hiking Elk Pass, Strathcona Park B.C.

Trip report by BestHike editor Rick McCharles.

As there is not much information online about Elk Pass, I put together a video.

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

Easy access from Campbell River on Vancouver Island.

The Elk River Trail in Strathcona Provincial Park is super popular. But not many hikers continue to Elk Pass (in yellow).

from Exploring Strathcona Park by Stone

For one thing, it’s not easy to find the Elk Pass trailhead.

Everyone sees the damaged sign pointing to Landslide Lake.

From there, search the trees on the left and you’ll find the high and overgrown Elk Pass sign.

Very quickly you realize Elk Pass is no trail. It’s a route you try to follow using bits of flagging tape and cairns.

Demanding hiking.

You’ll have to navigate dozens of blowdowns.

Worst was this dry log jam.  I bushwhacked around, finding a bypass trail on my return.

In some cases multiple route options have been flagged by past hikers. I somehow missed the unofficial “Hemlock” Campground.

Instead I bashed on up the Elk River valley.

With no better option, I finally decided to build a flat platform on the snow.

7:45pm

Great camp, actually. But there’s always the risk more snow will fall from high up Mt Rambler.

In addition, mosquitoes were terrible at higher elevation.

Next morning dawned another lovely day.

It didn’t take long to reach the bowl below Elk Pass.

There are some campsites near tarns.

Up there!.

And it didn’t take long.

Elk Pass 1540m

Here’s the view back down the valley from the Pass.

At the top I spoke briefly with a couple attempting the long, challenging Golden Hinde Traverse. (47km 5-8 days)

Did they make it?  I’m not sure.

One hiking group did complete the Golden Hinde(less) Traverse between July 18-24, 2020.

I too carried 8 days food with faint hope of continuing on the Traverse. But decided it was too difficult, remote and dangerous to do solo. What if I got hurt?

In fact, I fell badly twice on the Elk Pass trail: scratches and bruises.

But I did continue part way over the Pass towards this large unnamed lake, a continuation of the Traverse.

Backtracking, I decided to traverse/scramble up to the next pass to the S.W. of Elk. That turned out to be the highlight.

Big vistas over low clouds.

From there it was down, down, down.  Back into the trees.

I found hiking down even more challenging than on the way up.

It was nearly 6pm by the time I reached “Hemlock”, the unofficial camp I’d missed the previous night.

It’s named for huge Hemlock trees.

About 8pm I began hearing bombs dropping.

Loud.

Turns out it was a squirrel cutting down pinecones. From on high.

Next morning I returned to the highway via the Elk River trail.

Great hike.

See our list of the best hikes in North America.

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

Barney (Scout) Mann’s Pacific Crest Trail book

In Journeys North, legendary trail angel, thru hiker, and former PCTA board chair Scout spins compelling tales of hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail in 2007 as they walk from Mexico to Canada.

That year terrible snow storms rocked the Canadian border starting the last days in September.

Barney (Scout) Mann hiked with wife Sandy (Frodo) Mann, and recounts fascinating stories of others they traveled alongside that season.

For me, Blazer was the most interesting.

The book is unusual.  Not your standard step-by-step trail journal.

Instead the time line jumps forward and back along the trail, using PCT anecdotes to illustrate bigger life lessons.

If asked to recommend just one book on the PCT, Journeys North would be it.  The best starting point for a hiker considering it. 

Other excellent and inspiring reads include:

Amazon

Barney Scout Mann has hiked the Appalachian, Pacific Crest, and Continental Divide Trails. He has been board chair of the Pacific Crest Trail Association and is president of the Partnership for the National Trails System. Mann has been recognized with a Lowell Thomas Journalism Award and is the coauthor of The Pacific Crest Trail: Exploring America’s Wilderness Trail and author of The Continental Divide Trail: Exploring America’s Ridgeline Trail. He and his wife, Sandy, live in San Diego and have hosted more than 7,000 PCT hikers. Visit him online at BarneyScoutMann.com.

 

 

Elk River trail to Landslide Lake, Strathcona Park B.C.

Trip report by BestHike editor Rick McCharles

Click PLAY or watch a short video on YouTube.

See how poorly my own video compares with that one.  😶

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

Easy access from Campbell River on Vancouver Island.

Click for Google map

The up-and-back Elk River trail to Landslide Lake is one of the best hikes in Canada. 

  • 22km return
  • 1-3 days
  • 875m elevation gain/loss
  • Landslide lake  890m
  • pay camping fee at trailhead (CAD $10 / person in 2020)
  • no electricity nor mobile phone service. I carried a solar charger.
  • Phillip Stone – Exploring Strathcona Park guidebook

This is classic temperate rain forest. Old growth following the Elk River.

I got to the trailhead late in the afternoon early September.

Made the decision to hike only as far as the Butterwort campground (6km) rather than the more popular Upper Gravel Bar campground (9km).

map from Stone guidebook

The two campgrounds are literally gravel bars. Nothing fancy.

Butterwort campground

Next morning I headed on towards the Upper Gravel Bar campground.

crazy weird mushrooms

In 2020 the old pit toilets were being replaced. Temporary tent toilets in place.

Both campgrounds offer a chance to protect your food from bears.  I also had cheeky rodents appear twice at dinner while camping in the Elk River.

The highlight of the Elk River Trail is the last 1km scramble up to Landslide Lake.

The colours are gorgeous.

