The Forbidden Plateau area of Strathcona Provincial Park is a popular zone with local outdoor enthusiasts. Warm temperatures and no bugs made the Kwai Lake Loop the perfect subalpine backpacking getaway. We started our trip at the Paradise Meadows trailhead on Friday night and exited almost 48 hours later on Sunday afternoon. The melting snow slowed our pace, so we took a relaxed approach and completed the 15 km loop over two sunny days. Throughout the trip we spotted Mount Albert Edward, Mount Frink, Castlecrag Mountain, Jutland Mountain, Mount Elma, Mount Brooks, and the Comox Glacier. We said hello to old friends Battleship Lake, Lake Helen Mackenzie, Lady Lake, Croteau Lake, Murray Meadows, and frozen Kwai Lake. Every time we stopped moving, the resident whiskey jacks would gather, hopeful and curious!
- Drive 2 h 41 min (245 km) from Victoria to the Paradise Meadows trailhead, adjacent to Mount Washington Alpine Resort. Google Map
Permits & Fees
- There are designated backcountry sites located in the Forbidden Plateau Area (PDF, 108 KB). 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/11. Scale 1:50,000. Edition 07. Forbidden Plateau. British Columbia. Produced on April 28, 2011 by the Centre for Topographic Information, Natural Resources Canada.
Location: Strathcona Provincial Park
Route: Kwai Lake Loop
Date: April 17-19, 2015
Distance: 15.6 km
Duration: 3 days
Peak: 1276 m
Gain: 304 m
Day 1: Paradise Meadows to Lake Helen Mackenzie (3.8 km)
Mike and I zoomed out of Victoria on Friday afternoon and made it to Paradise Meadows trailhead in excellent time. We hit the trail, taking care on snow-covered boardwalks because of hidden melt-holes. Frozen Battleship Lake glowed in the dusk, and all the birds were quiet. We made sunset camp on a clear tent pad at Lake Helen Mackenzie and ate salty chocolate on a rocky overlook. New moon was on Saturday, so the night sky was super dark and clear. We watched planet Venus rise, followed by Orion with orange Betelgeuse. Soon thick ribbons of the Milky Way Galaxy obliterated the familiar constellations. A big meteor crossed the sky with a thick trail of glowing particles just before bedtime.
Day 2: Lake Helen Mackenzie to Kwai Lake (4.5 km)
We woke early to the soft chirps of an excited whiskey jack family. After granola by the frozen shore of Lake Helen Mackenzie, Mike and I got underway. A squadron of twelve ravens flew overhead near a quick water stop at the old Dove Creek Trail junction. Travel was slow but fun on the melting snow as we passed Mount Elma, Lady Lake, Croteau Lake and boggy Murray Meadows. We climbed to deserted Kwai Lake Camp at high noon, and found a tent pad free of snow. After set up was done, and because the day was so beautiful and warm, we decided to just hang out. We took photos, shot video, and enjoyed a nap in the sun. The cool wind woke us for dinner, so we warmed up and prepared our noodle feast. A relaxing spring day in a gorgeous subalpine spot!
Day 3: Kwai Lake to Paradise Meadows (7.3 km)
Sunday was our leisurely hike down and out. We left frozen Kwai Lake early for easier travel on the hard snow crust. Stopping to peel off layers at the junction to Circlet Lake attracted our clever whiskey jack friends. A hummingbird joined the party, dive bombing our orange backpack. We trekked past the ranger cabin and over the pass between Mount Brooks and Mount Elma. It was a slippery scramble down, but the reward was lunch on the warm north shore of Lake Helen Mackenzie. A short leg along the familiar boardwalks took us back to the car at the Paradise Meadows trailhead. We encountered lots of day-hikers here, folks loving the sunny spring day. The 16 km Kwai Lake Loop is usually a day hike for us, but it was awesome to enjoy the snowy terrain and make a weekender out of it.