Wall Lake is a pristine gem in BC accessed from Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada.
Fields of grain and grasses glow green and golden in early morning sun and further south host hundreds of wind-driven, electricity generating turbines. These monster, high-tech windmills spin gracefully to harness the power of the wind and supplement the province's electrical grid.
There is time to drive through, rather than around, the small town of Pincher Creek, in south-western Alberta, whose historic downtown seems frozen in time. The town has been an important ranching and farming hub since the late 1800's, where prairies meet mountains. South of Pincher Creek, mountains to the west and shrouded in cloud, begin to encroach on the field of vision as the final approach to Waterton Lakes National Park continues.
After purchasing the annual National Parks Pass (now upgraded to Discovery Pass with additional access to a plethora of other Canadian attractions), the long-standing reservation at the Bear Mountain Motel is confirmed prior to reserving a seat on tomorrow's Cameron Lake Shuttle with Tamarack Outdoor Outfitters.
Tomorrow features one of the hikes in the Waterton Lakes National Park Triple Crown as a highlight hike for this mission. The drive west from Waterton Village on the nearby Akamina Parkway is about 15 KM (9⅜ miles) to the trail-head for Akamina Pass. The choice, for this day, is a hike to Wall Lake as a warm-up for tomorrow's main event.
The trail-head is in Alberta but Wall Lake is in British Columbia. The popular Wall Lake hike is listed, in the excellent My Waterton Visitor's Guide, as a 10.4 KM (6½ miles) round trip hike with 110 m (361 ft) of net elevation and an estimated elapsed time of 3.5 hrs. Perfect!
The excellent, well-maintained and predominantly road width trail quickly changes to a gentle and consistent elevation gain through lush forest with the occasional meadow providing views of richly colored surrounding ridges.
A wooden bridge over a minor creek crossing near the 1.5 KM (1 mile) mark is close to the Alberta - British Columbia border marker. The hike changes from Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta to become a hike within Akamina-Kishinena Provincial Park in British Columbia. To the right is a concrete border marker. Another faint and dead fall-discouraged trail, not on the map, continues to the right from the provincial boundary marker.
On the British Columbia side of the border kiosk, a sign for Forum Lake makes no mention of Wall Lake. About 0.7 KM (½ mile) later the trail marker post lists the branch to Forum Lake, as well as the continuance to Wall Lake and points beyond.
Continuing straight to Wall Lake a short, gradual descent arrives at Akamina Creek Campsite which likely has an outhouse and a turn right enters the pleasantly appointed backcountry campground (Self registration - minimal fee). Rustic stairs lead past the dining area and metal food cache up to attractive camp sites around and above an old, collapsed and roped-off log cabin of unknown origin and historical significance. Most importantly, there is a very fine biffy for every gender.
Back on the Akamina Pass Trail a short distance further a platform bridge crosses Akamina Creek and signage clearly identifies the junction heading left to Wall Lake. Two short bridges over a small cascading water creekbed lead to a stony, curving incline and subsequently to beautiful trail through lush forest.
Elevation changes are minimal. About 2.0 KM (1¹⁄₃ miles) later, broad avalanche chutes to the left lead to a profusely flowered meadow as the very impressive headwall appears and continuing trail tracks adjacent to Wall Creek.
The wooden bridge over Wall Creek leads to, then along, the north shoreline of the pristine,crystal-clear, alpine emerald lake. Along the north shore, the hike proceeds through incredible forest damage. Kudos to trail maintenance crews who have worked very hard to clear a path through virtually impenetrable debris. Huge trees have been uprooted or broken apart. The force to create this level of damage would be huge.
The cause is likely massive avalanche from the headwall or hurricane force winds. Often the air displacement from a huge avalanche can create a force sufficiently powerful to cause this kind of damage. Trail maintenance crews have cleared trail past the junction to Bennet Pass and a short distance beyond to the outhouse. Their effort is appreciated. Beyond the biffy remains a tangle of difficult to navigate fallen and shattered lumber.
Exiting the outhouse, a large spider is enjoying a freshly caught meal. The Wall Lake hike returns east along the north shore where the color and tranquility of the water is mesmerizing. Past the bridge, avalanche chutes down the steep slopes of Akamina Ridge are on the right as the same trail taken in offers a new and entirely different perspective of surrounding lush terrain.
Reaching the trail junction to Forum Lake brings about a pensive moment...Hmmm. On the other hand, there is a challenging, full-day hike firmly scheduled for tomorrow. The responsible and sensible thing to do is, call it a day, return to Waterton Village, and hike to Forum Lake another time.
It is easy to understand why the half-day Wall Lake hike is so popular. This magnificent hike provides excellent trail with a variety of spectacular features and vistas. Gross elevation is double the published net elevation but this hike is within the reach of a broad range of hikers and is well worth the time.