We were excited for a refreshing weekend on the Elk River Trail.
Mike and I zoomed out of Victoria at 1500 h on Friday, stopping for a picnic dinner with an Olympic Mountain view. Our plan was to hike to Butterwort Camp in the moon-dusk. On arrival to Strathcona Provincial Park, the Elk River Valley looked dark and wet…and rain started to hit the windshield. We opted for the luxurious Buttle Lake Campground instead, with clean picnic tables and dry moss. On Saturday morning, Mike and I hiked up the green valley, found a premium campsite on the gravel bar, made two spectacular trips to Landslide Lake, and exited the emerald forest on Sunday. We completed 13 km each day for a trip total of 26 km. A decent effort for a weekend! I recommend completing the trip with the song Landslide by Fleetwood Mac and a bag of salty potato chips.
- Drive 3 h 52 min (336 km) from Victoria to the Elk River trailhead on the Gold river Highway. Google Map
Permits & Fees
- There are designated backcountry sites located in the Elk River Fee Collection Area (PDF, 36KB). Camping fees are applicable from June 15 – September 30. Fees are $10 per person (16 years of age and older) / per night, $5 per child (6-15 years of age) / per night, and children under 6 are free. BC Parks Discover Camping Backcountry Registration System allows you to purchase a backcountry camping permit before leaving home.
- Strathcona Walk-In/Wilderness Camping
Books & Maps
- Stone P. Island Alpine: A Guide to the Mountains of Strathcona Park and Vancouver Island. 1st ed. Wild Isle Publications; 2003. wildisle.ca
- 92-F/13. Scale 1:50,000. Edition 04. Upper Campbell Lake. British Columbia. Produced on May 6, 2011 by the Centre for Topographic Information, Natural Resources Canada.
Location: Strathcona Provincial Park
Route: Elk River Trail
Date: May 2-3, 2015
Distance: 26 km
Duration: 2 days
Peak: 890 m
Gain: 570 m
Day 1: Trailhead to Landslide Lake to Upper Gravel Bar Camp (13 km)
Our hike along the lush Elk River Trail was great fun. After climbing the ridge near the trailhead, we dropped into the forest moon of Endor. The soothing white noise of the Elk River was a welcome friend the entire trip. Besides the waterfalls, the beaver dam was one of my favourite sights on the trail. Not quite as large as the monster viewable from space, this dam has dramatically altered the landscape. Chewed-off logs with teeth marks were all over the area. We took a water stop at sunny Butterwort Creek Camp (6 km) before continuing to Upper Gravel Bar Camp (9 km). Mike and I secured the premium spot (the higher of the two riverside camps), with views of Elkhorn Mountain and Rambler Junior. After setting up, we hiked up rusty bedrock (watch the green slime) and forest switchbacks to historic Landslide Lake (11 km). I was excited by this close view of jagged Mount Colonel Foster, with random sounds of sliding snow and falling rock. The shoreline was boggy, so we didn’t attempt the route to Foster’s Lake (or Iceberg Lake or Burg Lake, depending on source or sign). After sunning like reptiles, we descended to camp for noodles (13 km).
Day 2: Upper Gravel Bar Camp to Landslide Lake to Trailhead (13 km)
The watch alarm went off at 0600 h. It was 2 degrees C in the tent and ice was on the door. Why sit around a cold camp or pack wet gear? We got up, grabbed our food from the locker, and hiked back to Landslide Lake (15 km) to see Mount Colonel Foster in the morning light. Our rock by the shore was a fantastic place for coffee and breakfast. The air was soft and quiet, with only a few birds singing. Even though humans aren’t supposed to camp at Landslide Lake, we saw evidence of fires on the rocky areas above the lake outflow. After photos, we headed back to camp (17 km) to pack…including our now dry tent! A rufous hummingbird dive-bombed the lime tent poles and butterflies gathered around our colourful stuff sacks. We retraced our steps back through the emerald forest, stopping at Butterwort Creek Camp for lunch and cold drinks (20 km). The temperature was perfect for our final leg out. We saw an American dipper swimming for bugs in the beaver pond. Mike and I took time to really breathe the fresh air and appreciate our great weekend.