Hiking Castlecrag, Vancouver Island

Strathcona Provincial Park, Vancouver Island

Trip report by BestHike editor Rick McCharles.

This was my favourite hike on the Forbidden Plateau.

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

I’d camped at Duck Pond, Circlet Lake campground.

I camped 3 nights at Circlet Lake altogether. Lovely.

From Circlet it’s not far to the Castlecrag trail marked in orange on the map. Look for the sign to Moat Lake.

Click for LARGER version.

I hiked the route marked in orange. Here’s the original Park map online.

This was a foggy and somewhat hazy day.

But plenty clear enough to see where I was headed.

I’d seen lovely Moat Lake the day before from the Albert Edward hike.

For Castlecrag you circumambulate the far side, crossing the worst bridge I’d seen in Strathcona 2020.

En route a helicopter flew into Moat Lake Retreat, an island you can rent with 2 cabins sleeping a total of 10 people. It’s a legacy from when Clinton Wood first built a lodge here in 1934.

In good weather, finding the route is not all that difficult. Follow the cairns and (possibly) ribbons.

Much of this adventure is above the treeline.

Overall the hiking is more difficult than on nearby Edward Albert as there is a fair bit of boulder hopping over avalanche slopes.

Two highlights end of September: no mosquitoes and autumn colours.

The turnoff UP to Castlecrag is not signed. Watch for the big cairn on the right.

Castlecrag 1740m (5709ft) is a satellite peak to Mt Albert Edward 2093m and many serious hikers / trail runners connect the two via Mt Frink. I’d originally planned to do that myself — but found it too difficult and risky on my own. Also, days are short end of September. I might have spent some hours in the dark on the way down.

It’s a short climb from the cairn to the summit of Castlecrag.

I had great fun scrambling around the crags.

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

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

See our list of the best hikes in North America.  

Hiking Mt Albert Edward

Strathcona Provincial Park, Vancouver Island

Trip report by BestHike editor Rick McCharles.

Click PLAY or watch the climb in less than a minute on YouTube.

Mt Albert Edward, 6th highest peak 2093m (6867ft) on Vancouver Island, is well known because it’s visible from Mount Washington Alpine Resort.

It’s named for Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.

Most who climb it start at Circlet Lake campground.

From the campground it’s only 5.5km to the summit, but it took much longer for me than I anticipated. Update: that sign on the trail is wrong. It’s significantly further than 5.5km. 😀

The muddiest trail I found was that just departing Duck Pond.

I hiked Circlet to the summit on the trail marked in red.

Click for LARGER version.

Here’s the original Park map online.

Bring enough water for the day as there no great gushing streams en route.

At the sign pointing left to Moat Lake, keep right for Edward Albert.

The ascent itself is only medium difficulty IF the weather is good.

Some scrambling.

I had perfect weather. But it can be deadly in normal weather — cloudy, cold, wind. Don’t go for it unless you are confident visibility will hold.

Follow occasional cairns and, possibly, ribbons. Navigation is not all that difficult in good weather.

Moat Lake is gorgeous.

At one point you can follow a series of aluminum poles.

Once you reach a wide shoulder leading up to the summit, it’s easy going with terrific views.

Here’s the view looking back on Mt Washington Ski Hill.

Be wary of cornices especially on the north and west sides of the ridge.

There was not much snow left end of September 2020 when I was there.

What a great day!

Click PLAY or watch some video from the top on YouTube.

VIDEO

Some hike 3 peaks (Edward Albert, Frink, and Castlecrag) from Circlet, a tough go!

Other adventures that include Edward Albert summit are the Augerpoint Traverse and Comox Range Traverse.

Me?

I headed back to Circlet Lake for siesta.

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

Mt Assiniboine: Windy Ridge

Trip report by BestHike editor Rick McCharles

Days 1-2 | 3 | 4-5

I was up early at Magog campground.

This was the first campground cook house I’d seen open since the COVID-19 shutdown.

We had deer and elk hanging out.  I assume they are looking for salt from hiker urine.

Not many do Windy Ridge from Magog as it’s a long day hike.  We loved it.

Alpine meadows.  Quite flat.

Windy Ridge looked pretty easy.  None of us had been there before.

At the top we found a narrow ridge connecting a viewpoint.

We had a view over the other side we’d not seen yet.

Here’s the view back to Assiniboine.

Henry and Sam climbed up on to a sketchy nearby peak.

I messed around on the Cliff edge.

Jack’s knee was bothering him.  He sat back and enjoyed the wild flowers.

Click PLAY or watch a short video of the adventure on YouTube.

NEXT MORNING we flew out to Shark by Helicopter.  Cost about CAD $185 one way.

The chopper only flies 3 days / week. Flying out fit our work schedules better. And hiking uphill is easier on the knees for many. 

