Hiking the Paradise – Circlet Lake Loop

Strathcona Provincial Park, Vancouver Island

Trip report by BestHike editor Rick McCharles.

Click PLAY or get a glimpse of the scenery on YouTube. (3min)

Paradise Meadows is the best and most convenient trailhead in Strathcona, largest and oldest (1911) Provincial Park in B.C..

It’s easy access to the Forbidden Plateau on paved Strathcona Parkway up to Mt Washington Alpine Resort 1100m, 20km up from the inland highway.

Close to Courtney, Cumberland, and Campbell River. The nearest airport and ferry port are at Comox.

Looking from Raven Lodge at the trailhead, the most distinct peak is sharp Albert Edward, 6th highest mountain on the island.

It seemed to me in 2020 that Strathcona Park did not have as much staff as they would like. Happily the volunteers of the Strathcona Wilderness Institute are often in person at Paradise trailhead. Make a donation if they help you out.

With loops for all ability levels, this area is ideal for children and well-behaved dogs.

Centennial Loop (2.5km)
Paradise Meadows Loop (4.2km)
Lake Helen Mackenzie – Battleship Lake Loop (8km)
Helen MacKenzie-Kwai Lake-Croteau Loop (14km)

Those trails closest to the trailhead are best maintained: bridges, pit toilets, good signage and much boardwalk. In fact, the Centennial Loop is wheelchair and scooter accessible.

Check the map. I hiked in to Circlet Lake on yellow, mostly looped back on green. But there are MANY possible different interconnecting loops.

Click for LARGER version.

Here’s the original Park map online.

Most hikers on the Forbidden Plateau stay down in the subalpine: forested hills, postcard pretty lakes, babbling brooks, and lovely meadows.

It’s wet. Expect rain.

Expect mud. 🙃

If we couldn’t enjoy all this beautiful boardwalk, we’d often be wading wetlands.

Water water everywhere, yet I found I had to treat almost every source. There are not all that many fast running creeks.

I passed one picturesque Ranger cabin.

Three first-come, first-served campgrounds are quite good, the closest at Lake Helen Mackenzie near the trailhead. Each has pit toilets and bear proof food lockers. (CAD$10 / person / night in 2020)

I was there late September 2020. Very few mosquitoes! That’s not always the case here.

I hiked in to Circlet about 9.5km one way. About 4 hours walking. Stayed 3 nights.

Arrived just before dark. Camped on pretty Duck Pond rather than the lake itself.

Circlet is not likely to fill up — but you MIGHT find no space left at Helen Mackenzie and Kwai Lake campgrounds on a busy day during the short summer season.

I love the large wooden tent pads in Strathcona.

Click PLAY or see Circlet from the air on Vimeo.

From Circlet base camp:

day 1 – hiked Edward Albert (trip report & video)

day 2 – hiked Castlecrag (trip report & video)

Both are excellent. Myself and others I met while there both liked Crags better, even though it’s lower.

From Circlet, I also tried and failed to find the trail to Amphitheatre Lake. There’s no signage.

If I had found Amphitheatre, I would have tried to continue up to Sunrise Lake.

Moat Lake is lovely, however. If you camp at Circlet, definitely make the short day hike up to Moat if not all the way to Castlecrag.

Rather than backtrack on my return, I looped.

One detour without pack took me to Cruickshank Canyon Lookout.

It’s a bit depressing to see a lot of clearcut from that vantage. Seems to me the forestry industry should repair damage more quickly.

One highlight is looking for large, weird mushrooms.

The autumn colours were lovely too.

I stopped at Kwai Lake to recharge my batteries figuratively and literally. There’s no electricity in Strathcona so I used solar on this trip.

Croteau Lake is a 4th campground opened 2018, only available for groups booking in advance.

I wandered leisurely — stopping often for photos and video — back to Lake Helen Mackenzie campground for 1 night.

Lovely.

I highly recommend the Forbidden Plateau.

See all the full resolution photos from this hike on Flickr.

Here’s the official Strathcona Provincial Park website.

The best hiking guidebook is Exploring Strathcona Park. Dead tree version available only.

See our list of the best hikes in North America

Best Pemberton B.C. hike – One Mile to Nairn Falls

I parked at the Tim Horton’s coffee shop in Pemberton near Whistler.

Hiked to Nairn via pretty One Mile Lake.

About an hour each way to visit both.

In fact, I enjoyed One Mile just much as the Falls themselves.

I do love boardwalk.

It’s a great family hiking option year-round. You can skate One Mile Lake during the winter.

From the end of the lake I connected to Nairn Falls via Lumpy’s mountain bike trail system. A bit rugged at points.

Nairn Falls themselves are busy during the summer. This is a very popular stop for tourists.

