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!


Landslide Lake Backpacking Trip

I didn’t know much about Strathcona Provincial Park before we decided to visit, but after a google search I quickly arrived at the conclusion that Landslide Lake is one of the most popular hikes in the park. Vancouver Island isn’t really known for its mountains. Even though I know the island has mountains, it’s always the coastal hikes that come to mind when I think of the island, so I was keen to do Landslide Lake and explore some of the more mountainous regions.

We spent the first night car camping and got up early to hit the Landslide Lake trail. It’s right off the highway on the way to Gold River. It was a weekday in mid September, so there were a lot more cars in the parking lot than we were expecting. It seemed several large groups had camped up there overnight, but most of them were exiting the trail as we were hiking in.


It’s not a challenging trail. It starts with a short uphill climb before leveling out along Elk River. It is mostly uphill, with some slightly technical sections, but overall not a difficult trail. It just feels long. It’s around 7km to the first campsite at Butterwort Flats, which is located next to the river but primarily in the trees, then it’s another 3km to Upper Gravel Bar Campsite, which is where we were planning to stay. It took us around 3 hours at a pretty brisk pace to reach the campsite.


There was no one there when we arrived, so we set up our tent along the river and had lunch. It’s another 3km to Landslide Lake, but you’re not allowed to camp there, so people just day hike up and back from the campsite. It’s steeper heading up to the lake and the trail can be a little bit confusing at times. There’s a lot of uphill over bare rock and while it’s really obvious which direction you want to go (due to the valley), it’s easy to lose the trail, so watch for the cairns. It took a bit longer than we were expecting due to the heat, but there’s a nice waterfall on the way up and eventually we made it to the lake. There were a few day hikers there, but they soon took off and we went for a swim in the cold water and had a snack.


We probably should have called it a day there, but both of us were keen to check out Foster Lake (aka Iceberg Lake) while we were up there. It’s only about 1.5km to the next lake, but there’s no official trail and it’s a bit of a bushwack at times to get there. We didn’t really have trouble following the trail, but it’s really technical with lots of brush and ups and downs, so we were cursing and swearing pretty much the whole way there. It’s very forested around the back of Landslide Lake and then once you get to the end of the lake, you follow the creek bed for a bit before climbing up over scree and boulder fields. To be honest, some of the best views of Landslide Lake are from the boulder field at Foster Lake, because the angle of the afternoon sun from the base makes it hard to get any good photos.


We strongly debating throwing in the towel and turning around, but we’d come so far and knew we were unlikely to come back, so we kept going while we grumbled. I am glad we persevered, but my advice to others would be to either give yourself an entire day for it (2 nights at the campsite), or skip it. I can’t deny Foster Lake is pretty cool, it’s definitely alpine terrain and there’s a glacier at the back of the lake that you can explore if the conditions are right. If we had a whole day for it I wouldn’t mind exploring around the area a bit more, but we had less daylight because it was September and we were tired from the hike in. We enjoyed the view for 15-20 mins before turning around and heading back to make supper. The trail was just as annoying on the return trip and by the time we made it back to camp, we’d clocked in almost 20km for the day.


I liked the campsite because there was only us and 2 other groups, but I’d guess it gets pretty busy in the summer. That said, there is a lot of room for tents along the river and in the trees, so I wouldn’t be deterred from going on a weekend. It is a bit dark in the forest, but at least there’s an outhouse and bear cache. We had one of my leftover SCT meals for dinner and Brandon made us some soup to go with it. It was the time of year where it’s hot in the day, but can get quite cold overnight. I didn’t have any trouble sleeping, but it was damn cold getting out of the tent in the morning!


We didn’t waste too much time making breakfast and packed up to start our hike out. I’d got it in my mind that we could drive into Gold River for a nice lunch, so we made quick time hiking back down the trail. We only stopped briefly to chat with two guys who were also hiking out and we quickly identified each other as Newfoundlanders, so we had a good chat about life on the west coast vs. the east coast. We made it to the parking lot around 12:30pm and changed into some clean clothes before heading into Gold River for a rewarding cafe lunch!


