Cream Lake trail, Strathcona Park B.C.

Trip report by BestHike editor Rick McCharles

“Time to roll out every superlative and accolade …

Cream Lake is breathtaking in every season … a scenic highlight of Vancouver Island, for that matter British Columbia!”

Phillip Stone – Exploring Strathcona Park guidebook

Cream Lake looking over to Nine Peaks

The Bedwell Lakes trails are some of the best in Strathcona Provincial Park, Vancouver Island.

The up-and-back Bedwell Lake Trail:

      • 10km return
      • 1-3 days
      • 875m elevation gain/loss
      • Bedwell Lake lookout  980m 
      • pay camping fee at trailhead (CAD $10 / person in 2020)
      • Baby Bedwell has only lake water. No creeks nearby.
      • no electricity nor mobile phone service. I carried a solar charger.
Bedwell Lake lookout

If you get this far, definitely continue to Cream Lake.  It’s an extra 4.8km one way, tougher hiking.

  • 20km return from Jim Mitchell Lake Road trailhead 
  • 1-3 days (tough day hike)
  • Elevation gain/loss 1225m one way
  • High Point 1400m
  • Free camping at Cream

Full Strathcona Park map (PDF)

CAUTION – A hiker died here in 2015, Anders Jason Newman. He slipped and fell from height somewhere above the lakes.

Click PLAY or watch a short video of my September hike on YouTube.


Cycled to the Bedwell trailhead, walking the last 3km as Jim Mitchell Lake road is steep!

Arriving late in the day, I ended up setting up my tent off trail short of the first campground.

Here’s the lovely Baby Bedwell campground I missed the previous day.

I continued up to Bedwell Lake campground looking for the sign to Cream Lake. There was none in 2020.

Take the path towards the fancy pit toilet and keep going.

Here’s Bedwell Lake looking down from above.

The trail to Bedwell I’d call moderate difficulty. The route to Cream more challenging.

There’s some route finding, as well, before reaching Little Jim Lake.

Once above Little Jim Lake on a hot day, I felt I was in California’s Sierra Nevadas, not the Pacific N.W.

There’s some scrambling. Granite. Gullies. But very little exposure.

Up here the wildflowers were in better shape than below. On the other hand, mosquitoes!

My first view of Cream Lake made it obvious why this hike is so popular. The colour is otherworldly.

Apparently you can see Della Falls from here too.

There’s no official campground. I set up my tent with a bit of wind protection.

Cream is base camp for those climbing Mt Septimus.

In snow or rain there are a couple of protected spots under a huge boulder.

Before dinner I scrambled up on to the approach to Septimus.

Early next morning I attempted to circumambulate the lake. Did not make it.

But the views were fantastic.

In the afternoon, the only two other hikers that night and myself decided to scramble Septimus as high as we could safely without mountaineering gear.

We knew it was possible but difficult to hike to the top without climbing equipment.

We eventually turned back due to crevasses in the ice.

For fun I tried down climbing the mountain rather than the scree. Nope. That did not work. I got cliffed out.

On a day like this I’d rank Bedwell / Cream Lake the BEST HIKE in Strathcona Provincial Park.

Climbing Mt Arrowsmith, Vancouver Island

Trip report by BestHike editor Rick McCharles. 

Mount Arrowsmith 1,819 m (5,968 ft) is the most prominent peak seen from my parents home in Vancouver Island.

It’s close to Port Alberni, B.C.

Alanna@VanIsle – Arrowsmith from Parksville in winter

The most popular hike to the top is called Judges Route.  Details.

  • 6-7 km (4 miles) roundtrip
  • elevation gain 1,000m (3,280ft)

Finding the trailhead can be confusing. Google Maps has it wrong, for example.

I used the free Maps.me app — that worked.

Maps.me

It’s 4-6 hours return.  Challenging.  Some exposure. A bit of scrambling.  Some route finding.  I was briefly lost 3 times.

There are some views on the way up.

On June 25th, 2020 I didn’t have much snow.

The summit is interesting.

From the top you can see from Port Alberni to Mt. Baker in Washington State.

I was inspired to try one of my rare panoramas.

Click for larger version.

Great day.

Starting up at 4pm I was last hiker on the mountain.

What time is blast off? 😀

 

 

 

DON’T hike King’s Peak, Strathcona in June

Trip report by BestHike editor Rick McCharles.

  • 8th highest peak in the Park 2065m
  • 14km round trip
  • elevation gain/loss 1915m
  • no permit required
  • no electricity nor mobile phone service

I’d hoped to hike high like Outside Epic in one day.

Some tricky scrambling.

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

That didn’t happen. 😕

I was there June 14, 2020 — far too early in the season.

