This is a great overnight hiking trip for a long weekend, providing magnificent scenery of crystal clear rivers, cascading waterfalls, glaciers, and rugged mountains.
I did this hike in early August on a scorching 37-degree weekend and had an amazing time. I went with my girlfriend and and three of my best friends on a weekend where we all had 3 days off work. We left early, as we had to drive to the trailhead (between Campbell River and Gold River on Highway 28) from Port Alberni. We started hiking at about 10am into the cool shade of the hemlock forest. We stopped for lunch on the riverbed after a couple hours and again for a swim in the river at Camp 1. The water is about as cold as it can be without actually being frozen, so be prepared to cool down a lot if you want to go swimming. We set up our campsite at Camp 2 on the Elk River, which was about a 4-5 hour hike from the trailhead. This is where I would recommend camping, as I liked the area better for the views of the rivers and mountains, and it is closer to the lake. However, both campsites are nice and have good bear caches. Note that camping is not permitted at Landslide Lake.
Lonny and Jordan at the Glacier
The next morning after breakfast we left our campsite and headed up for a day trip to Landslide Lake and Glacier Lake. The hike to Landslide Lake from Camp 2 is about 1 ˝ to 2 hours and ascends alongside a cascading waterfall that comes directly out of Landslide Lake. The first views of Landslide Lake are breathtaking. It is an emerald green coloured lake sitting at the foot of the looming, jagged peaks of Mt. Colonel Foster, one of the highest mountains on Vancouver Island. An earthquake in 1946 caused a large portion of the mountain to brake free and tumble down into the lake, scarring the hillside and giving the lake its name. I found myself in awe of the lake’s beauty, the scene before me made it hard to believe I was on Vancouver Island and not at Lake Louise. Sweating from the hot midday sun, we decided to test the waters of the lake. It was cold, but seemed to be slightly warmer than the Elk River due to its direct exposure to the sun.
We had lunch on the edge of the lake and then headed along the trail that leads to the glacier at the foot of Mt. Colonel Foster on the opposite side of the lake. This trail is not nearly as well traveled as the trail along the Elk River and up to Landslide Lake. However, it is fairly well marked with Ribbon and follows the shoreline of the lake so there is not too much worry about getting lost. At the far side of the lake the path follows a steep section of river that flows from Glacier Lake into Landslide Lake. Glacier Lake is smaller and has walls of ice rising from each side. We climbed up the glacier on the side that rose away from Mt. Colonel Foster and found a giant ice cave and a great view of the lakes below. While up the glacier we heard a giant thundering sound and saw a huge slab of the glacier break free from Mt. Colonel foster and avalanche down into Glacier Lake below. Needless to say I don’t think that climbing the glacier was the greatest idea in retrospect, especially since we didn’t have any crampons, ice axes, or any other sort of proper climbing gear. But sliding down the steep ice slope in the hot summer sun sure was fun!
We hiked back down to Camp 2 for dinner and another swim and got to witness the full moon rise over the nearby mountains at dusk. The following morning we packed up our camp and headed back down to the parking lot, which seemed to take a bit less time hiking down. The latter part of the hike was spent discussing where our next hike would be and how we would all love to do this one again next summer!
Landslide Lake Map
- Distance: From parking lot to Landslide Lake is about 11km
- Difficulty: Pretty easy, relatively flat with some sections of minimal elevation gain. The trail is in excellent shape and well maintained.
- Hiking Time: Approximately 5-6 hours one way from parking lot to Landslide Lake, about 1 ˝ to 2 hours one way from Landslide Lake to Glacier Lake
- Fees: $5 per night camping fee payable at the Parking Lot
- How to get to there: Take highway 28 west from Campbell River toward Gold River. Once within Strathcona Park on highway 28 heading toward Gold River, the parking lot should be on the left hand side of the highway and marked with a Provincial Parks sign stating “Elk River Trailhead”.
- Both campsites are nice with good bear caches.
- Campfires are prohibited in Strathcona Park.
- Water is crystal clear and drinkable (at your own risk of course, due to potential concerns of Giardiasis, etc. We didn’t filter and we're fine)
- Camping is prohibited on Landslide Lake.
- Elk River Trail (to Landslide lake) - clubtread.org
- Strathcona Provincial Park - BC Parks