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube. 

related – Outdoor Vancouver – Nairn Falls Hike in Pemberton

Cerro Vigia Circuit, Caleta Tortel, Chile

trip report by BestHike editor Rick McCharles

Tourists visiting weird, wonderful and remote Caleta Tortel all climb up to the viewpoint above town. And back down the same way.

It’s great. But the best hike is to do the entire circuit. I used the Maps.me app for navigation. Google Maps offline doesn’t have it.

Parts of the route are muddy. Be warned.

Weather was surprisingly good. But since this is Patagonia, I carried my rain gear.

You walk a LOT of boardwalk, some of it slippery when wet.

The trail trail is well signed.

There’s a steep sidetrip down to the Baker River too, if you are keen.

The town signage indicates it could take 2 hours for the circuit. I’d estimate a minimum of 3 hours. It might take four.

Click PLAY or watch highlights of my loop on YouTube.

Recommended.

Ventisquero Colgante hike, Chile

trip report by BestHike editor Rick McCharles

  • 6.6km return to observation platform
  • rough and muddy trail

Queulat National Park is a very popular destination for tourists. Here’s how the park’s centerpiece, the Queulat Hanging Glacier, looks in perfect weather.

Ventisquero Colgante Falls in summer, ChileVentisquero Colgante Falls in summer , Flickr / CC BY 2.0

There’s a visitor centre explaining the various short hikes.

You start on a long suspension bridge.

I was there on a rainy day. Most days are rainy.

This is dense Valdivian temperate rain forest. Parts of the park receive up to 4,000 mm (157 in) of precipitation annually.

There is some boardwalk, but expect to get muddy. (I wore neoprene booties rather than socks.)

Here’s the viewpoint as I saw it.

On descending I’d definitely recommend adding a short spur trail to Laguna Tempanos.

It’s a different perspective from the lake.

Everyone is happy to visit Quelat. A weird and wonderful microclimate.

I wore neoprene booties instead of socks. Inside my feet were warm, wet and smelly.

Queulat National Park is is 23-kilometers away from pretty Puyuhuapi town, the normal jumping off point for travelers.

related – Ventisquero Colgante: The Hanging Glacier of Queulat

Pumalín, Chile – Caleta Gonzalo Cascada trail

trip report by besthike editor Rick McCharles

Hike to a spectacular waterfall.

Duration: 3 hours round trip.
Distance: 5,6 km round trip.
Return: Same route.
Difficulty: Low-Medium.

Parque Pumalín

This hike is very challenging. Calling it Low-Medium is insanity. 🙄

There are many sections where you need to use your hands. Scrambles.

The river crossing could be dangerous / impossible at high water. I slipped in with both feet while boulder hopping.

You can quickly see why this temperate rain forest was so inaccessible before superb trail builders got here.

There was a ton of work done to put in this trail. Plenty of boardwalk, most made from local wood onsite.

Check this natural park bench.

The crux of the hike are these two ladders.

Made it. This is what I expected at Pumalín.

For me it was 3 hours round trip. Finishing at 8pm I had only about 2 hours of daylight left to get set-up at the nearby campground and to cook up a BIG dinner.

Cascada was my first hike in this sector of Parque Pumalín.

hiking Lake Chaiguata, Chiloe, Chile

trip report by site editor Rick McCharles

I cycled in to the Lake Chaiguata as part of my Patagonia bikepacking trip. Cycling is a great way to get to trailheads in this remote part of the world.

Parque Tantauco is fantastic. And fantastically well organized and funded.

The campsites are as good as I’ve seen anywhere. They put down wood chips to keep them dry.

There are a number of day hikes of various lengths, all well signed.

This is a wet, wet landscape. Thus they’ve built a LOT of boardwalk. And I love boardwalk.

Though the topography is fairly flat, trails are built to take you to overlooks.

It’s an interesting place.

This is the start of the best hike in Chiloe, the 4-8 day Sendero Transversal hut-to-hut.

best hike Chiloe Island, Chile

Sendero Transversal is by far the best hike in remote Chiloe.

I cycled in to the Lake Chaiguata trailhead staying only 1 night and did some day hiking. 

It’s a unique and impressive Park. Very well organized.

Tantauco Park (Spanish: Parque Tantauco) is a 1,180 km2 (456 sq mi) private natural reserve on the south end of Chiloé Island in Chile.

The park was created by Chilean business magnate and President of Chile Sebastián Piñera in 2005 …

The park is open to the public with two campgrounds and a 150 km (93 mi) network of hiking trails. …

Tantauco Park is an attractive ecotourist destination due to the remarkable biodiversity of its nearly untouched Valdivian temperate rainforest and the rather easy public access. Precipitations in the area average about 2,500 mm (98 in) annually. …

Details on the Sendero Transversal.

