Mt Albert Edward Trail Guide
- Distance: From parking lot to summit is about 16km
- Difficulty: From parking lot to Circlet Lake is easy/moderate. From Circlet Lake to summit is moderate.
- Hiking Time: About 3-4 hours one-way from parking lot to Circlet Lake. About 3-4 hours one way from Circlet Lake to summit.
- Camping Fees: $10 per person per night camping fee paid at parking lot/trailhead. Be sure to bring receipt with you while in the backcountry.
- How to get there: Take the island highway north towards Campbell River. Turn left onto Strathcona Parkway (road up to Mt. Washington ski resort). Take first left on Henry Road which leads to Raven Lodge and the parking lot/trailhead for Paradise Meadows.
- This trail would be good any time of year. I would like to do it on snowshoes in the winter.
- The weather can deteriorate quickly at higher elevations. Always dress appropriately and watch the weather carefully.
- Camping is available at Lake Helen McKenzie (about 3 km in), Kwai Lake (about 7km in), and Circlet Lake (about 10km in). There are wooden platforms for tents and outhouses as well as bear caches.
- There are no fires permitted in this area of Strathcona Park at any time of year.
- There are many lakes in Paradise meadows that provide drinking water. We filtered all water from these lakes. On the summit in summer there was not much water available, so you should pack it up.
- The fishing is pretty good in Circlet lake, so bring a rod!
Mt Albert Edward, standing at 2093m, is the 6th highest peak on Vancouver Island and one of the most accessible and easy to summit of Strathcona’s giant peaks. The trail takes you through the tranquil alpine area of Paradise Meadows and ascends up the gentle-sloped ridge to the summit, providing outstanding views of the snow-covered peaks of B.C.’s oldest provincial park.
I did this hike on BC day long weekend in 2009, and it was great weather the whole weekend. After a good night’s sleep in the parking lot at Paradise meadows Friday night, we got up at 6:30am to have breakfast, pack our backpacks, and hit the trail. The early portion of the trail is very easy, with wide trails and lots of boardwalk, and is very flat. The trail loops around in several places, making for nice and short day-hikes (see map). The trail is very well marked with signs all the way to Circlet Lake. Our first rest stop was at Lake Helen McKenzie, which is a nice lake with a campground about 3km into the trail. After this, there is less boardwalk and more hills. At about 6km in you pass by a ranger station on a little lake, which makes for another good break spot. The last 4km wind through Whiskey Meadows and brings you up to Circlet Lake. The campground at Circlet can get pretty busy on weekends, but we lucked out and got a couple good spots near each other. After setting up camp, we spent the rest of the afternoon swimming in the lake and fishing for dinner.
Another early breakfast and we were ready to start the big hike by about 8am. The biggest elevation gain is early in the trail, climbing up to the lower part of the ridge. The trail leads through the upper alpine and begins to give great views of Castle Crag mtn and Moat Lake. There were a few small lakes as a result of snowmelt that were great for the dog to swim in. Soon you get above the tree line and onto the ridge that ascends to the summit. The early part of the ridge provides the best views of Albert Edward and the icefield below it, which drains down a set of waterfalls into Gem Lake below. From here you follow the hundreds of rock cairns that are built, which lead you toward the summit. The ridge is a gentle slope, with one final steeper section right before the top. The summit provides a great 360-degree view of the surrounding area. Usually, you can look deep into Strathcona and see some of the highest peaks on the island, including the Golden Hinde (Vancouver Island’s tallest mountain). However, when we were there forest fires were burning near Buttle Lake and Gold River, filling the northern part of the Strathcona sky with smoke and making the rest of the view pretty hazy as well. Despite that, the views were still incredible. The valley between Albert Edward and Jutland is incredibly steep, and you can look down at the slopes of Mt Washington. We had lunch at the top and then headed back down the ridge for some much needed swimming in Circlet Lake. On the way down we passed tons of other hikers headed for the summit, so we were happy we got an early start on our day and avoided sharing the summit with 20 other people. Back at the lake we celebrated with a nice bottle of tequila recently acquired from Mexico. This allowed us to quickly make friends with neighboring campers who had bottles of Jager and Vodka. And so the BC day celebrations began…
Sleeping in was definitely an earned reward, and we had a chill morning having breakfast and packing up camp. We hiked back down to Lake Helen McKenzie and spent the afternoon swimming and feeding the Whiskey Jacks there. We took a different route back to the parking lot to witness some different scenery along Battleship Lake and through Paradise Meadows. Definitely planning on doing this hike again in the summer for a non-forest-fire view, and possibly in winter as well.
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