It started well.  Lovely weather.  Easy access from highway 28 between Strathcona and Gold River.

Second growth forest.  Some big trees.

Quite quickly I was using my hands to scramble tree roots.

I turned back after reaching a raging creek at 770m that looked dangerous to cross.  Snow melt.

My total hike was 4 hours 40 minutes and I didn’t get very high.  Not even to the snow line.

In June I should have planned for at least 2 days.  Brought crampons and ice axe.  Also a rope for creek crossing.

Live and learn.

If you want to hike in a day,  schedule any Strathcona peak climb for August / September.   Less snow, shallower creeks, fewer bugs. 

The ‘trail’ becomes a route above the treeline so navigation required.

Exploring Strathcona Park guidebook by Phil Stone provides 3 main alternate routes to the top.

related – King’s Peak CLIMBING options (PDF)

 

plan a trip to the Dolomites

One of our top 10 hiking regions of the world.

The Dolomites are a mountain range located in north-eastern Italy. A tourist mecca, the Dolomites are famous for skiing in the winter months, mountain climbing, hiking and climbing in the summer.

map-of-DolomitesAT A GLANCE

  • a wonderful region mostly in Italy
  • Italian: Dolomiti; German: Dolomiten
  • limestone geology results in fascinating shapes and colour
  • named a UNESCO World Heritage site
  • highest peak Marmolada 3,343m
  • convenient airports include Venice, Munich, Milan, Innsbruck, Verona
  • easy access to trails of all all levels of ability and experience
  • very good tourist infrastructure
  • convenient, efficient public transport. Buses & trains run on time.
  • best weather for hiking mid-June to early October
3 Peaks (Tre Cime, Drei Zinnen)
3 Peaks (Tre Cime, Drei Zinnen)

Check our Dolomites information page.

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

(via Adventure Blog)

climbing Mt Wells, Victoria B.C.

Trip report by BestHike editor Rick McCharles.

Only 3km return, this scramble is considered difficult. On the other hand, there are plenty of comfort ropes to assist you. Some of the descents might be tricky in the rain.

Very pretty is this old pipe now covered with moss. They bricked the ends to keep critters and kids out.

… offering views as far away as downtown Victoria, Juan de Fuca Strait, and towards Sooke …

Victoria Trails 

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.

Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness, Montana

Ryan Jordan:

As part of the Backpacking Light Wilderness Adventures program, Trek Director Kevin Fletcher and I led a guided trip across the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness in Montana in September 2018.

This program, dubbed the “Whitetail Trek”, was a new program for us where we gave the group a start and end point and let them plan their own trek across the range. …

WILDERNESS ADVENTURES 2018 WHITETAIL TREK (PHOTO ESSAY)

That was 2018. But a similar off trail route is planned for 2019.

September 21-28, 2019 – WHITETAIL ITINERARY ($1897) – Level 3+ – A longer-duration program (8-day program) spanning a longer traverse of the Beartooth Plateau, with significant off-trail travel.

Morocco’s Toubkal Circuit – day 4

Trip report by BestHike editor Rick McCharles.

day 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | info | video

Once again the guided hiking group nearby was up and gone before I’d even woken up.

I started up into a very cool gorge section. It was dark and hazy.

This is Azib Imi n’Ouassif (2841m), a crossroads of several gorges where some people camp.

From here it’s a steep climb to the pass at Tizi n’Ouanoums.

Escapee goats live on these inhospitable cliffs. There’s not much to eat.

It was a bit of a relief to reach the second high pass of the circuit. From here it was all downhill … at least while carrying full pack.

Descending the pass was supposed to be a bit treacherous. As I crossed it wasn’t all that bad.

I could see some of the Iceland group having lunch at the bottom. By the time I got there they had begun climbing a secondary trail up the other side to the 2nd / 3rd highest peaks in north Africa. Their guide stayed back having hurt his ankle. In fact he sent the group cook as guide in his stead.

I had some lunch too. Then, with plenty of time, followed. Weather looked good.

The scramble to one Ouanoukrim summit — Ras Ouanoukrim (4083m) — in a hail storm turned out to be the highlight of the entire circuit. We had a blast.

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

I hustled over to another lump of a peak — Timzguida (4089m) — which we later found out to be 5m higher.

In fact my phone had it (wrongly) at 4100m.

I left a Summit Stone.

Once safely down, the others headed off briskly (as they always did) to rejoin their group. One of the men, Dorfi, had once led a 3 week horse trek across Iceland. This weather was nothing to him. He wore a wool sweater under a waterproof poncho on that trip. Never got wet.

In no rush I walked slowly downhill to Toubkal Refuge (3207m).

