Backpack to Moat Lake

Rate this Adventure Canada Paradise Meadows Trailhead

Added by DJ Williams

This 7.5 mile hike along the Forbidden Plateau leads to one of the most spectacular settings in Strathcona Provincial Park. Moat Lake is deep, blue, full of rainbow trout and framed by amazing mountains. backpacker's paradise!

Starting at the Paradise Meadows Trailhead (3,600'), the trail to Moat Lake takes you through subalpine forest and lush meadows along Strathcona Provincial Park's Forbidden Plateau. The trail is well-marked and easy to follow as it winds past Lake Helen Mackenzie and onward past to the numerous lakes of the Plateau. 

One of the most picturesque lakes is Moat Lake.  Nestled below Castlecrag Mountain, Moat Lake is the perfect end to a moderate 7.5 mile hike which ascends approximately 1150'.  The water is clear, cold, and teeming with rainbow trout that readily hit a spinner or sip a dry fly. 

While there are many places to camp along the way and at Moat Lake, a particular treat is a stay at Moat Lake Retreat located on 13-acre Stuart Wood Island. This is truly a unique place. Years ago, prior to the creation of Strathcona Provincial Park, the Wood Family purchased the island. When the park was created, the Wood Family retained ownership and (lucky for us) rents the island and its two cabins to those that want to make the trip. 

While the two A-frame cabins (one sleeping 6 and the other sleeping 4) offer more amenities than backpacking, this is not "glamping" and they are as rustic as you would expect a Canadian fish camp to be. The "Big Cabin" does have a generator for night time card playing, a propane refrigerator, propane stove, plates, utensils, and cooking gear.  There is also a rowboat and a motorboat with a 2 hp motor.  There is a "swimming hole" on the island that is warmed by the sun but we found swimming in Moat Lake to be more enjoyable, albeit a bit chilly.  The waterfalls at the far end of the Moat Lake are accessed only by boat and make for a memorable shower as well.  

Our family (mom/dad and three kids ages 17,14, and 11) stayed at Moat Lake in July 2014 and the weather was perfect.  We swam, boated, fished, hiked, chilled, and reconnected as only nature allows. Don't be put off by the name.  The "Forbidden" Plateau in general and Moat Lake in particular are bucket list destinations. One of the best trips ever! 

Pack List

  • Backpack
  • Trekking poles
  • Sleeping Bags (the cabins have bedding but I recommend bringing your own bags.  The cabins have foam pads to sleep on wooden bunks)
  • Food (The cabins do have some items such as salt, pepper, flour, some spices and condiments)  We brought backpacking meals for the time we stayed.  No need for a stove if you are staying at the cabins.
  • Bear Spray (We didn't see any bears but there are bears in Strathcona)
  • Swim suits
  • Water shoes to scramble on the rocky shores
  • Fishing gear (the cabins do have some fishing rods and tackle but best to bring your own)
  • Sunglasses, sunscreen, and mosquito spray
  • Your best camera and plenty of film or digital space
  • Map (you can get this at the trailhead)
Read More

Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More



Backpacking, Chillin, Fishing, Hiking, Photography, Swimming

Skill Level:




Trail Type:



15 Miles

Elev. Gain:

1150 Feet


Family Friendly
Swimming Hole

Are we missing something?

Suggest an edit

How to Get There

Have you done this adventure? Have something to add? You could be the first to leave a review!

Added by DJ Williams

Husband to my best friend and father of three great kids who love to get out and see the world from the trail. We all have wanderlust and are always looking forward to what is over the next mountain and around the next bend. Can't wait for the next adventure!!

More Adventures Nearby

Scramble Down to Nanaimo's Hidden Cove

Canada / Stephenson Road Lookout

Firstly, use google maps to take you to Stephenson Rd in Nanaimo.

Tanner Thompson
1 Saves

Catch the Salmon Run on Vancouver Island

Canada / Stamp River Falls Parking Lot

There are many places to see the Salmon making their yearly return to spawning sites. This year while living on Vancouver Island I could not pass on the chance to marvel at this amazing sight.

Tanner Thompson
2 Saves

Hike to Bragg Creek Ice Cave

Canada / Canyon Creek Trail

Also known as Moose Mountain Ice Cave, Canyon Creek Ice Cave and Ing Mine. The cave is located on the west side of Moose Ridge andhas a huge entrance, it is approximately1,600 ft. in depth.

Rayne Grein
2 Saves