Buttle Lake and Ralph River offer serene base camps, from which one can venture out to any of the 52 kilometres of hiking trails in the mountains of the very rare Strathcona wilderness area. The extensive trail system is suitable for day or overnight hikes, with hikes ranging in duration from 2 to 8 hours.
Strathcona Provincial Park offers some of the best backcountry experiences on Vancouver Island. Valleys forested with ancient trees give way to the fir and hemlock of sub-alpine regions, and wildflowers provide spectacular displays from sea level up to 1800m. The park’s geological history stretches back 380 million years, with extensive evidence of volcanic activity. Backcountry wildlife includes black bears, elk, cougars, bald eagles, swans and marmots; many distinct from their mainland relatives due to Vancouver Island’s separation from the mainland so long ago. Backcountry hikers can overnight camp on the Bedwell Lakes and Elk River Trail, as well as designated campsites on Forbidden Plateau (Helen Mackenzie, Kwai and Circlet Lakes)
Backcountry visitors should be self-sufficient, properly equipped and highly experienced. Wilderness areas, glaciers, snowfields and mountains are challenging and hazardous, especially in avalanche areas. Snowfall can be expected from November to March on slopes and alpine plateaus, and can linger until July on the higher peaks. Backcountry is operated by 43K Wilderness Solutions.
Facilities160 sites in 2 campgrounds at Buttle Lake and Ralph River. Group site at Driftwood Bay. 5 marine-access only campsites in various locations throughout the park. Backcounty campsites include Bedwell and Baby Bedwell Lakes, Elk River Trail, and Helen Mackenzie, Kwai and Circlet Lakes, located on the Forbidden Plateau.
LocationThe main access is via Highway 28, which connects with Gold River on the west coast of Vancouver Island. Follow Highway 19 to Campbell River, and then follow Highway 28 west for 48 km. Highway 28 passes through the northern section of the park and provides access to Buttle Lake.
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Backcountry camping – $10/adult/night
Backcountry camping – $5/child/night
Buttle Lake, Ralph River-frontcountry camping – $20/party/night
Buttle Lake, Ralph River-winter frontcountry camping – $11/party/night
Group camping base fee – $80/group site/night