Distance: 31 km
Time: 2-3 days
Elevation Change: 570 m
Season: June - Oct
Access: See Getting to the Sunshine Coast Trail
If continuing the Sunshine Coast Trail from the previous stage then cross the Powell Lake bridge and, if in need of provisions, follow the road into the old townsite area. A number of small shops and restaurants will be found adjacent to the pulp mill. To regain the trailhead look for a dirt road veering to the left immediately after crossing the bridge at km 50.5. The trail follows a disused side track at the end of the road, 80 metres away. 700 metres further on the route double backs to the right and uphill. If you reach an active log dump then you have missed the turn off. Climb a hundred metres or so up to an active logging road then turn right, looking for orange trail markers some 70 metres down the road on the opposite side from which you came. From the outset the trail climbs steeply over rocky slopes but in little over a kilometre it will bring you back down to Mowat Bay [km 52.8]. Though camping here is not possible swimming certainly is. The small park has a boat launch, washrooms and a snack bar. Look for the trail to resume behind the volleyball courts at the waters edge. A short distance along the trail a sign will confirm that you are plodding along Tony's Trail as the next 5.5 km section to Haywire Bay Regional Park is called.
The route from Mowat Bay to Haywire Bay [km 58.3] is uneventful save for Wednesday Point at km 55.4 which is an ideal spot to skinny dip or even set up a waterfront home for the night. After crossing the bridge at km 57 turn left and follow the logging road downhill to the boat launch. The lakeside trail is on the left near the bottom of the road and leads, half a click away, to the Haywire Bay camping area. Though just 7.8 km beyond the bridge at Powell Lake, the facility here is a sheer delight to footsore travelers, offering a chance to tidy up with hot showers. If such organized camping is not your thing however, pick up the trail, this time to Lost Lake, about 150 metres past the entrance to the camping area.
Lost Lake and Inland Lake
Thus far the hiking on Stage 3 of the Sunshine Coast Trail has been relatively easy with much of the first 8.5 kilometres being both well-traveled and well-maintained. At km 59 however bushwhacking may be necessary, depending on the season, as pioneer species rush to fill the gap in the forest created by a recent clearcut. Watch carefully for trail markers and black bears. A kilometre later the trail moves up to old-growth topped bluffs. Tiny Lost Lake is not so much missing as it is misplaced. You'll find it at km 62. Look for carnivorous, jewel-dappled sundew at the swampy foreshore. Half a kilometre past the pond the trails zigzags 30 metres to the right down a disused logging road before resuming its march towards Inland Lake. Though the trail forks a few minutes further on, both forks lead to Inland Lake. During wetter times the left fork is reportedly dryer.
The hard-packed, gravel surface of the Inland Lake Trail is level and even wheelchair accessible. Turn right upon reaching it and circle the lake in a counter clockwise direction. There are many sites suited to picnicing, camping swimming or fishing along the circle route with outhouses established at regular intervals. The Sunshine Coast Trail veers off to the right [km 66.8] onto a footpath called Confederation Lake Trail after four kilometres of very easy lakeside walking. Stay with Inland Lake trail for 500 metres past the turn off to reach Antony Island, reportedly the best camping in the area. Spend the night here and you will understand why the locals call this Loon Lake.
Onward and Upward Next morning backtrack to the sign for Confederation Lake fully prepared to overcome the most demanding section of trail yet. The path climbs to an altitude of 630 metres as it cuts through significant stands of ancient forest. Expect to encounter blowdowns, some of them quite huge, particularly in the spring and early summer. At the far end of Confederation Lake at km 74.1 look forward to finding all the comforts of home. There is a cozy cabin capable of housing six for a night and a picnic area complete with spiffy biffy. Prior to being swallowed up by forestry mega-giant Weyerhaeuser, McMillan Blodel set aside Confederation Lake and environs for posterity. As you'll be losing the elevation you gained the previous day the final 7.3 km section of trail from Confederation Lake to Fiddlehead Farm [km 81.4] should prove easier going. At the height of summer however finding water along the way may be difficult. Err on the side of caution and pack enough to meet your needs from the outset. On the way the monotony of forest trudging is regularly broken up by bluffs overlooking Powell Lake and Goat Island to the north.
For a bit of wilderness luxury look for the turn off to Fiddlehead Farm at km 80.5. The 33 hectare international wilderness hostel boasts a wood-fired sauna, budget-priced rooms, campground and farm-fresh viands. Those hoping to return to civilization the easy way can board a speed boat back to the Shinglemill Pub & Restaurant at the bottom of Powell Lake for $20. Runs back to town are generally scheduled for Mondays and Fridays and, like the hostel, are available by prior arrangement only. Those intent on keeping to the wilderness as much as possible should detour to Giavanno Lake for a more primitive camping experience.