Kayaking Sooke Basin

Since we recently got kayaks and I’ll likely be writing a lot more about kayaking, I figured I’d write about some of the day trips I’ve done in the past. I’ve been on three overnight trips in BC (and one in New Zealand), but I haven’t written about any of my shorter adventures, which are likely accessible for more people than overnight trips. Admittedly, my day trips are pretty limited as well, but I always have fun out on the water!

I kayaked Sooke Basin in 2019 with my Pathfinder unit. We went on a week long bike trip on Vancouver Island, which consisted of a few days camping in Sooke during which we went kayaking! We split the pathfinders into two groups, so myself and my co-guider accompanied 5 girls on a 3-hour morning paddle. The rest of the group had gone kayaking the day prior in some pretty heavy winds, so they’d been pretty confined to the shoreline and didn’t stray too far from the dock. But the wind and waves had settled a bit on the day we went, so they decided to take us across the basin. We were all in double kayaks, so I was paired up with one of the pathfinders.


We rented from Rush Adventures, which is located inside the marina in a very sheltered area. The trip started off pretty chill and we saw some sea stars and jellies hanging out around the rocks. Then we pushed out into the basin to paddle over to the Goodridge Islands to look for seals. These islands are sacred to the first nations, so it’s important to keep your distance from them (and also from the wildlife). It’s also prohibited to land on the island, so our goal was to do some wildlife viewing from a far.

The guides that accompanied us were very enthusiastic, but I’m not sure how much experience they have in going out with younger paddlers. Obviously they’re experienced paddlers themselves, but I’m not sure it was the wisest decision to take a group of teenagers out in these conditions. Despite it being less windy than the previous day, we were still paddling into a pretty big headwind and one of the boats really struggled to stay with the group. I like to think I’m a decent paddler and the girl I was paired with was also very strong, so we didn’t have too much trouble, but unfortunately my co-guider didn’t have a lot of experience paddling and the girl she was paired with wasn’t giving her a whole lot of paddling support. The guide helped them out as best he could and put a tow line on the boat, but the rest of us were forced to paddle in place while we waited for them, which was also tiring because the headwind still required a fair bit of paddling to avoid going backwards.


Eventually we made it to the sheltered side of the island and spotted a few seals sunning themselves on the rock, before eventually heading towards the other side of the basin and swinging around to head back. By this time we’d already been on the water for the better part of 2 hours, so I was getting pretty stiff and dying to pee. I asked the guide if there was somewhere we could stop and he said, “no, their are no washrooms”. I guess he assumed we’d be requiring a real washroom, but of course, we’re girl guides, so I insisted on stopping at the next beach because there was just no way I could hold it the whole paddle back. Once he realized we’d be “earning a badge” as we call it, he got the whole group to pull into the beach and I was joined by most of the unit, who were apparently all dying to go. It’s another reason why I think the guides maybe didn’t have a whole lot of experience with youth groups as they’d essentially planned to take us on a 3 hours strenuous paddle with no breaks for food or bathroom. Girl Guides is all about trying to make things fun, so we shared around some candy to prepare ourselves for the paddle back.

We made the decision to switch the girls paddling with me and my co-guider since I was a stronger paddler, and launched back into the water for the paddle back. The guides were optimistic we would have a tailwind on the way back, but wouldn’t you know, the wind had changed and we were AGAIN facing a headwind. I discovered the challenge my co-guider had been up against with my new paddling partner. Unfortunately she had virtually no power in her paddle (basically just dipping her paddle in and out of the water), so I really had to push to get us back to the other side and was pretty exhausted when we finally drifted into the marina. The girl later confided to me that she hadn’t been using the footrests because they were “uncomfortable”, which explains why her stroke was so weak. Oh well, we made it and rushed back to camp where the rest of the group blessedly had lunch waiting for us!

So it wasn’t my favourite paddling experience, but I do think the girls had a pretty good time. I’d definitely advise against taking young paddlers out in windy conditions, especially without scheduled breaks, but at the end of the day the girls all proved they could overcome the difficult conditions and had some fun stories to take home with them. Personally, I’d like to return someday and give this area another paddle in better conditions!