Some days it’s more about the company than the destination. However, I suggest waiting for a clear day to go all the way to the summit of Mount St Benedict. Don’t bother just going to McKay Lake: the trail is mediocre (and involves a steep stretch of well-used logging road) and the lake shore is damp and marshy, with no exploration options that we could see.
There’s a decent-sized parking area on the side of the Lost Creek FSR, just north of the bridge over Murdo Creek. The trailhead is just south of the bridge on the east side of the FSR, and is marked by flagging tape.
The first section of the trail is mostly decent, a couple of steep sections with loose dirt. Note there is a fork in the trail about 1 km in: the left fork seems to be the current preferred route, but I explored the right fork as well and it’s in perfectly good condition, with the exception of the final few metres up to the road. It’s clear that water drains off the road here and washes down the trail. It’s also a tight squeeze between a large log and encroaching foliage but is quite manageable. The left fork has a couple of steep loose dirt sections which are unpleasant to come down. I dunno: I think the right fork is much nicer. Both are marked with flagging tape, although the newer route has way more.
The 2-km portion along Murdo Creek FSR is tedious as the FSR is quite steep and the surface is loose. It’s perfectly drivable but you’d need good tyres and four-wheel drive. However, it doesn’t last too long (at least with good company) so it didn’t feel as bad as I was expecting. There’s a cliff face with a creek trickling down that must be a nice waterfall after rain. There’s a lot of in-your-face logging evidence with clearcuts and slash piles. Battered old culverts have been dumped at the roadside in a couple of spots. The turn off the FSR is well marked with copious flagging tape (and a lost snowshoe!). There is parking for a few vehicles here too if you can make it this far. In the forest the trail is mixed: some parts are a nice mini-ridge walk, others are damp and muddy, or classic Coast Mountains picking your way around rocks and slippery tree roots. The trail crosses the outlet creek from McKay Lake on a makeshift log bridge and well-established logjam. There’s an open area at the lake shore with views to the cliffs and boulders across the lake, but it’s a bit squishy and there doesn’t look to be any further exploration options.
Wildlife: a few birds, a northern flicker, a hairy or downy woodpecker, a wren, what may have been brown creepers (going by flight and behaviour). Pikas could be heard squeaking among the rocks on the far side of the lake.
Flowers: at lower elevations, flower season is pretty much done. A few pearly everlasting are hanging on, along with some hardhack and a couple of persistent foxgloves. Oregon grape berries are ripening. We saw evidence of ghost plant, pinesap, coralroot, trillium, bunchberry, goat’s beard, western lily-of-the-valley, rosy twistedstalk, rattlesnake plantain.
Distance: 8 km
Elevation gain: 560 m
Time: 4 hours (including nearly an hour at the lake)
Route on AllTrails
- 🙂 Enjoying the company of friends;
- 🙂 Watching the mist drift through the tree tops;
- 🙂 Hearing pikas squeak in the rocks on the opposite side of the lake;
- 🙂 Purple fungi!
- ☹️ Walking past logging clearcuts and huge slash piles;
- ☹️ Boring walk on steep rocky/dusty logging road;
- ☹️ Smouldering campfires left by campers! WTF people?!
2 thoughts on “McKay Lake, 6 Sep 2020”
Thanks for your objective account of the good, bad and ugly. I can’t believe people leave smouldering campfires! Like your moody photo.
Thanks Caroline! Yes, we couldn’t believe that, especially with the situation south of the border. One was right next to the lake, too, so there was absolutely no excuse.