With beautiful green meadows, pretty ponds, and stunning mountain views, the boardwalk trail at Paradise Meadows should be on everyone’s Vancouver Island bucket list. And if hiking is more your thing, the entire trail system of Forbidden Plateau offers plenty of amazing sights.
Quick Trail Facts
- Trail Features: long boardwalks, alpine lakes and meadows, old growth forest, second growth forest
- Length: Variety of trail lengths, from 2 km up to hikes exceeding 22 km.
- Difficulty: Easy to strenuous, depending on hike chosen
- Hazards: Boardwalks can be slippery when cold and/or wet; you are in the back country, which means bears and cougars may be present
- Suitability: hiking / walking ; Approximately half of the full Paradise Meadows loop is wheel chair and stroller friendly (see details below)
- Bike Trails: not in this particular area, however, there are many at the chairlifts of Mount Washington
- Dogs: While you are currently allowed to bring your leashed dogs, please be aware park management is considering banning them from this area, due to trail misuse (owners not picking up after their dog!)
About the Area
Paradise Meadows, and ultimately Forbidden Plateau, is located in Strathcona Provincial Park. With over 250,000 hectares to explore, Strathcona is Vancouver Island’s largest park. The park is divided into two separate areas: Buttle Lake and vicinity, accessed via Campbell River, and Forbidden Plateau, accessed via Mount Washington.
Forbidden Plateau is roughly 160 hectares in size and is located on the east side of Strathcona Provincial Park.
As Forbidden Plateau is at a high elevation, the area can be covered in snow from as early as the end of October until as late as June. While you can still access this area during that time, you will be doing so with snowshoes. This means the area is most easily accessible during the summer and early fall. During the early summer (around mid-July), expect to see brilliant wildflowers of many varieties. In early autumn, you will see beautiful fall-coloured foliage, as well as a variety of migrating birds.
Wildlife you May See
While walking any of the trails in this area, you may come across the following wildlife:
Frequently Seen Wildlife
- Black-tailed deer
- Steller’s Jay
- Gray Jay (often referenced as Whiskey Jacks)
- Red Squirrels
Seldom Seen Wildlife
- Black Bear
- Roosevelt Elk
- Vancouver Island wolf
- The endangered Vancouver Island Marmot
Forbidden Plateau Trails
Paradise Meadows Loop
The Paradise Meadows loop has a 2 km Centennial loop that is fully accessible and stroller-friendly. This short loop leads along a boardwalk where you pass a beautiful meadow and one pretty pond. The full Paradise Meadows loop is 4.2 km, but it’s not considered fully accessible due to a few stairs. However, many of the steps along the boardwalk are adapted with special ramps, allowing wheelchairs equipped with “freewheels” to access the longer trails. A sign at the trailhead states a few of these special chairs are available.
The full Paradise Meadows loop is incredibly beautiful. During August, when most of the trails around Vancouver Island are dry and brown, this area is still green and spectacular. The pretty ponds are full of life (trout, dragonflies, butterflies, birds, etc.), and the green meadows and mountain views are stunning.
There are pit toilets at the start of this trail. And when open, indoor washrooms at the nearby Raven Lodge.
Lake Helen Mackenzie / Battleship Lake Loop
To further your walk/hike, I highly recommend continuing to Helen Mackenzie Lake and Battleship Lake. This 9 km loop gives you access to even more picture-perfect views. It’s a relatively easy hike on well-developed trails with an elevation gain of only 70 meters. Don’t let the km’s scare you, for we saw bodies young and old walk this loop, and many groups of young families.
This portion of the trek is a mix of boardwalks and developed dirt trails.
If you do decide to make this trek, bring a picnic and your swimsuit. The lakes are crystal clear and, although cold, a refreshing reprieve on a hot day.
There are pit toilets available at Battleship Lake and Helen Mackenzie Lake. Tenting sites are available at Helen Mackenzie. Backcountry camping fees apply.
More Strenous Hiking Opportunities
Kwai Lake Loop: a 14 km loop that leads you to a beautiful lake said to be the premier photo spot of the area. Along the way, you pass Kooso Lake, Lady Lake and Croteau Lake. At Kwai Lake, you will see several tent sites and find more pit toilets. Many backcountry campers use Kwai Lake as their first overnight stop to complete the full Forbidden Plateau Lakes loop and/or for the strenuous hike up nearby mountains. Please note: 14 km is from the trailhead at Raven Lodge. Kwai Lake is only another approximately 4.2 km from Lake Helen Mackenzie.
Circlet Lake: Another approximate 4 km past Kwai Lake, you can hike to Circlet Lake. This is another backcountry tenting location. From there, you have access to Mount Albert Edward, Mount Frink and Castle Crag Mountain. These last three mountain hikes should only be done if you are an experienced backcountry hiker and are fully equipped with the right gear.
Getting to Forbidden Plateau and Paradise Meadows
The Paradise Meadows (Forbidden Plateau) trailhead and parking lot are found near the Mount Washington ski area. From Highway 19, follow signs to Mount Washington Ski Resort via exit #130 (the Strathcona Parkway) for 20 km. Turn left onto the Nordic Lodge road for 1.5 km to the Paradise Meadows parking lot. There is a ton of parking, however, this is a popular hiking location, especially on the weekends.
The latter, more strenuous hikes mentioned, can also be accessed via Forbidden Plateau Road, where the former ski lodge was located (and where a few remnants remain).
Have you been to this incredible area of Vancouver Island? Let us know about your adventures in the comment section below.
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