot funnier than they did. So PSA, always check your gear after loaning it out! (or as I’ve learned from girl guides, any time you’re going on a trip)

Eventually it started to properly rain, so we went to bed early and I spent the evening reading in the tent while Brandon stared at the ceiling. The poor guy had broken his phone earlier in the trip, mistakenly thinking it was waterproof, and he had absolutely nothing to do, so eventually I took pity on him and gave him my phone to play some games until we finally retired for the night.


It drizzled most of the night, but fortunately it had stopped by the time we got up in the morning. It was still very cold and foggy, but we were optimistic that the clouds were starting to break up, so we made a hot breakfast to warm up before packing all our gear. The clouds never fully cleared, but they lifted the longer we hung around and we finally got a glimpse of the lake and terrain as we started our return trip. The climb over the headland felt a lot less intimidating without the fog and we ended up stopping at the top for about half an hour to explore and photograph some of the smaller viewpoints.


Likewise, it was a much faster journey back to the car than on the way in since it’s a steady downhill. Overall it wasn’t my favourite hike, but I’m glad we at least got a glimpse of the area on the way down. It’s always disappointing to hike somewhere and not get a view, especially when it’s somewhere remote and it’s unlikely you’ll get the opportunity to come back soon. But mentally I just wasn’t really prepared for this hike. I was ready to go home. We’d planned to stay one night in Courtney before catching the ferry, but we ended up driving straight out of the park and all the way to the ferry after finishing this hike. So not every hike is a home run, but it was still a special experience and I’m definitely keen to go back in the future and hike all the way to Cream Lake. I feel like we’ve only scratched the surface of Strathcona Provincial Park after this trip!