Mt Albert Edward

Mt Albert Edward is a classic hike in Strathcona Park and one of my favourite hikes. I have turn into an annual pilgrimmage and have probably done it a dozen times now. It can be done as a long day hike (11-12 hours) or as a 2-3 day backpacking trip camping at Circlet Lake or up on the ridges below the summit. If you are tackling it as a day hike, drive up to the trailhead at Mt. Washington Alpine Resort and sleep in your car so that you can get an early morning start.

Mt Albert Edward is one of the most popular hikes in Strathcona Park for good reason; it has one of the best views in the park and easy access from the Mt. Washington Alpine Resort. Its summit has an awesome panoramic view that takes in most of the big peaks in Strathcona Park including the Golden Hinde as well as Comox Glacier and the distant Coast Mountains to the east. The approach across Forbidden Plateau is a pleasant mix of alpine forest, lakes and tarns which then climbs up onto some long ridges with impressive views.

This trip could be extended by adding the circuit around nearby Mt Frink and Castlecrag Mountain, which drops down to Moat Lake before returning to Circlet Lake. This would add several hours to your summit day and is best if you are backpacking.

Another option is to continue over the summit of Mt Albert Edward, drop down to a pass and camp at Ruth Masters Lake. On the next day, continue around Augerpoint Mtn and down to Buttle Lake (allow 2-3 days).

ACCESS

Drive the Island Highway north past Courtenay / Comox and turn left onto Strathcona Parkway. Follow the parkway all the way up to Mt Washington Ski Resort and turn left onto Nordic Drive and follow it to the Raven Lodge parking lot. Parking is free here. The trailhead is beside the lodge where there is a BC Parks information kiosk.

TRAIL

The trailhead is at the Strathcona Park interpretive sign beside Raven Lodge on the south end of the parking lot. If you are camping, pay your fees here in the deposit box. Fees are not collected at the campsites. Rangers do patrol the campgrounds on Forbidden Plateau, so you may be fined if you do not pay your fees. Initially, the trails are gentle and easy with signs and a map at major junctions. Follow the trail to Lake Helen MacKenzie (45 minutes from trailhead), where there is a pit toilet. Follow the signs to Circlet Lake, turn right and follow the trail around the west end of the lake. After leaving the lake, the trail climbs in switchbacks up to a low saddle, then drops down to the park ranger cabin. Continue following the signs to Circlet Lake, which you will reach about 2:45 from the trailhead. The campsite is about 5 minutes down the trail to the right. For Mt Albert Edward, follow the left fork towards the ridge ahead of you. The trail begins climbing and then becomes very steep. This section of the trail has no switchbacks and can be slippery if wet. It’s a grinding ascent of 193m until you reach a rock gully just below the top of the ridge. At the base of the gully, you will see a trail going to the right and a trail going up the gully. They both lead up to the ridge but take the one up the gully. You’ll soon pop out onto a broad side dotted with small tarns and scraggly trees with a nice view of Castlecrag Mtn and the distant Coast Mountains. Mt Albert Edward is the pointy pyramid like mountain looming to the right of Castlecrag Mtn. If Mt Albert Edward is shrouded in cloud or the weather is worsening, consider turning back and trying some other day. The ridges leading up to the summit are very exposed to the weather and could be difficult to navigate in low visibility. Follow the trail to the ridge above you which is running between Mt Albert Edward and Castlecrag Mtn. There are several trails and lots of cairns and flagging in this section, so don’t worry about which trail to follow, just head up to the ridge. Once on the ridge, pick up the cairns and flagging and soon arrive at a large tarn, which is a good place to top up your water bottle. From here there is a nice view looking west into the heart of the park. Continue up this rocky ridge until you reach a junction with a trail leading left to Mt. Frink, the rounded summit between Castlecrag Mtn and Mt Albert Edward. Take the right fork and head up to Mt Albert Edward on loose rock. This section has views to Comox Glacier and the peaks to the south. When you reach the summit, the view explodes into an epic degree panorama that takes in a huge swath of Strathcona Park and the Coast Mountains. Allow yourself at least an hour to enjoy the well earned view. I am baffled by how many people leave the summit after 10 minutes! To return to the trailhead, retrace your steps. It will be a bit faster on the down and should take about 5:00 hours if it took you 5:30 to get to the top.

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