The Flower Ridge Trail is part of a historic route connecting Buttle Lake to the mountains of Strathcona Provincial Park.
The first 8 km winds its way up a gentle gradient of old-growth forest and onto a subalpine ridge. Hikers are rewarded with sweeping views of the surrounding peaks and Buttle Lake below. The route meanders up and down another 8 km towards the south end of Flower Ridge. In good weather, hikers enjoy outstanding views of Mount Septimus, Mount Rousseau, Nine Peaks, the Golden Hinde, the Red Pillar, and Mount Myra. The Flower Ridge Trail may be experienced as either a day-hike or as a multi-day backpacking trip. As the name suggests, colourful wildflowers are abundant in late spring and summer. The hiking terrain at the south end of Flower Ridge evolves into more technical routes, leading deeper into the mountains.
From Victoria follow Trans-Canada Highway / BC-1 N and BC-19 N to Island Highway / BC-19A N in Campbell River. Follow Gold River Highway / BC-28 W to Westmin Road. Arrive at Flower Ridge Trailhead. Parking area is just before the road bridge over Henshaw Creek. Google Map
There are no fees associated with this area and no facilities are provided. Fires are not permitted in any backcountry areas of Strathcona Park, including Flower Ridge. There are no pit toilets. All hikers and backpackers must practice Leave No Trace.
Ralph River Campground is about 3 km from the Flower Ridge Trailhead and makes an excellent staging area. The campground has 75 vehicle accessible campsites in an old-growth Douglas fir forest. Some sites overlook the shores of Buttle Lake. The campsites are first-come-first-served with some reservable sites available. Water pumps and pit toilets. Fee is $20 CAD per party per night. BC Senior’s Rate (day after Labour Day to June 14 only) is $10 per senior party per night.
Flower Ridge Trail – July 13-15, 2018
Distance: 33 km
Duration: 3 days
Peak: 1529 m
Gain: 1566 m
Flower Ridge is an excellent zone to practice map reading, take bearings, and identify famous Strathcona mountain peaks. Our goal was to hike up through the forest to the ridge on the first day and select a nice place to basecamp for two nights. Our second day would be for exploring the ridge, and our last day would be our exit. Environmental conditions were challenging that weekend. It was hot, sunny, and full of thick clouds of mosquitos! The experience was an exercise in persistence and mindset, but the rewards were more than worth it. We practiced managing our body temperature and staying hydrated along with our honing our navigation skills. In the end, we met all our weekend objectives and rewarded ourselves with an invigorating splash in Buttle Lake!
- Day 1: Flower Ridge Trailhead to Basecamp
- Day 2: Basecamp to End of Ridge
- Day 3: Basecamp to Flower Ridge Trailhead
Day 1: Flower Ridge Trailhead to Basecamp
Distance: 7.5 km
Duration: 7 h 53 min
Peak: 1398 m
Ascent: 1175 m
Descent: 52 m
An early start is essential when planning a hike up the Flower Ridge Trail. Our boots were on trail by 0700 h to beat the summer heat and take our time up the steady switchbacks. Our first wildlife sighting was a green frog (species unknown) on the staircase near the trailhead. An abundance of spotted coral root. livened up the forest floor. At 585 m, we took our first break at a lookout bump and pulled out compasses to practice taking bearings. The creek on the forest bench at 725 m was flowing strong and clear. We all had BeFree water filter bottles to be able to drink immediately, plus store water for later. The mosquitos started to bite us at the creek, a foreshadowing of the insect war to come. The nicer lookout at 800 m served as our lunch spot for a longer break. The air grew warmer for our final grind up to the ridge and we started to sweat. A few tarns dotted the terrain after we broke the ridge and hiked south to look for a good camp. There were many spots to choose from, and we selected a great site on a bump next to a flowing creek. There were durable surfaces for the tents and a few tall trees to hang our food. We only saw a few other humans that day and wondered who we would meet further down the ridge. The bugs at dinner were ferocious. We ate quickly then dove for the tents! Sunset was incredible and the night was perfectly clear for stargazing.
Day 2: Basecamp to End of Ridge
Distance: 11 km
Duration: 8 h 10 min
Peak: 1529 m
Gain: 390 m
We left our camp set up and took the day to explore the entire Flower Ridge. The temperature climbed to the high twenties and low thirties. Sunscreen, brimmed hats, plus long-sleeved shirts were essential. The ground was scorched dry in places, and the tarns began to thin out as we hiked south along the ridge. Flowers bloomed everywhere there was a crack in the rock. Seasonal snow covered patches of ground, enabling us to practice our route-finding skills. The whole zone was spectacular with huge open views of the surrounding mountain peaks. Flower Ridge is a hiker’s dream walk through one of the prettiest areas of Strathcona Park. We made progress all the way to the end of the ridge where the terrain gets steeper and transitions into a mountaineering route. In addition to Mount Septimus, we spied gem-blue Cream Lake. Breaks were taken crouched in the meagre shade of bonsai subalpine trees and shrubs. Looking north on the way back to camp, we were treated with a unique perspective of Mount Albert Edward. Tiny tarns and ice puddles provided us with cold drinking water. The snow melted before our eyes and sun cups dominated. In addition to alpine butterflies, we saw a small flock of baby white-tailed ptarmigans. As the afternoon started to fry our heads, we retreated back to camp to rest, relax, and rehydrate. Dinner was another speedy affair, as the mosquito hour descended upon us with a buzzing cloud. Sitting in our tent mesh gave us comfortable views of the sunset once again. There was plenty of time to read, write, take photos, and just enjoy the evening.
Day 3: Basecamp to Flower Ridge Trailhead
Distance: 7.5 km
Duration: 5 h 21 min
Peak: 1398 m
Ascent: 40 m
Descent: 1159 m
Our team seized the day with another early start so we could catch sunrise! The light was yellow and soft as we descended off the ridge. Buttle Lake shimmered over 1000 m below, the blue surface free of waves in the early morning. We took our time going down as we were not in a rush. It pays to be careful descending with a loaded backpack. We revisited the lookout and break spots we enjoyed on our ascent. The creek continued to flow strong with all the snowmelt feeding its clear water. We noticed an explosion of tiger lilies. On the way up to Flower Ridge, the lilies were closed during the cool morning. On the way down, the little orange flowers felt the summer heat and decided to show themselves. The old-growth forest was pleasant and cool after a day in the alpine sun. We all had a few snacks left, and so took a final break at the scenic lookout over Henshaw Falls. We arrived at the trailhead in the early afternoon, giving us all plenty of time to change into clean clothes and drive back home. Some of us found a beach at Buttle Lake and jumped in to wash off the dust. The weekend weather was both perfect and challenging. Bluebird skies meant the best views for navigation school, but also full exposure to the sun. We always embrace environmental challenges because they allow us to practice skills that make us stronger for the next trip.