Forum Lake is a short, easy hike to a beautiful, pristine gem in British Columbia, Canada.
The hike to Forum Lake begins at the Akamina Pass trail-head on the Akamina Parkway west of Waterton Village just shy of road's end at Cameron Lake. This hike is listed in the My Waterton Visitors Guide as 8.8 KMs (5½ miles) round trip with net elevation gain of 350 m (1,148 ft) and an estimated elapsed time of 3 hours.
The approach to Forum Lake via the Akamina Pass trail-head also leads to Wall Lake. The gradual and consistent grade continues on excellent, wide trail for 1.5 KM (1.0 miles) to the sign and kiosk at Akamina Pass on the Alberta - British Columbia border.
Straddling provincial boundary marker Number 4H, a short distance from the kiosk, allows standing in two provinces at the same time. This experience is about half as exciting as standing at Four Corners but still a unique opportunity.
The distance from the provincial border to the clearly signed Forum Lake junction is about 0.7 KM (½ of a mile). Within a short distance on level, excellent quality trail, arrival at the unoccupied and boarded up Ranger Station provides access to pit toilets as well as clear signage for Forum Falls and Forum Lake.
Trail past the bicycle rack leading to Forum Lake is initially flat but soon steepens into aggressive elevation gain on stony trail. Within a short distance the trail splits to the clearly signed Forum Falls which is just a few meters beyond the junction and worthy of the brief diversion.
Further uphill there is another junction, this one unsigned, to another waterfall off to the right, which is again worthy of the brief hike. The view back from this fall provides an excellent view of Forum Creek cascading beneath the longer view to the mountain landscape beyond.
Forum Lake trail narrows and continues steeply upward on varied surface. As the trail begins to level, there is a curve which leads to a platform bridge over Forum Creek where crystal-clear cold water melds with wildflowers, lush evergreen and deciduous trees, copious shrubbery, driftwood and colored rock.
The location is stunningly beautiful, surrealistic, almost appearing artificial, and only a prelude of what is to come. When it becomes possible to put down the camera and continue the hike, another brief ascent passes bear grass glowing in the sun before arrival at a short, primitive log bridge over mud showing clear prints from deer and bear.
The mud crossing leads to a wildflower garden which defies adequate description. The long, narrow, plank boardwalk over level marshland traverses a visual feast of horticultural harmony. It is difficult to imagine a team of talented gardeners could duplicate what nature has randomly assembled here. The display of trees, running water, ponds, trees, dead wood and rock is stunningly beautiful. The camera captures small slices of this visual marvel but there is no substitute for the sweeping vision, sound and aroma. Standing here is essential
This incredible wildflower meadow leads to dry, flat trail into the basin which contains Forum Lake beneath Forum Peak. Forum Lake is a tiny, emerald lake emphasized by the massive, surrounding, volumes of rock. Forum Lake appears to be about one-third the size of Wall Lake.
On the final approach to Forum Lake, there is a sole deer feeding on shrubbery very near the spot chosen to capture photos. The expectation is the deer will flee as the distance between us gets shorter, however the deer seems completely ambivalent to the process. As photographs are taken, the deer approaches and stands nearby. It seems like this beautiful and gentle doe, only a few feet away, may speak and perhaps offer suggestions for a better photo.
There is a signed trail, a very short distance to the right, from the Forum Lake shoreline for the hike to, and along, the top of Akamina Ridge. Not for the faint of heart, this hike/scramble loop high above, and over to, Wall Lake creates an entertaining, aggressive full-day project for the more experienced and hardy hiker. Given the firm plan for tomorrow's full day hike, Akamina Ridge must be left for another day.
Reluctantly, the incredible beauty of Forum Lake and deer is left behind with the consolation of hiking the return through spectacular, wildflower meadows. Forum Peak above and its connecting ridge is the barrier separating Forum Lake from Cameron Lake on the other side. Forum Lake is close to the border between British Columbia, Canada and Glacier National Park, Montana in the United States.
The hike to Forum Lake is very special. Wall Lake and Forum Lake can be done as separate half day hikes or they can be hiked on the same day. The combined 15 KM (9⅜ mile) hike, with estimated gross elevation near 550 m (1,800 ft) and tomorrow this more aggressive than planned day may be a regret.
The drive back to Waterton Village, provides the opportunity to enjoy a hearty meal at Zum's Eatery before getting to bed early and hoping for full recovery before tomorrow's long-day mission hiking the Carthew-Alderson Trail (or Alderson-Carthew) between Cameron Lake and Cameron Falls.