I’d plan to wild camp again … until I saw the massive complex. It looked intriguing.

As it was raining too I decided to camp at Refuge Mouflon and sign up for the 7pm dinner. It was pretty good.

I charged my batteries in Mouflon after dinner and watched an episode of Better Call Saul on my phone as I waited. Then headed out into the rain to my tent.

day 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | info | video

Harder Ridge, Switzerland – best day hike on Earth?

Trip report by BestHike editor Rick McCharles.

  • dangerous
  • 10 hours
  • at least 18km on sharply defined ridge
  • should absolutely never be attempted when wet
  • plenty of exposure on both sides
  • frequent scrambling required
  • Brienz to Interlaken with rail assistance getting up to and descending from the ridge

Don’t hike the other direction. Logistics are easier starting in Brienz. And it’s safer as the last 2 hours (when your legs are tired) is on easier trails. 

I got up early in Interlaken, ready for my free hostel breakfast starting 7am.

Every half hour a train runs from Interlaken to Brienz for 8.20 francs (2018).

Happily I made the first steam train 8:36am — from Brienz to Brienzer Rothorn Station. It’s been making this run since 1891.

Price is reduced to 28 francs for the first train (2018) to encourage folks to get as early a start as possible on their hike.

At 9km / hour it takes an hour to get to the top of the ridge 2351m.

If clear, you can enjoy distant views over to Jungfrau highest peaks; the Eiger, Mönch, Jungfrau, Schreckhorn, Finsteraarhorn.

I climbed up to the viewpoint. This is as far as most tourists hike.

Looking down on Brienzer Rothorn Station.

At 10am I started to walk back to Interlaken. I would have about 11.5 hours to make the last teleferico down from Harder Kulm Restaurant. Otherwise I’d have to walk down in the dark.

You can’t really get lost. Follow the ridge no matter what.

The weather was perfect.

You have Brienz lake on one side …

… and Swiss foothills on the other.

I loved it instantly.

Most of the time the ridge is not all that intimidating.

It often looks worse than it turns out to be.

I’d heard everyone who comes up here sees ibex. … Are these ibex?

This adventure is more popular with trail runners than with hikers as they can easily make it in less than 10 hours.

I took very few breaks. Other than checking the GPS on my phone, I had no idea whether I was moving quickly enough to finish in time.

Each time I’d climb a high point on the ridge, even higher points would come into view.

I don’t think I saw another person over the first 5 hours.

Sadly I seemed to be a lot closer to Brienz than Interlaken.

There are sections with stairs, cable and chain assistance. These would be most useful when down climbing in wet conditions.

Hmm … I might finally be past half way.

I tried to quicken my pace on the easiest sections.

There are many more day hikers on the Interlaken end of the ridge. They assured me I’d make it on time.

Interlaken

The last 2 hours stays on the ridge, but you are mostly in the trees. It was the least interesting section … but I was pleased to have less exposure as my legs got tired.

Here it is at last. Harder Kulm Restaurant.

The last funicular descends at 9:10pm. If it’s busy they may run until 9:40pm.

I gladly paid 16 francs and found the short trip down very interesting.

It was dark by the time we arrived Interlaken.

And I was quite dehydrated. I’d brought only 1.5 litres with me. I could have used about 3 litres.

When I got back to the hostel I announced it was the best day hike of my life.

Click PLAY or see if I look happy on YouTube.

best way to hike Lofoten Islands, Norway

Lofoten is without question one of the best hiking destinations in the world.

Bunes Beach hike

But it’s remote.

Also, Norway is very expensive.

The gateway for most people is the town of Bodø, the end of the train line north. It’s often cheaper and easier to fly as the train is a 17 hour overnight journey.

From Bodø you have options. If you don’t have your own transportation easiest is to make a loop by ferry and bus.

Take the fast passenger ferry Bodø to Svolvær. About 4 hours.

Your first hike should be Fløya & Devil’s Gate. The trailhead is about a half hour walk from the ferry landing.

From Svolvær you would take buses or hitchhike the only highway west through islands A to V to F to M. 

M Moskenes (Moskenesøya) has the best hiking. Save it for last.

Reine is the best base town for Moskenes. You can do 3-4 awesome hikes out of the same town.

From the village of Å (the last letter of the Norwegian alphabet) you can catch the slow ferry back to Bodø. About 4 hours.

The weather is dreadful. For any 7 day period during the hiking season you may have several days of serious wind and rain. These should be rest days if you have time.

If you have your own vehicle — or decide to rent a car — you can go when and where you want. That’s ideal.

related – travel 2 walk – trip report: Norway – Bødo & Lofoten Islands, August 2017