Hiking Marble Meadows

Added by Sarah Seads

Panoramic viewsUnique geologyFossilsGorgeous turquoise lakesAccess to many great peaks in the heart of Vancouver Island.

The most magical places are always a little harder to reach. Marble Meadows is one of those places. Unique in geology and terrain, Marble Meadows is known for it's remarkable limestone cap, numerous fossils and endless carpet of wildflowers during the alpine spring. When you reach Marble Meadows, you are actually walking on a 360 million year old ocean floor. At that time a massive limestone deposit, approximately 300m thick, was created by the decomposition of trillions of ancient sea creatures. Then, 130 million years ago, massive plates slid and the ocean floor was thrust upward to become Vancouver Island, Haida Gwaii and the Alsakan Panhandle. In the Marble Meadows, striking white limestone is mashed between layers of granite and basalt, creating unique features that you will likely never see elsewhere. Spires, sink holes, endless turquoise lakes and bold stripes of colour are created by this random placement of rocks. If that wasn't enough, fossils of tiny, mysterious sea creatures appear right under your feet and in the white limestone rocks that you pass on the trail. This unique terrain, found in the heart of Vancouver Island, is nothing short of magical.

The trail head to marble Meadows is boat access and requires a short water crossing of Buttle Lake from the Augerpoint Day Use Area on Buttle Lake Parkway. This 10 minute paddle is not only a lovely start to the hike, but it also acts as a bit of a deterrent to less ambitious hikers...or those without access to a boat. Those who do make the crossing, however, will be rewarded with an awesome hike, multiple peaks and access to some of the most unique terrain on Vancouver Island. And, they will more than likely have it all to themselves. No canoe or kayak? You could always swim, I suppose;). Hint: the wind picks up and turns the lake into an intimidating storm of white caps from about 12noon until 6pm. Cross early, or cross late, or know your water rescue skills.

Once you secure your boat across the lake at at Phillips Creek Marine campsite, you will be greeted with a classic Vancouver Island alpine approach trail. Read: straight up for 2 hours or more. You will gain 1200m of elevation over a scant 7kms and travel countless switchbacks to reach the alpine above. Hikers can expect the climb to take 2.5-4 hours of steady hiking. The trek up to the alpine travels through one of the most beautiful forests I have seen in Strathcona Park. A beautiful south facing slope allows warmth and light to reach the moss covered forest floor, unlike many of the dark, thick northern facing approaches on the Park. The switchbacks are very forgiving at the start, but grow tighter and steeper as the trail reaches the sub alpine. Personally, I find the Island's forest approaches to be just as beautiful, in their own way, as the alpine terrain high above.

You will know when you reach the top. The view is breathtaking. Buttle Lake glistens and shines far below and the tree's become sparse. There are many adventures to choose from once you reach the plateau. Lakes, peaks, traverse treks and multi-day routes to far away mountains, including the Golden Hinde, are all accessible from the Marble Meadows trail. There are camping spots (flattish and a safe distance from the precious lakes) when you first reach the plateau or you can carry on another 1-2 hours to reach the Wheaton Hut. One of very few huts allowed to stand in the Park, the Wheaton Hut is a great spot to ride out a storm, warm up, or even spend the night if you chose to leave your heavy tent at home. Mount McBride, Marble Mountain and Morrison Spire are all well within striking distance from the plateau and offer easy to moderately difficult summit opportunities.

With so many different adventures to choose from and so much fantastic scenery, Marble Meadows is a must see and the area is likely to call you back again and again.

Distance: 7km (4.4 miles) to the crest...and many more beyond.Elevation gain: 1200m (4000 ft) “”.

Happy Trails!

More Information:Beyond Nootka – A Historical Perspective of Vancouver Island Mountains, Lindsay Elms, Misthorn Press, 1996, ISBN 0-919537-29-4For route information further into the backcountry, refer to Island Alpine – A Guide to The Mountains of Strathcona Park and Vancouver Island, Philip Stone, Wild Isle Publications, 2003, ISBN 0-9680766-5-3Backroad Mapbook. Volume III: Vancouver Island

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🥈 Contributor

about 5 years ago

An Island Gem in the Centre of a Crown of Jewels

Clearly, given our overlapping reports (https://www.theoutbound.com/canada/hiking/hiking-through-marble-meadows-to-the-wheaton-hut), I'm in complete agreement with Sarah that this trip is a must-do, regardless the additional effort required. When Jennie and I did it for the first time, in a July, we were gobsmacked the entire time by not only the landscape, but also the proliferation of wildflowers on display. Looking forward to returning and staging from the Wheaton Hut for a return to the Golden Hinde by a different route than my previous climb/run (https://www.theoutbound.com/canada/backpacking/summiting-the-golden-hinde).

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