Assiniboine Lodge

Here’s our last look at the big mountain.

Great trip!

Days 1-2 | 3 | 4-5

Mt Assiniboine: Chuck’s and Nub Peak

Trip report by BestHike editor Rick McCharles

Days 1-2 | 3 | 4-5

Magog campground in Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park, B.C. has 40 sites, all good.

Supposedly 100% booked, quite a few were empty. We assumed people had forgotten to cancel.

Though it had rained much of the night, morning was gorgeous.

We set off for Nub Peak as it’s typically the most popular day hike out of Magog.  One you want to do in good weather.

What’s this? An artist working on his NUDE HIKING CALENDAR photos.

We passed Sunburst, Cerulean, and Elizabeth Lakes.

Though I could name mountains and tell you our GPS coordinates, somehow we got lost.

The trail sign said Chuck’s Ridge, so we decided to check it out.

I couldn’t recall having climbed up here on past trips.   Chuck’s Ridge is excellent.

Mosquitoes at Magog were bad, as they have been everywhere in 2020. (They were bad here in 2019, as well.)

Rather than apply skin poison, for protection from the tiny vampires, I wear baggy nylon clothing instead. Even when it’s hot.

On the return from Chuck’s, somebody had the bright idea to scramble up to Nub, rather than backtrack to the correct trailhead.

As you would expect, that didn’t work.

When it got too dangerous, we decided to scree back down the way we came

This about finished my worn out Merrell Moabs.

Click PLAY or watch our scramble on YouTube.

After a lunch break at camp, we set out again for Nub.  The trail sign had been stolen — so many were missing the turn as we had in the morning.

First stop is the Nublet. Next the Niblet.  The classic Assiniboine vista.

I’ve always enjoyed the ridge walk up from there.

Here’s the Nub Peak summit cairn.

Henry noticed an interesting phenomenon of light.

Last ones on the mountain, we lingered.

Up high the wild flowers were still in bloom.

Vistas of Assiniboine are some of my favourites world wide.

Click PLAY or watch a short video of our Nub on YouTube.

We were very late getting back to camp.

Assiniboine alpenglow

Dinner in the dark.

Days 1-2 | 3 | 4-5

Flower Ridge Trails, Strathcona Park B.C.

Trip report by BestHike editor Rick McCharles.

Experts agree that the Flower Ridge trails are some of the best in Strathcona Provincial Park, Vancouver Island.

The up-and-back Flower Ridge Trail:

  • 27km return
  • 1-3 days
  • 1970m elevation gain/loss
  • summit of Central Crags 1642m 
  • no permit needed
  • Phillip Stone – Exploring Strathcona Park guidebook
  • no electricity nor mobile phone service

If adventurous, you could return via other longer routes including:

  • Comox Glacier to Buttle Lake Traverse
  • Ash River Horseshoe
  • Mt. Rosseau to Cream to Bedwell lakes
  • Green lake to Price creek

Good navigation needed on all those options, of course.

I was actually hoping to return via the Henshaw Creek Horseshoe since it returns you to where you started. A perfect loop.

In fact, it’s one of guidebook author Phillip Stone’s favourite hikes in the Park.

But I would have needed a guide and full mountaineering gear to pull that off in June.  Perhaps a helicopter, as well. 😀

I was there early season.


Beautiful morning. Ideal campsite in the Marine Park next to Buttle Lake campground.

It was June 14th. Free. ($10/night/site starting June 15th.)

I enjoyed a leisurely morning.

Next cycled to the trailhead, easy access from gorgeous Buttle Lake Parkway.

It’s close to Ralph River campground.

Full Strathcona Park map (PDF).

Strathcona Park had just opened following the COVID-19 shutdown.

The previous day I’d tried King’s Peak with a light day pack. Didn’t get higher than 770m due to high creeks.

Learning my lesson, for Flower Ridge I brought food for up to 3 days. Full pack.

Started up about 5pm.

Like many Strathcona hikes, Flower Ridge starts with a steep climb. But less steep than most others

Not many views early on. When you do, it’s of the the Myra Falls Mine (opened 1959)

The mine is currently owned by Nyrstar and produces zinc, lead, copper, silver and gold concentrates.

Any time you are hiking a ridge, finding running water might be a problem. But my guidebook said there was one reliable creek — I never found it.

No worries. There is plenty of snow to melt. You dig to find the clean white stuff.

I set up 8:30pm at the first obvious campsite. Days are long in Canada in June.

Normally my dinners are based around instant mashed potatoes. But for this trip I went all in for instant stuffing.

I carried my 1.2 pound solar charger for the first time. Normally it stays with my bikepacking gear.

There’s no electricity in Strathcona. No mobile phone service.