  • 4 – 8 days
  • hike only 1 direction (counterclockwise)
  • download the map
  • start Lake Chaiguata, finish Inío
  • hut to hut
  • maximum 8 hikers / day
  • exit by floatplane or boat
  • peat bogs, Tepu forests, Cypress trees
  • plenty of boardwalk
  • trails well maintained, but you’ll be getting wet
  • only about 7000 people / year visit this Park
  • there are a couple of other multi-night options

Click PLAY or watch on trip on YouTube.

related:

Home page – parquetantauco.cl (Spanish)

WikiTravel – Parque Tantauco

Wikipedia – Tantauco Park

Vintgar Gorge, Slovenia

Trip report by BestHike editor Rick McCharles.

The Vintgar Gorge  or Bled Gorge is a 1.6-kilometer (0.99 mi) gorge in northwestern Slovenia four kilometers northwest of Bled. …

The sheer canyon walls are 50 to 100 meters (160 to 330 ft) high …

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube. The boardwalks make it easy.

You can do a half day hiking circuit from Bled. But I was riding with a tourist agent from Belgium who was doing research on the area. She had a rent-a-car.

In October near end of day, it wasn’t particularly crowded. Nor was Bled During July and August you may have trouble finding a place to park. And all accommodation can get booked out.

The water is so clear you can watch fish waiting on food to drift down.

We caught a terrific sunset after finishing our hike.

related – trip report – Ultimate Guide to Visiting Vintgar Gorge in Slovenia

Norway’s Lofoten Islands – hike Fløya & Devil’s Gate

Trip report by BestHike editor Rick McCharles.

My last hike in Norway was terrific.

The evening before my 6:30am ferry departing Lofoten Islands I did the famous hike out of Svolvær, the fast ferry port.

From the wharf it’s about a half hour walk to the trailhead.

I hid my pack where I wanted to tent and started up the steep scramble. For a change the most difficult part is right at the bottom.

There’s chain and rope assistance at some points.

The muddiest sections have new boardwalk. That helped.

As much as possible I stayed on stone.

Pretty views all the way up.

From below I saw people scrambling the ridge.

I ended up climbing to the top of Fløya first. An amazing vista down over the town of Svolvær and Vestfjorden.

Down below is the famous climbing spire called the Goat. (Svolvaergeita)

To get to Djevelporten (Devil’s Gate) I had to descend quite far and climb back up again.

Late in the evening I had it to myself.

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

In no rush I descended back to my tent stopping often to enjoy my final hiking vistas of gorgeous Lofoten.

Laugevagur hike Iceland – day 0

Day 0 | Landmannalaugar | 1 | 2 | 3 | video | info

Reykjavík to Landmannalaugar

Years ago I tried and failed to do this hike. Roads and rivers were impassable in June of that season.

Since then it’s been near the top of my bucket list.

Click PLAY or watch on YouTube to see why.

I bought my fuel at Iceland Camping Equipment in Reykjavík. It’s VERY expensive.

Later I learned that every hostel and campsite has plenty of free fuel canisters left behind by foreign hikers who will soon fly out.

I enjoyed my last restaurant meal – traditional Icelandic meat soup.

There are a number of ways to get to Landmannalaugar. Reykavik Expeditions and TREX are the two biggest bus services.

I went early to catch the 4pm bus. … Last bus leaves at 1pm. Never believe anything you read on the internet.

click for bigger map
click for bigger map

Next morning I was surprised to see young people from Alaska loading bikes. I’d not heard of people cycling Laugevagur. Turns out it’s a bad idea.

Reykjavík to Landmannalaugar is about 4 hours … if you don’t get stuck.

It would be FUN to drive your own rental monster truck.

Landmannalaugar is a sprawling mess of a campsite.

While the rest of the world was suffering a heat wave, Iceland has had the worst summer weather in recorded history (100 years).

Forecast was not good. We worried whether or not we’d be able to attempt the hike.

I put my Hubba up on a platform in case of flood during the night.

At the information office you can buy a crappy day hiking map for about $3.

Most recommended is the Suournamur loop (about 9km). I first took a detour up the Ljiotipollur ‘Ugly Puddle’ trail and found myself this lookout for lunch. Ljiotipollur is an explosion crater lake.

If you find any trail crowded in Iceland, you only need walk a few minutes on any side trail to feel like you have the island to yourself.

Suournamur trail is gorgeous. It climbs up above the campsite.

I left a Summit Stone atop one of the cairns.

Not much can live up here.

I really liked this ridge walk section.

I got my feet wet on the river crossing after coming down. Situation normal hiking Iceland.

The highlight of Landmannalaugar for many are the natural hot springs.

FIRST you need to get there down a long boardwalk without freezing.

Having had hernia surgery just a week prior, I wasn’t suppose to soak the wound … but couldn’t resist.

When weather is bad, everyone crowds into the warm, bright cook tent.

After having dinner with a lovely couple from Austria, I hit the tent early hoping for good weather next morning. Forecast was for a BIG STORM. ☹️

Day 0 | Landmannalaugar | 1 | 2 | 3 | video | info