Hiking the Philips Ridge trail to Arnica Lake in Strathcona Provincial Park on Vancouver Island

Philips Ridge Trail in Strathcona Park

Phillips Ridge Trail Vancouver Island Strathcona Park

How to get to the Philips Ridge Trail from Campbell River: From the Tamarac Street intersection, travel on highway 28 towards Gold River. Just past the Elk Portal at the entrance to Strathcona Park you will see an intersection, go straight through.  At the mine site there will be a manned gate, go through the gate and continue on past the mine site until you turn a corner and are heading back into the trees, there you will see a parking lot on the right hand side of the road and a sign indicating the the trails from there.

Length: 15 kilometres

Distance/Time: 6 – 7 hours return

Difficulty: Strenuous

Condition: Good

Elevation Gain: 878 metres

We started off the day and everyone was feeling good, but shortly after beginning to gain elevation I knew something was not right with me.  At the time it had only been 3 weeks since the upgrade on my pacemaker so I knew that I could possibly be facing challenges, but I’m a gamer so I wasn’t all that worried about it.

The going was slow, slower than I would have liked,  but thank goodness I was with understanding people who were just out for the experience of the day and not to “bag” any summits.

It has been many years since I have been on this trail and back in the daywe considered it a staple, I feel it is one of the nicest trails in  Strathcona Park, and unsung hero as it were.  The diversity of the landscape and the views you achieve once you hit the high points are outstanding so this trail holds many a crazy memory for me.  The map at the trail head depicts what looks like a 4 kilometre uphill walk.  Not so.  The trail zig zags continually as you climb which actually brings your travel distance closer to 7 1/2 kilometres one way for a total of 15 so be prepared for that, it is a long way but a pleasant journey none the less.

Phillips Ridge Trail Vancouver Island Strathcona Park

The day was perfect for hiking, not too hot and not too cold, Phillips Creek itself was running nicely but not nearly as much as you would expect from the spring freshet.  

The trail parallels the creek intermittently throughout the distance until you hit the plateau, which is forested with sub alpine old growth which is an absolute delight to the senses.    At this point you get a view of Mt Myra across the valley.  The trail is a continual uphill climb with no respite but it is a well designed route so I would rate it as strenuous because of the endurance but not strenuous in terms of the climbing.

Unfortunately for us, we hit snow and lost our trail markers, which normally would not be an issue, but by the time we got to that stage I knew something was not right with me, in addition to that it began to rain, so no visible trail, rain and a compromised Catherine are a recipe for an accident so we decided to stop, rest, have some lunch, take some pictures and head down.  This was a good decision as half way down I start to throw-up.  I don’t believe it was heart related but I do think I had some kind of flue bug, so by the time we got back to the car I was completely depleted.  Thank goodness for Strathcona Park Lodge and some organic gingerale. That is me wining and sniveling.

Overall we did had a great day and I learned a lesson about that “feeling” I had thinking that something was not right.

As it turned out Arnica Lake was just around the corner from where we turned around, we traveled 14.6 kilometres according to Linda’s Fitbit and the lake is at just a tad over 15 kilometres, we gained 870 metres and the lake is at 878 metres or  2880 feet.

In retrospect this was exactly how it should be.  Nobody got hurt and we all came down a little stronger than when we started the day.  We got to laugh at Jax rolling in the snow, the company was fun and full of joy and we got a good dose of green and clean air.  And we go on to live another day.

The Phillips Ridge Trail is a must do for anyone who is reasonably fit or wants to be. And it is also a great trail for the kids if they are strong hikers. Highly recommended.