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The Kwai Lake Loop Hike in Strathcona Provincial Park

The Kwai Lake loop hike in Strathcona Provincial Park  on Vancouver Island offers hikers and backpackers access to pretty subalpine lakes, flower studded meadows and mountain vistas. Although the loop is about 15.6 kilometres long, there isn’t a whole lot of elevation gain, perhaps 200 metres in total, so it can be done comfortably in about five hours.

The Kwai Lake Loop Hike in Strathcona Provincial Park

The hike starts easily on the boardwalk

The hike starts at the Paradise Meadows Parking Lot near the Nordic Lodge. There is excellent signage around and lots of parking. Start the hike by walking on boardwalk that’s in great shape. You travel through some truly beautiful forest early on in the hike – at least if you go in a counterclockwise direction.

The Kwai Lake Loop Hike in Strathcona Provincial Park

The woods are truly gorgeous in places

Lake Helen Mackenzie was the first lake we reached – just 3.7 kilometres in. It was a peaceful sight with not another soul around though every time we stopped the whiskey jacks showed up. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a high concentration of these birds as I did on this hike.

The Kwai Lake Loop Hike in Strathcona Provincial Park

Passing Helen Mackenzie Battleship Lake

The Kwai Lake Loop Hike in Strathcona Provincial Park

The wildflowers are particularly lovely around some of the lakes

The Kwai Lake Loop Hike in Strathcona Provincial Park

No shortage of jays looking for food when you stop

Continuing we passed a Ranger Station before arriving at beautiful Kwai Lake at the 7.3 kilometre mark – about halfway into the hike. We did lose the boardwalk for many kilometres, substituting a rock and dirt trail that actually had a little elevation gain on route to the lake. At the lake you’ll find some tent pads. If you planned a backpacking trip in late summer or early fall when the bugs were gone, the lake would be a fantastic place to hang out. We noticed lots of fish jumping as well.

There is another hiking option if you want a longer day. Before you reach Kwai Lake turn right at an intersection signed for Cruikshank Canyon Lookout and follow it to the end, 1.4 kilometres on. Another longer option would take you to Mount Albert Edward but it would be best done as a backpacking trip as it’s at least another 8.9 kilometres one way from the turnoff before Kwai Lake.

The Kwai Lake Loop Hike in Strathcona Provincial Park

Ranger cabin north of Lake Helen Mackenzie

The Kwai Lake Loop Hike in Strathcona Provincial Park

Continuing on towards Kwai Lake

The Kwai Lake Loop Hike in Strathcona Provincial Park

One view of Kwai Lake

The Kwai Lake Loop Hike in Strathcona Provincial Park

There is camping around Kwai Lake

The Kwai Lake Loop Hike in Strathcona Provincial Park

Looking over to snow covered peaks from Kwai Lake

The Kwai Lake Loop Hike in Strathcona Provincial Park

This area is called the Forbidden Plateau

From Kwai Lake head south following the signs towards Murray Meadows. Again you run into boardwalk over some of the soggier sections on route to Croteau Lake. Do look for masses of wildflowers if you visit in summer. From there it’s an easy 3.0 kilometre walk to Battleship Lake. Then continue southeast for 1.7 kilometres to reach a maze of trails that make up the Paradise Meadows route. We stuck to the western trail so we never retraced our steps. We were on boardwalk for quite some time near the end so the walking was quick.

The Kwai Lake Loop Hike in Strathcona Provincial Park

The boardwalk really makes for some speedy hiking

The Kwai Lake Loop Hike in Strathcona Provincial Park

Wildflowers galore

The Kwai Lake Loop Hike in Strathcona Provincial Park

The final stretch of boardwalk south of Battleship Lake

The Kwai Lake Loop Hike in Strathcona Provincial Park

Map showing the Kwai Lake Loop

In the summer there’s a small building by the parking lot – before you reach the Nordic Centre that is set up with educational material about the area and someone manning a desk to offer information. Should you be thirsty or hungry you can also buy a cold drink or a snack here.

This is a superb hike with some mountain views but the big appeal is the five lakes you pass.

The Kwai Lake Loop Hike in Strathcona Provincial Park

Leigh McAdam

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
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Author Leigh

Avid world traveler. Craves adventure – & the odd wildly epic day. Gardener. Reader. Wine lover. Next big project – a book on 100 Canadian outdoor adventures.

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