While researching hikes to South Buller Pass and a portion of North Buller Pass, I discover an easy trail near the first parking area at the Buller Mountain Day Use Area on the Smith-Dorrien Trail (gravel road 742) about 32 KM (20 miles) south of Canmore, Alberta. First, I capture images of Buller Pond from the Smith-Dorrien Trail and then, from the second parking area, with picnic tables and washroom facilities.
There is a short, easy trail 1.1 KM (0.7 miles) one-way and, call it 30 m (100 ft) of gentle, gradual elevation. The trailhead is obvious when you know where it is but there are decoys in the parking area which have me wandering about aimlessly on game trails which lead nowhere in very nice forest. To access the trail head, walk out of the first parking lot, in the direction away from the Smith Dorrien Trail, around or past the stop sign, and towards the second parking area at Buller Pond. Within a few metres there is an unsigned, unmarked, narrow clearing on the right which looks exactly like the photo below. This is the start of trail.
Within a few metres there is an easy-to-navigate, small, mound of rocks to and the trail becomes more distinct on the other side, then clearly veers to the right into very beautiful forest. From here it is clear and easy hiking.
About halfway, the forest trail breaks into an open, grassy area which is damp. In spring, I would expect it to be wet. In fall it is likely dry. Little hikers may benefit from shoes which are secured to their feet, combined with long pants and shirt sleeves so the grass (which will be taller to them) will not freak them out. They can touch with their hands if they choose and adults can teach, lead by example and encourage the first-time, little ones.
Back in the forest, this beautiful walk gently descends trail strewn with evergreen cones. You may notice the sound of rushing water to the left, in addition to the breeze whistling through the tree tops.
Soon, the sight of open sky ahead will promise pending arrival at Spray Lake Reservoir.
At Spray Lake, beautiful mountain views open up around the lake. there is a resting area with logs to sit on. There is no beach and children need to be watched carefully, but there are lots of flat rocks available to build cairns or castles.
Just around the corner, to the right, is a great view of 2,975 m (9,760 ft) Mount Nestor.
The short return is a gentle uphill hike, but the gradual elevation gain is barely noticeable. Shortly after leaving the lake, the sound of rushing water appears again and, if you venture a very short distance offtrail to the right, you may see white-water rapids at the bottom of the adjacent valley.
This easy trail is nearly straight from one end to the other. The gradual gain in elevation on the return provides a bit of exercise and the calm, cool forest, combined with sound and scent, is peaceful and relaxing. A welcome, natural interlude from everyday living.
This short, easy hike is ideal for beginners, for families with young children, or people wanting a leisurely, scenic walk. Combined with a picnic at Buller Pond, this has all the earmarks of a very nice day in the mountains.
For those unaware, there are rules against gathering wood from the forest and picking flowers. I have heard of fines being levied. The personal policy of leaving no trace and taking only pictures is a noble and worthwhile goal. It is considerate of people who follow.