Strathcona Provincial Park on Vancouver Island is home to endless epic hikes. One of the best hikes in Strathcona is the Bedwell Lake Trail, which takes you up to two beautiful lakes, hidden away in the mountains. These two lakes, Bedwell and Baby Bedwell, are absolutely spectacular as they are surrounded by mountain peaks and it feels like you are deep in the backcountry.
This is a perfect trail for both day hikers and those who want to make an overnight trip to Bedwell Lake. Camping is permitted at both Baby Bedwell and Bedwell Lake and they are both amazing places to stay for a few nights. There are also other trails you can explore from here if you want to plan a longer trip.
Whether you are planning a day trip or an extended trip into the backcountry, this guide will tell you everything you need to know before you head out on your epic adventure in Strathcona.
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Bedwell Lake Trail Overview
How to Get to Bedwell Lake
To reach this area of Strathcona Park from most parts of Vancouver Island you will need to drive through Campbell River. You’ll take the Island Highway (BC 19/A N) following signs for Gold River. This stretch of the highway will take you past Elk River Falls and continues out into the centre of Vancouver Island.
The drive out here is beautiful as the road winds alongside numerous lakes, forests and mountains. The highlight of the drive comes just after passing Upper Campbell Lake as you reach the shores of Buttle Lake in Strathcona Park. The road hugs the side of the entire length of Buttle Lake, which is around 23 kilometres long.
This part of Vancouver Island is so spectacular that we have included it as an add-on to our Vancouver Island Road Trip Itinerary.
While some of the road is obscured by trees, you’ll have plenty of sections where you have unobstructed views across the narrow lake and to the surrounding mountain peaks. As you wrap around the end of Buttle Lake you will make a left turn on to Jim Mitchell Lake Road. If you reach the entrance to Myra Falls you’ve gone too far.
Jim Mitchell Lake Road is an unsealed gravel road that is quite bumpy. We would recommend taking a high clearance vehicle along this road although there were several regular-sized cars in the parking lot at the trailhead. Drive along the road for 2.5 kilometres until you reach a 3-way junction where you will turn right to stay on Jim Mitchell Lake Road. The road gets steeper and bumpier from here.
Continue along this road for 4.5 kilometres until you reach the parking lot for this hike which is almost at the very end of the road. There will likely be quite a few other cars here and there is also a map of the area and an outhouse in the parking lot. While it may seem like the middle of nowhere, we were quite surprised at how busy the parking lot was for a weekend in September.
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Bedwell Lake Hike
If you are only spending the day here, you do not need a permit for this hike. However, if you are camping anywhere along this trail you will need a backcountry camping permit. There is more information on this in the camping section below or you can click here to get your backcountry permit.
The trailhead is on the left-hand side of the parking lot and starts off quite easily. You’ll follow a relatively flat trail through the forest and even takes you underneath some fallen trees which is cool. There is a small suspension bridge across a river, although there was no water flowing in late September during our visit. After this, you will cross a small wooden bridge that passes over an incredibly clear, blue pool of water.
Shortly after this, the climb begins as you make your way up a series of switchbacks and wooden stairs. It isn’t too steep of a climb but is definitely a good workout. The trail wasn’t too muddy at this time of year, although we imagine it would be worse in late spring and early fall.
After a couple of kilometres of climbing, the trail levels out again and is nice and flat for almost 1 kilometre. Towards the end of the flat section, you will cross an epic series of 4 wooden bridges which is extremely picturesque, tucked away deep in the woods. Shortly after crossing these bridges, you will start to climb again.
This section of the trail is a bit wetter and muddier as you climb up between boulders and along lots of small sets of wooden stairs. It feels like you are doing a stair climber workout at this point of the hike. After a while climbing this section you will come to several sets of green metal stairs that take you up some steeper sections of the trail. There are two small green ladders and two longer green ladders to climb in this section.
Once you climb the final green ladder, it’s a short section of flat and downhill trail to reach Baby Bedwell Lake. It took us 1 hour 35 minutes to get from the trailhead to Baby Bedwell Lake but we were carrying larger packs with all of our overnight camping gear.
Baby Bedwell Lake
As you arrive at Baby Bedwell Lake, you will come to a three-way junction with an information board. Turn left to go straight to Bedwell Lake or go right to reach the campsites at Baby Bedwell and to enjoy the views from here. We highly recommend stopping in at the campground even if you aren’t staying here as the views from Baby Bedwell Lake are spectacular.
