Lillian Lake and Galatea Lakes – Kananaskis Country – Hiking Alberta

 

Lillian Lake and Galatea Lakes are alpine gems in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada.  Obsolete!

 

 

This post describes a hike several years prior to the devastating June 2013 floods which destroyed the former Galatea Lakes trail.  Many of the photos are for archival purposes only.  This post should not be used for current hiking research.

The Guinn's Pass trail referenced in this post has been decommissioned and is unavailable for passage between the Lillian Lakes trail and Guinn's Pass.  Older maps will need to be updated.

 

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.

 

Lillian Lake and Galatea Lakes – Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Approaching Lillian Lake, on The Galatea Lakes Trail in Kananaskis Country

 

Lillian Lake and Galatea Lakes – Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Dead fall on the shoreline of Lillian Lake

 

Lillian Lake and Galatea Lakes – Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Shoreline at the empty Lillian Lake wilderness campground

 

Lillian Lake and Galatea Lakes – Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada View back over Lillian Lake on the ascent to Lower Galatea Lake

 

There is another steep climb over scree and talus to Lower Galatea Lake.

 

Lillian Lake and Galatea Lakes – Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Scree on the approach 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.

 

Lillian Lake and Galatea Lakes – Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Lower Galatea Lake

 

Lillian Lake and Galatea Lakes – Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Looking back at Lower Galatea Lake from the rock dam

 

Lillian Lake and Galatea Lakes – Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Upper Galatea Lake

 

Lillian Lake and Galatea Lakes – Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Caves and waterfalls on the slopes above the Upper Galatea Lake

 

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.

 

Lillian Lake and Galatea Lakes – Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Lillian Lake from Lower Galatea Lake on the return hike

 

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.

 

Lillian Lake and Galatea Lakes – Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Quiet, peaceful reflection at the shore of Lillian Lake

 

Lillian Lake and Galatea Lakes – Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Rapids on the trail-side creek

 

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!

 

Lillian Lake and Galatea Lakes – Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada The roar of this 20 m waterfall is evident from the trail

 

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.

 

Lillian Lake and Galatea Lakes – Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Challenging photography over the edge of a cliff

 

Lillian Lake and Galatea Lakes – Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada The canyon outlet from the waterfall

 

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.

 

 

 

 

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Comments

Yes, if you stop at the Barrier Lake Visitor Information Centre they will help you with directions. They will tell you to drive on Kananaskis Trail (Hwy 40) from the TransCanada Hwy, south past the entrance to the Mount Kidd RV Campground exit to the newly paved and enlarged Galatea parking area. It is a great hike to Lillian Lake, within the reach of a broad range of skillset. There is always the opportunity to take an incorrect turn so I would strongly advise you purchase a hiking guide book and a GemTrek map. It is likely you will use them many times over many years. It is important to carry a bit of reference material with you on your hike. Have a great day and thank you for your comment, Soheil.

Please advise how to get the 'Lillian Lake and Galatea Lakes trail' from Calgary, if we go to info center in Kananaskis we can get to this trail from info center? Thanks.

We did this hike on August 6th, 2017 (Sunday) as Galatea lake trail is open now. Terrace Trail is closed as bear #152 was spotted around this trail. Galatea has been repaired from a winter avalanche. It was a great hike. It was quite busy for most of the trail but we didn't mind given the presence of bear in the area. Some good elevation in certain parts but nothing too crazy if you are in relatively good shape.

Thanks for the update, Luc.

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