Bourgeau Lake - Banff National Park - Hiking Alberta

 

Bourgeau Lake is an alpine gem in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada.

 

 

The forecast is unattractive but mountain weather follows no rules.  So, the early morning drive west, from Calgary, Alberta on the TransCanada Highway proceeds through storms into progressively improving weather.  Mountains are mystically shrouded by slow motion cloud. 

By arrival time at the parking area for the clearly marked Bourgeau Lake trail-head just 2.8 KMs (1¾ miles) past the exit to Sunshine Village,  the sky is overcast but there is no rain.  Sunshine Village hosts the trail-head to Healy Pass and connecting trails.  The clouds have an intimidating posture, however, the planned shall proceed with the expectation rain gear will likely be employed.  Nothing ventured: nothing gained.  No guts: no glory.

 

Bourgeau Lake - Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada Clouds in the distance have an intimidating appearance

 

At the trail-head, the entrance proceeds past chain link fence on three metal steps up, through a self-closing gate, and down to the trail.  This access mechanism keeps animals away from traffic on the nearby TransCanada Highway

The hike to Bourgeau Lake continues on good trail to an objective consuming 7.5 KMs (4¾ miles) of distance one way, with elevation gain of 710 meters (2,330 ft) to a maximum elevation of 2,155 meters (7,070 ft).

 

Bourgeau Lake - Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada At the customary trail-head kiosk containing a map and trail information.

 

Recent precipitation has left the excellent, moss-bordered trail easy on the feet and amazingly aromatic.

 

Bourgeau Lake - Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada An excellent hike to Bourgeau Lake with gradual elevation on moss-lined trail through forest bordered by wildflowers and shrubbery

 

The hike tracks above the Wolverine River and intervening dense forest keeps the river occasionally heard and seldom seen.  There are periodic views of adjacent mountains with summits shrouded in mist gradually lifting as the sun reluctantly warms the day.

 

Bourgeau Lake - Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada Limestone layers in trail-side mountains reveal solution caves as mist in the valley, and at the summit, gradually drift skyward

 

Bourgeau Lake - Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada Ascent is gradual for the initial 5.5 KMs (3.4 miles) and abundant aromatic flora make the distance seem shorter

 

At 3.7 KMs (2¹⁄₃ miles) we cross a newly replaced wooden bridge over the white water of a tributary feeding Wolverine River.  Substantial and unusually prolonged snow pack at higher elevations keeps running water fast and plentiful.

 

Bourgeau Lake - Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada A newly constructed wooden bridge over a tributary of Wolverine River

 

Bourgeau Lake - Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada The loud and powerful white water of a Wolverine River tributary along the trail to Bourgeau Lake in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Along the trail there are waterfalls on both sides of the valley.  A large avalanche chute is easily identified by a forest break, damaged and stunted trees, and dead fall swept up the opposite side of the valley bottom.

 

Bourgeau Lake - Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada The view from the trail down an avalanche chute to lumber debris at valley bottom

 

Bourgeau Lake - Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada Checking out a small, gentle waterfall down the mountain-side which creates a snow bridge under a sun-protected drift

 

Bourgeau Lake - Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada The interior of the snow bridge is large enough to crawl into for a fascinating photo. There is light at the end of the tunnel.

 

At the 5.5 KM (3⅜ mile) mark, the approach and crossing of the Wolverine River is complicated by the bridge being taken out by voluminous, tumbling water but the rock-bundle base remains largely intact so jumping across keeps feet relatively dry.  The crossing on the return hike may be complicated by increased water flow from melt above as the day warms.

Later in the season, when water flow subsides, the crossing will be easier even if the bridge is not replaced.  Cascading water falls above the bridge and huge snow bridges soon conceal the flow below the crossing location.

 

Bourgeau Lake - Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada Cascading water above our trail crossing point over Wolverine River fed by Bourgeau Lake and other alpine lakes above

 

On the far side of Wolverine River, the rocky trail steepens over switchbacks.  As elevation gain becomes more aggressive, phenomenal views begin to unfold. 

 

Bourgeau Lake - Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada A view back as altitude is gained above the valley just hiked through.