This backcountry campsite is made up of various tent pads spread out over a large rocky area a few metres above the water level. You can look right out across the lake and enjoy the views of the snow-capped Mt Tom Taylor in the background. There are also a couple of tent pads closer to the three-way junction, along the shore of the lake.
Baby Bedwell Lake is the perfect spot to go for a quick swim to cool off after your hike. You can climb down into the water very easily or there is a small area where you can cliff jump into the lake.
The water is on the colder side, but relatively comfortable to swim in, even in September. Personally, I would recommend swimming here rather than at Bedwell Lake, although you can swim there as well. The campground also has a pit toilet a short walk back from the edge of the lake.
Once you have enjoyed some time at Baby Bedwell then you can make your way back to the junction and follow the signs to Bedwell Lake.
Between Baby Bedwell and Bedwell Lake there is a hill to summit and descend. Once you leave the camping area at Baby Bedwell, there is a short but steep climb with a combination of a dirt trail and green metal ladders. As you gain elevation you do start to get some fantastic views back down over Baby Bedwell Lake and the campsite.
Continue along the trail as it climbs and you will reach the crest of a hill. As you reach the crest of the hill you’ll get your first glimpse of Bedwell Lake, which as you might have guessed from the name, is much larger than Baby Bedwell.
At the top of the hill, there is a junction where you go right to continue down to the lake or left to climb up to a viewpoint. It’s only a quick climb up to the viewpoint and it is worth it to get uninterrupted views of Bedwell Lake from above.
Follow the trail as it descends quickly down to the edge of the lake and it will put you out on the northern edge of the lake. The views out over the lake are beautiful and the trail winds its way right along the edge of the lake. There are plenty of cool spots to stop at and you can find a more secluded spot along this path to enjoy some downtime or go for a swim.
The trail around the lake undulates a lot and you’ll go up and down for what feels like an endless stream of green stairs before you finally reach the main backcountry camp area at Bedwell Lake. From Baby Bedwell to Bedwell Lake camping area it takes roughly 40 minutes.
Similarly to Baby Bedwell, the camping spots here are located a few metres above the lake so you get awesome views out over the water and it makes for a great spot to stop and enjoy your lunch. If you are only completing the Bedwell Lake hike, then this is the point where you can turn around.
Alternatively, you can continue up to Little Jim Lake and Cream Lake. These are both spectacular hikes but it is a long and steep trail to reach these, especially Cream Lake. If you have the time. we do recommend making your way further along this trail.
Baby Bedwell and Bedwell Lake Camping
There are several options for camping along this trail. There are two designated campsites, one at Baby Bedwell Lake and one at Bedwell Lake. Each camping area has designated tent pads and you must have a tent pad to camp here. You can’t reserve tent pads so on busy weekends there can be more campers than there are tent pads, although when we visited there were a few tents just set up on the rocks.
Both of these backcountry camping areas have pit toilets and bear caches where you can safely store your food and scented toiletries. Other than toilet paper, you will need to pack out everything that you pack in.
If you wish to camp at either of these campgrounds you will need to purchase a backcountry permit through Discover camping. Go to the backcountry permits section, (not the backcountry reservations section) to make your booking. Currently, backcountry permits cost $10 per person. You can learn more about backcountry camping here through the BC Parks website.
If you continue further along the trail, all the way past Little Jim Lake, then you enter a zone where you can camp anywhere, although you will still need a backcountry permit. If you do camp in this zone, make sure to follow leave no trace guidelines and try and camp in an area that has already been cleared and won’t be damaged when you set up your tent.
You can view this map to help you see the two camping zones in the area. If you want to camp around Bedwell Lake you must camp in a designated spot whereas past Little Jim Lake you can choose any place to set up camp. Read our guide on the best tents for backcountry camping to help you choose the best tent for trips like this.
To make the return journey you will follow the same route back to the trailhead. The return journey is much easier as it is almost all downhill, except the short climb from Bedwell Lake back to Baby Bedwell. With a stop for lunch and possibly a swim, expect this hike to take around 5 hours in total. Plan for longer if you would like to spend an extended period of time relaxing by the lake and swimming on a sunny day during summer.
This is one of the many beautiful hikes on Vancouver Island and one of the highlights of the magnificent Strathcona Park. Whether it’s just for the day or you decide to camp overnight, you’ll absolutely love these backcountry lakes, surrounded by impressive mountain peaks.
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