Cream Lake, Strathcona Park, BC

Cream Lake is a jewel in Strathcona Park. Although the destination is fantastic, a vibrant blue-green lake with impressive Mt Septimus looming above, the journey there is also very scenic. All in all, it’s an excellent trip. Cream Lake is accessed from Bedwell Lake, one of the most popular camping locations in the park and is reached on a relatively short, easy and well maintained trail. It’s a beautiful lake surrounded by scenic mountains and great destination in itself but the trail to Cream Lake is even better, climbing up to a pass near beside Big Interior Mtn, then continuing through open, rugged terrain dotted with tarns towards Mt Septimus. The first campsite is at Baby Bedwell Lake but there is a larger campsite further along the trail at Bedwell Lake. Both of these lakes are scenic as well but I think Cream Lake is the best of the three. There is a lot of room for wild camping at Cream Lake but no facilities. Speedy hikers could blast into Cream Lake in a day but it’s an area worth savouring, so if you have the time, spend a few days there. The whole area is popular and can be quite busy on summer weekends, so visiting on week days or in the shoulder season is advisable if you want to avoid crowds.

PLANNING

Itineraries

2 days / 1 night – Backpack to Cream Lake (6hr15min, 11.8 km, 693 m elevation gain – one way). Return to trailhead the next day.

3 days / 2 nights – Backpack to Bedwell Lake campsite (3-3.5 hrs one way, 5km one way, 421m elevation gain – one way). Camp here both nights, do a day trip to Cream Lake the second day (5-6 hr, 10.6 km, 317 m elevation gain – round trip), return to the trailhead on the third day.

Camping

There are designated camping sites at Baby Bedwell Lake (8 sites) and Bedwell Lake (8 sites). Both sites have fees that are paid at the trailhead. The campsites are decent and have bear lockers and pit toilets. Baby Bedwell has decent but restricted view of Mt Tom Taylor but has the advantage of better access to the lakeshore than the campsites at Bedwell Lake. Bedwell Lake has a great view of Mt. Tom Taylor and is the most scenic of the two, although it is difficult to access the lakeshore. There is a lot of room for wild camping at Cream Lake but no toilets or bear lockers. There are also some possible wild camping spots beside the tarns between Bedwell Lake and Cream Lake.

ACCESS

Paved highway and 6.2 km of gravel road. The gravel road used to be quite rough but has been improved recently and is accessible with a 2WD vehicle. The trailhead is around 1.5 hours / 90 km from Campbell River.

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Drive to Campbell River. Turn west onto Hwy 28, and follow it for 48 km until you reach the junction with Westmin Rd, turn left onto Westmin Rd and follow it for 35 kms until you cross a bridge over Price Creek at the south end of Buttle Lake. Just past the bridge, turn left onto a gravel road (Jim Mitchell Lake Rd).

This road is used by the mine, so watch out for large vehicles. Follow this road for 2.6 km until you reach a fork, with the right fork leading steeply uphill. If you’re not comfortable taking your vehicle any further, park off the road and walk the rest of the way for about 1 hour to the trailhead parking lot. If you are continuing, take the right fork and drive up the hill and follow the road for another 3.6 km to the trailhead parking lot, where there is a BC Parks information kiosk and deposit box for camping fees.

TRAIL

From the trailhead parking area, walk about 50 m further along the road (south) to find the signed trailhead on your left (east side). The trail enters pretty forest on a nice easy path. In 15 minutes cross a metal bridge spanning a large creek and then cross a wooden bridge shortly after. The trail then climbs uphill in easy switchbacks until you drop into a ravine with two wooden bridges, about 1 hour and 2.5 km from the trailhead. This is a good place to top up your water bottles. Continue ascending until you reach a rocky cliff with some metal ladders. At the junction a few minutes past the rocky cliff, ignore the minor trail and confusing flagging veering off to the right. Take the left trail, cross the little wooden footbridge and soon reach Baby Bedwell Lake campsite, about 2 hours and 4.2 km from the trailhead. There are 8 campsites, a bear locker, and a pit toilet. It’s a nice spot with a partial view of Mt. Tom Taylor but is not as scenic as Bedwell Lake campsite (another 1hr20min and 2.3 km away). If there were a lot of vehicles at the trailhead and there is a camping spot available here, consider grabbing it instead of continuing on to find that the Bedwell Lake campsites are taken.

To continue to Bedwell Lake, go back to the main trail and follow it along the left (east) side of the lake. The trail ascends steeply to a rocky outcrop between the lakes and reaches a viewpoint of Bedwell Lake in 45 minutes. From here there is a nice view of the lake and its little islands, Mt. Tom Taylor to the right, and Big Interior Mtn in the distance to the left. The campsite might be visible diagonally across the lake to the left. From the viewpoint, retrace your steps back to the main trail and drop sharply to the lakeshore. The trail then goes left and follows the shore until you reach Bedwell Lake campsite, about 3 hr 15 min and 6.5 km from the trailhead. There are 8 campsites, a bear locker, and a pit toilet. There is a great view of Mt Tom Taylor across the lake.

To Cream Lake

From Bedwell Lake campsite, find the trail signed to Cream Lake (there is a map at the information kiosk at the entrance of the campsite). This trail ascends steeply on the east side of the lake with great views along the way. After an hour, reach Little Jim Lake, a decent sized lake sitting in a bowl. Follow the trail around the left (north) side of the lake and climb up the loose rock at the far end. From here to Cream Lake, the trail becomes a bit rougher and sometimes less obvious but is not hard to follow, just continue east towards Mt. Septimus, the prominent, jagged peak ahead of you. Along the way there are several tarns with some possible places to wild camp. Big Interior Mtn is your constant companion on the right and on a clear day you’ll also see Nine Peaks to the south.  About 1hr45min from Little Jim Lake, you’ll reach a viewpoint where you will get your first glimpse of Cream Lake, a vibrant blue lake at the base of Mt. Septimus, perched in pass between Price Creek and Drinkwater Creek. To reach the lake, continue down the trail which drops down steeply to a large flat outwash plain suitable for camping. There are no facilities here, so practice leave no trace camping. To return to Bedwell Lake, retrace your steps.

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