 

A kilometer (⅝ mile) later, the trail straightens and levels as the hike proceeds into a narrowing valley beneath surrounding mountains on the final approach to Bourgeau Lake.  Sand pathways, constructed through a brief wetland area, keep the feet dry and protect this delicate and quite beautiful environment.

 

Bourgeau Lake - Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada The rocky trail straightens and flattens on the approach to Bourgeau Lake in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Bourgeau Lake - Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada The narrowing valley floor passes through wetlands surrounded by spectacular mountains.

 

Bourgeau Lake - Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada Wetland ponds on the approach to Bourgeau Lake reflect surrounding mountains

 

Bourgeau Lake - Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada Sand trails protect the environmentally sensitive wetlands near Bourgeau Lake in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Visually stunning Bourgeau Lake pops into view from forest at the trail junction.  A quick hop on partially submerged rocks across the lake's outflow onto scree rockfall navigates near two very large enticing boulders which will serve as an ideal location for lunch.  

Two chipmunks scurry back and forth to share lunch.  The beauty of Bourgeau Lake motivates a continuance to Harvey Pass above but this extension will be covered in a separate, subsequent post. 

Bourgeau Lake is named after Eugene Bourgeau who was a French-born botanist who served with the Palliser Expedition in 1857 - 1859.  The beauty of the location is stunning.  Photographs cannot do justice to the overall experience.

 

Bourgeau Lake - Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada Bourgeau Lake - Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Bourgeau Lake - Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada Bourgeau Lake - Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Bourgeau Lake - Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada Bourgeau Lake - Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Bourgeau Lake - Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada Bourgeau Lake - Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Bourgeau Lake - Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada Bourgeau Lake - Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Bourgeau Lake - Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada Bourgeau Lake and the access to Harvey Pass in the background - Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Bourgeau Lake - Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada Bourgeau Lake - Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Bourgeau Lake - Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada Bourgeau Lake - Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

 

 

 

 

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Comments

It is a good hike with gentle elevation gain and outstanding views at the lake. The forest access is long but I would recommend the hike as worthwhile with a good effort / reward ratio. For the more physically fit, the extension to Harvey Pass is definitely worthwhile, through a broad range of terrain, to outstanding views and features. Thank you for your comment, Simon.

That snow bridge is awesome, I have never seen anything like that before. You have some lovely pictures there, certainly looks like a great place to visit.

This was my first hike to Bourgeau Lake. I have always passed it by as too lacklustre. It is true the first few kilometres are mainly forest but on this day we were blessed with dynamic sky and multiple waterfalls from latent snow pack. There were many snow bridges and white water was putting on quite a show. There is something about fast water that is good for the soul. Another real advantage for a new hiker is gentle and consistent elevation gain. After hopping across Wolverine River, switchbacks provide a bit of a workout and more aggressive elevation gain for a short distance. There is a beautiful flat wetland on the final approach to the stunningly beautiful alpine lake. Those rejunvenated by lunch at the lake, and sufficient energy remaining, can hike a more challenging 2.5 kilometres to Harvey Pass for spectacular, sweeping vistas. In my opinion the first, or both segments offer good reward - effort ratios. From the pass the summit of Mount Bourgeau is easily achievable but it will require an early start and a long day commitment. Thanks for your comment, D. I am pleased you enjoyed the photos. They offer a small portion of the scenery and although they are no substitute for standing there and turning the head, for hearing the birds and and the rushing water, or for enjoying the enchanting aroma, maybe the photos will be good enough to convince someone to go.

I need to have a closer look at this area too. I've often wondered about the lake and the pass, yet also too about the scramble up there. Great photo's Barry. DSD

The access to Bourgeau Lake could be described as a bit monotonous but we were very lucky to be there with snow bridges and fast white water in lush, aromatic forest. It is a good early season ramp up on a relatively even grade and a beautiful, pristine alpine lake, with access on both ends, surrounded by majestic mountains. There is a short bit of a push towards the end but a spectacular and very peaceful lunch spot is just reward. For the suitably fit, a continuation to Harvey Pass offers greater reward. Stiffer climb, but short, and the trip back is all downhill. Thank you for your comment, Dave.

Haha. Nice clouds. I've got to get back there. Some way some how. Such nice terrain. That snow bridge is something else.

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