Striking Strathcona Pt.1: The Elk River Trail

As much as we love Quadra Island, we feel that one thing is missing here: “proper” mountains. We started to craaaaaave some higher peaks again and decided to explore BC’s oldest and Vanisland’s biggest provincial park: Strathcona. The first Europeans didn’t get here before the 1860s but way before that, the area was already the traditional territory of the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nation.

The region was declared as a Provincial Park in 1911 but that did not prevent the government to allow logging and even mining in some areas! This explains why you come across an active (!) mine deep inside the park. Trust us, the sight of that disturbed us more than the fact that we had to pass through a security checkpoint to reach the trailhead to Mt. Myra… Luckily, further governmental plans to remove more parts from the park for industrial use were stopped by activists so today, Strathcona remains a huge nature conservation area. In fact, they have just recently added parts on to it. Yes!

Except the mine and some remnants of logging, Strathcona looks like the most pristine paradise for outdoor lovers: Year-round glaciers, roaring waterfalls, alpine mountaineering, crystall-clear lakes…

We actually went on two multi-day hikes shortly after one another just because we couldn’t get enough of the area. We really recommend 10Hikes for finding more details about the trails because they’ve got great, recent information including gps data.

The Elk River Trail

elk river trail map

Find this map here!

The Elk River Trail leads you up a charming valley and the best part is that you will stay close to the river and in a lush green forest for most stretches of it. Shade and lots of (drinkable) water are real treats when you’re on a long-distance hike and since Freya is still too young to carry her own water, it was also much easier on our backs. The trail itself is rocky but well marked and maintained so we’d say that it’s even suitable for families as long as you are in no rush. There are two campsites available along the trail since backcountry camping is not permitted. Yes, we usually prefer to camp without neighbors but with that recent cougar warning (see below…) we felt a little more secure having other people around at night. The campsites also provide bear caches for your food and pit toilets. Nothing else though – there are not even tent pads so it’s still wild camping after all. Please stick to the rules and help to keep the area as pristine as possible!

cougar warning

source: official BC parks homepage

Once you’re reaching Landslide Lake – wow, you will not mind that you had to share the campsite with other hikers. This mountain lake is a true Canadian gem and lives up to all the Instagram pictures we saw of it before – very picturesque! It’s also an impressive reminder of the last big earthquake in BC in 1946. Back then, a huge chunk of Mount Colonel Foster (the rocky beast in the background) came loose and crashed into the lake. The resulting wave devastated big parts of the Elk River Valley and could have caused tremenduous harm if more people lived in the area. Yip, BC is the most seismically active region of Canada and scientists say that it’s just a matter of time until the next earthquake… Pretty scary!

But the real dollop of cream on top of the amazing scenery? There are so much fewer people around than at let’s say the famous lakes in Banff National Park. While we were relaxing at Landslide Lake (3h), we only saw about four other hikers passing by from a distance. Oh, how much we would have loved to keep going further up to the even higher Glacier Lake but Freya was way too exhausted so instead, we rested in the shade, soaked up the view and went for a swim in the icecold water before heading back. You can easily spend 3 or more days up there and we deeply regretted that we only packed enough food for two. A truely gorgeous hike, highly recommended!


P.S.: Don’t make the same mistake we did and assume that “elks” are moose. Nope, elks are more like very big deers, like the one below. Sadly, we didn’t spot any during our hike…



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