Landslide Lake was changed to the current form in 1946 by Canada’s largest recorded earthquake on land, measuring 7.2, centred in the nearby Forbidden Plateau area. The North Tower of Mount Colonel Foster sheared off, much of it collapsing into the lake.

related – MB Guiding – Elk River Trail

From the lake I backtracked 1km to find the Elk Pass trailhead, a challenging extension not made by many hikers.

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

See our list of the best hikes in North America.

super hiker Mary Cochenour

Tune in to this week’s episode of the Out and Back podcast as Mary tells a thrilling tale about her early days as a wilderness ranger in the Lake Tahoe Basin.

Hear about her first night spent alone in the wilderness and what happened months later when she discovered that a man had been following her around the backcountry. …

Mary … is the Out and Back podcast producer and a writer and editor at Gaia GPS.

When she is not in the office, Mary works as a guide for Andrew Skurka Adventures in wild places around the west, like Rocky Mountain National Park, Yosemite, and the Brooks Range in Alaska. …

Click through to listen to the story online:

Solo Backpacking with a Stalker

Hiking the Indian Himalaya Independently

It’s easy to hike Nepal independently.

Not so India.

I did Markha Valley independently.  But for Kuari Pass I finally signed on with a guided trek.

The hiking infrastructure in India is not well developed.  Getting to and from trailheads often a headache.  Next time I go to India I’ll likely sign on for trips guided by IndiaHikes.

One bit of good news.

Peter Van Geit has been creating detailed hiking maps of the Indian Himalaya.

So far, he has pulled together over 1,000 trails across Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir.

It shows 600 passes, 700 high-altitude lakes and more than 10,000 reference points. …

It allows hikers to see elevation profiles and download GPS logs onto their phones rather than having to carry multiple, less detailed paper maps.

“The map has more trails than anyone could ever cover in a lifetime,” he says.

“It took me months to plan a long traverse across the Himalaya. With this new digital map, you have all the information in a single place.” …

Everything is open sourced, so can be accessed with any Open Street Maps viewer or mobile app (for free). Other hikers can add information to it and help the resource grow. …

ExplorersWeb

The American Perimeter Trail

Planned is a a 12,000-mile loop of existing trails, roads, and off-trail travel.

Something like this.

Rue McKenrick, a triple crown veteran, walked away from his home in Bend.  And is inventing the route as he goes along.

When COVID-19 hit, Rue kept hiking — but

no longer resupplied in towns, relying on a 7 day resupply box which was sent to remote post offices. I utilized lesser known trails and continued up the east coast on the avoiding the popular, but closed Appalachian trail. …”

It’s a work in progress.

Click through for details:

americanperimetertrailproject.weebly.com

I learned of this project via the Out and Back podcast interview – episode 10 – Rue McKenrick and the American Perimeter Trail

786km, 32 days hiking Iceland

Iðunn Bragadóttir and her 20-year-old daughter, Þóra Dagný Stefánsdóttir, have spent 32 days traversing Iceland. The duo started on the Reykjanes peninsula and hiked diagonally, southwest to northeast, across the country to Langanes Point.

The 786km route is one of the longest possible ways to traverse Iceland. …

Mother and Daughter Hike Across Iceland

(via Adventure Blog)

Hiking Helmcken Falls, British Columbia

Trip report by BestHike editor Rick McCharles.

Helmcken Falls is a 141 m (463 ft) waterfall on the Murtle River within Wells Gray Provincial Park in British Columbia …

The protection of Helmcken Falls was one of the reasons for the creation of Wells Gray Provincial Park in 1939.

This was my first visit to massive Wells Gray.  Like 99% of visitors, I drove only the 42km of paved roadway out of the gateway town of Clearwater.

End of the road is the short walk to a viewing platform on the rim of the canyon providing a panorama of the falls and canyon

Helmcken is the fourth highest waterfall in Canada, measured by total straight drop without a break.

Next I hiked to the top of the Falls (other side) on the Rim Trail.

That’s about 3 hours, 8 km round-trip.

There’s no fence along canyon edge so you can climb directly above the river.

Click PLAY or watch some drone footage on YouTube.

Golden Hinde Traverse, Strathcona Vancouver Island

BestHike editor Rick McCharles

UPDATE.  I didn’t get very far on the Traverse finding it too difficult and dangerous to hike solo.  I’ll go with a group next time. 

For example, one hiking group did complete the Golden Hinde(less) Traverse between July 18-24, 2020.

I did complete the first two sections:

      1. Elk River Trail
      2. Elk Pass Trail

ORIGINAL POST from Sept 2, 2020 below:

Heading for Strathcona Provincial Park September 3rd.

Hoping to climb Golden Hinde, the highest mountain on Vancouver Island 2,195 m (7,201 ft).  September should have drier trails. Fewer bugs. … Hopefully.

Many try and fail to get to this summit.  It’s a scramble up snow or rock at the top.

The mountain took its name from Sir Francis Drake‘s ship, the Golden Hind, named by an early fur-trading captain who was reminded of Drake’s ship as sunset hit the mountain

Jes Scott made it August 2019.  Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

Jes had tried and failed in 2017.

My plan is to hike the 47km Golden Hinde Traverse on the Elk River trail through to Myra Falls. I’ll only attempt the summit as a detour if conditions, health, time and weather permit. No pressure.  🙂

Cost for a guided climb is about CAD $1500 for 5 days.

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