The hike to Forum Lake begins at the Akamina Pass trailhead on the Akamina Parkway west of Waterton Townsite just shy of road’s end at Cameron Lake. This hike is listed in the My Waterton Visitors Guide as 8.8 KMs (5.5 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 trailhead also leads to Wall Lake. The gradual and consistent grade continues on excellent, wide trail for 1.5 KM (0.94 miles) to the sign and kiosk at Akamina Pass on the Alberta – British Columbia border. There is a provincial boundary marker a short distance north of the kiosk. When I straddle marker No. 4H, I am standing in two provinces at the same time.
The distance from the provincial border to the clearly signed Forum Lake junction is about 0.7 KM (0.44 miles). Within a short distance on level, excellent quality trail, I arrive at the unoccupied and boarded up Ranger Station. There are pit toilets here as well.
Trail past the bicycle rack and 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 metres beyond the junction and well 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 artificial, and only a prelude of what is to come. When I force myself to put down the camera and continue on my way, a brief climb takes me past bear grass glowing in the sun before arriving 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. A 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. It is essential to stand here.
The incredible wildflower meadow leads to dry, flat trail into the basin below Forum Peak which contains Forum Lake. It is a tiny, emerald lake emphasized by the massive, surrounding, volumes of rock. I would estimate the surface area of Forum Lake to be about one-third of Wall Lake.
As I make the final approach to Forum Lake, there is a deer feeding on shrubbery very near the spot I choose to take photos. I expect it to flee as I reduce the distance between us, however the deer seems completely ambivalent to my presence. As I capture my images, the deer approaches me and stands nearby. I am half expecting the beautiful and gentle doe, only a few feet away, to 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 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 my firm plan for tomorrow’s full day hike, Altamira Ridge must be left for another day.
Reluctantly I leave the beauty of Forum Lake, with the consolation I can hike the return through spectacular, wildflower meadows. Forum Peak above me and its connecting ridge is the barrier separating me from Cameron Lake on the other side. I am 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, as I have presented them, or they can be hiked on the same day, as I actually do. The 15 KM (9.4 mile) hike with estimated gross elevation near 550 m (1,800 ft) is much more than the warmup I had planned and I may regret this tomorrow. At some point in my life, I must learn to apply better discipline to my inner child. When will I accept the fact I am no longer 65?
It has been a grand day hiking Wall Lake and Forum Lake. I will return here another day and hike the Altamira Ridge Loop. Now, I will drive back to Waterton Townsite, enjoy a hearty meal at Zum’s Eatery in Waterton, and get to bed early with the hope I can fully recovery for tomorrows long-day mission, hiking the Carthew-Alderson trail between Cameron Lake and Cameron Falls.