I climbed higher next morning. But quickly the snow got too deep. Just like King’s Peak the previous day, I only reached perhaps 800m elevation before turning back.

The ridge is about 1200m.  In those meadows I would have found more famed spring flowers.

I really need to return to Strathcona late season: August – September.

#LessonLearned

If you want to do it right, click over to MBGuiding:

Flower Ridge Trail – July 13-15, 2018

MBGuiding.ca

 

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

See our list of the best hikes in North America

top 10 hikes – Harder Ridge, Switzerland

Our #1 day hike in the world.

Harder Ridge

Also known as Hardergrat

(… grat is ridge in German)

  • walk to your accommodation in the hiking mecca of Interlaken
  • 24km total … about 18km on a sharp ridge
  • 10+ hours. Physically and psychologically challenging.
  • no water available. Carry all you need.
  • not an official trail, but it’s easy to follow in good visibility
  • about 1500m above the lake
  • permits not required
  • it’s popular with trail runners who do about 35km entirely on foot. They start at either end.

Why We Like This Hike

  • in good weather, views of the Jungfrau’s big peaks; Eiger, Mönch, Jungfrau, Schreckhorn,  Finsteraarhorn
  • the advantage of being able to get transport both up and down
  • on the same trip, hike nearby Lauterbrunnen, Grindelwald, Schynige Platte and more
  • many see Ibex up here

Click PLAY or watch Jackson Groves on YouTube.

Click over to our Harder Ridge information page for details on how you can organize this adventure for yourself.

BikePacking Wesley Ridge, Vancouver Island B.C.

Trip report by BestHike editor Rick McCharles

AKA Mt. Wesley Traverse

I tried and failed to do the Wesley Ridge traverse:

  • close to tourist hotspot Cathedral Grove
  • trailheads on highway 4 between Parksville and Port Alberni
  • about 10km with 750m elevation gain/loss
  • about 6-8 hrs from one end to the other
  • additional hour or two walking abandoned rail tracks back to start
  • not maintained. Hundreds of fallen trees.
  • buggy but few mosquitoes
  • route finding necessary

I started at the end closest to Parksville assuming it would be less busy than the Cathedral Grove trailhead.

click for larger version

I made a video of the BikePacking trip. Cycling to and from my parent’s place in Parksville qualifies this as a #MicroAdventure.

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

I hid and locked my bike close to the trailhead. Transferred what I needed to my hiking pack — and headed up the railway tracks.

I missed the turn-off up mountain. It’s not obvious. On my return I flagged the start to make it more conspicuous.

Steep.

The strenuous 2km climb up to the telecommunications tower is called Wesley Tower Trail.

Many continue on to the first lake vista. It took me about 2 hours to get here. There are two benches, one named Forever Tuesday after the Tuesday Walkers Club in nearby Port Alberni.

Most turn back at this point. There’s no one path across the ridge from here.

I gave it a good try. You follow different (competing) sets of orange tape flags. Some lead to dead ends.

A bigger problem was scrambling hundreds of fallen trees. Not bringing long pants, I got quite scratched up. It was bushwhacking.

Another problem is water. I saw no flowing water — only remnant snow melt tarns. 

With daylight failing, I finally decided to find myself a great tent site.

It doesn’t get much better than this. I had to HIDE in the tent at dusk, however, pestered by small non-biting flies.

From here I could see steam rising from Port Alberni.

Here’s where I stopped.

Good night.

Next morning, nearly out of water, I decided to hustle back the way I’d come. I’ll try the Ridge from the other end on some future trip.

related – Lonny Barr – Wesley Ridge Trail

Palm Springs to Paradise Cafe – day 4

Trip report by BestHike editor Rick McCharles

Day 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6

Thru hikers are normally asleep by 9pm. Up and moving at first light.

Idyllwild is an exception. It’s a party town.

Everyone loves Idyllwild. It’s a great little mountain town.

Again without hitchhiking, I caught a lift from town with a hiker and her dog headed back up to the trailhead.

The Devil’s Slide trail. That’s about 2.5 miles of switchbacks up to Saddle Junction on the PCT.

This is Tahquitz Peak, the 1000-foot granite face where American rock climbing was born. Yes, before Yosemite.

Here I am — back on the PCT. I’ve travelled surprisingly few miles from where I started.

Saddle Junction

I headed south into a snowy wonderland.

I scrambled this rock with a local guy.

Unlike the PCT hikers, I was in no rush.

Even by California standards, this hike is gorgeous.

I was pleased not to be down on the hot, dusty desert floor.

The day was a gorgeous ridge walk. Mostly down.

I wanted to find a tent site on the ridge — to maximize both evening and morning light.

25 miles of this section burned in 2013. It was closed until fairly recently.

Another gorgeous sunset. Though windy, I did not put on the tent fly.

Day 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6