Lillian Lake and Galatea Lakes are alpine gems in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada.
Part 1 of this day hike begins from clearly signed parking at the Galatea trail-head along Kananaskis Trail (Hwy 40) in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada. The initial hiking objective is the formidable ascent with multiple bridge crossings along Galatea Creek to the junction which turns right and continues to Guinn's Pass.
This segment is Part 2 from Guinn's Pass to Lillian Lake and beyond to the Lower and Upper Galatea Lakes.
By early afternoon the steep, wet descent from Guinn's Pass is complete back to the trail junction where a right turn will continue on to Lillian Lake and the Upper and Lower Galatea Lakes. Within a kilometer (⅝ of a mile) the hike arrives beside gorgeous Lillian Lake and the nearby, completely abandoned, wilderness campground.
There is another steep climb over scree and talus to Lower Galatea Lake.
These remote and visually stunning lakes were created by massive rock slides many thousands of years ago. The two small lakes reside in an alpine basin surrounded by large mountain peaks and waterfalls.
From Lower Galatea Lake the hike continues along the water line of the north shore on scree slopes before climbing over a pronounced ridge to the Upper Galatea Lake. The skies are clearing to welcome bright sunshine in the cooler air at higher altitude.
At the Upper Galatea Lake it is worth the time to sit in the sun and think, along with about a hundred friendly squirrels who are permanent residents in the rock fall. There are many caves in the surrounding mountains. Some appear accessible but this will be for another day.
On the steep, south scree slope, above the Lower Galatea Lake, there are many game trails which can be used to complete the circumference of the Lower Galatea Lake and potentially link back into the main trail. The rustic trail provides different perspectives of the terrain and a variety of fascinating features that otherwise would have been missed.
This alternative route does not, however, link back to the main trail, but instead leads to a rugged, alternative descent route. The hike on this trail requires working hard, down-climbing steep, rugged slopes on a parallel path back to the campground for well-earned and deserved rest on a log bench beside Lillian Lake.
The day has become sunny and warm, substantially increasing snow melt and creek water volume. On the return, waterfalls are roaring behind the adjacent forest above the trail sections of steep descent. The first off-trail foray into the forest nets a small, beautiful 20 m (66 ft) fall which is easily accessed. WOW!
Further along the Galatea Lakes trail above another steep descent, a bushwhack into the forest to the edge of the canyon reveals a magnificent, multi-tiered, 75 m (246 ft) waterfall free-falling over a rock slab into a narrow, deep and spectacular canyon. The roar of the water is over-whelming and above the main waterfall there are twin cascading falls feeding the main fall.
The perfect picture of this fall requires standing in mid-air at canyon central, which is impossible, so some time is allocated to navigating towards the best vantage point achievable for a compromised photograph.
For the beginning hiker or the fitness compromised, a great day would be an all-day mission from parking at the Galatea trail-head to Lillian Lake with lots of rest stops and a planned wilderness meal at the campground before returning to the car. There are bathroom facilities at both ends.
Reasonably fit hikers could enjoy the same leisurely walk to and from Lillian Lake and add the hike up to the Lower Galatea Lake before returning. Guinn's Pass is a stiff climb and this trip of all locations, Guinn's Pass, Lillian Lake, Lower Galatea Lake, and Upper Galatea Lake, is for a seasoned hiker or the truly masochistic.
Note: This route was seriously modified by the significant June 2013 flooding event. Check in with Alberta Parks to determine current status along the trail.