Glacier Lake, Banff National Park

An easy to fair hike, Glacier Lake trail head is on the west-side of highway 93 just north of Saskatchewan Crossing. The trail is about 17km round-trip and it took us 2 hours 17 minutes one way. Time will vary according to how fast you walk and how much you like to stop and smell the roses. We generally like to stop more on the way out and less on the way back. Here is the trace from the hike:  glacier lake

Stepping off from the parking lot the trail is easy and leads to a foot-bridge over the North Saskatchewan River.  Just beyond the bridge is a view point over the Howse River and Howse Pass with a couple of well-placed Algonquin chairs to soak up the incredible beauty of the place. Howse Pass was an important hunting and trading route for the aboriginal peoples for centuries and became a short-lived route for the Hudsons Bay Company in the early fur trade.

Beyond the vista the trail descends along the Howse River for a stretch then heads back into the trees. Along the river is a good place to wet your schemagh as it can be quite warm on the march. The trail crosses a couple of springs which I would use to refill my canteen as required.  You may want to bring along some water purification tabs if you had any concerns about drinking from the stream. We avoided dipping into any stationary water even to wet garments.  While I have always liked that swampy smell, it wouldn’t do to wrap yourself in brackish water, or attempt to drink it without special purification gear.

The trail leads up to a hill that you get the pleasure of climbing twice (unless you egress on another route). It is not what we would consider difficult but overall the trail rises about 300m, most of which is climbing over this hill.As you descend SW the payoff springs up from between the trees with the glimpse of the turquoise waters of Glacier Lake. The camera never does justice to what the eye sees, but the picture gives a tantalizing taste of what the vista will be.

The lake is fed from mountain run-off and also from underground springs that melodiously tinkle from underfoot. On a bright and sunny day, like we hiked in on, a person could sit all day and just soak up the sights, sounds and smells this place has to offer. Which luckily, you can do as there is a back-country campground here also.

The pay-off is always in the vista. There is a trail that carries on around the north side of the lake and heads towards the glacier behind, however, that will add another several kilometers to the day’s hike.  The trail diverges just east of Glacier Lake and heads towards the trails in the Howse Pass where you can connect to that extensive, but I understand, not well kept trail system.  There is the option of heading north in the Howse Pass to the Icefields Parkway and it appears to connect just south of Howse Pass Lookout.

Park Resources:

Glacier Lake

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