Dog Lake is a short, easy hike from the McLeod Meadows Campground in Kootenay National Park, British Columbia, Canada.
This short, easy hike to Dog Lake can begin from the McLeod Meadows Picnic Area or a short distance north along the Banff - Windermere Parkway (Highway 93) from the McLeod Meadows Campground entrance. Both options are north of the sharp, high altitude turn at Sinclair Pass or south of Kootenay Crossing and the Dolly Varden Picnic Area.
Parking may be available near the McLeod Meadows Theatre in the campground or nearby along the nearby Dog Lake trail junction. The hike proceeds about 200 m (220 yards) east through spectacular montane forest separating secluded camp sites prior to arrival at the mighty Kootenay River.
Two formidable suspension bridges cross two branches of the Kootenay River with views of the Mitchell Range of mountains subdued by mist in the background.
After crossing the second suspension bridge, the excellent quality trail immediately turns sharply north onto subtle ramp gaining easy elevation through lush vegetation along the hillside above the Kootenay River. Morning dew glistens in sunbeams striking dewdrops on lush green shrubbery sheltering the sweet, overwhelming aroma of dense moss.
Within a short distance the Dog Lake trail intersects with the junction of the East Kootenay Trail heading north and south. The wide swaths of the East Kootenay Trail are actually old fire roads constructed to serve as forest fire access in this area after the devastation of the infamous and significant 1968 Vermilion Pass Burn.
The well-signed Dog Lake trail continues north-east past the junction with the East Kootenay Trail.
Junction of the Dog Lake Trail with the East Kootenay Trail
The excellent quality Dog Lake Trail continues to gradually gain gentle elevation through lush ground cover sheltered by lodgepole pine trees interspersed with older growth on the traverse across the steep slope above the Kootenay River.
Although the trail will become busy later in the day, the illusion this hike is being undertaken solo is shattered while passing a slug carefully navigating the route to Dog Lake. The path levels approaching the crest of a ridge where a well-seasoned, sawn log bench occupies the demarcation point for gentle descent through equally lush forest on the other side of the ridge.
The Dog Lake Trail sweeps gently right in descent on excellent trail when compromised views of Dog Lake appear through trees until arrival at a large marshland area occupying the north-west border of Dog Lake is accentuated by magnificent views of Mount Daer and Mount Harkin of the Mitchell Range commanding the background. This is a beautiful, peaceful and impressive place.
More rugged and rooted trail continues another short distance around the marsh margin to continue past a right turn at the signed junction for expanded views south of Dog Lake with it's impressive and vibrant wetland borders hosting impressive displays of ancient horsetail.
Dog Lake facing south - Photo credit with thanks to Sonya Tran
The return hike can be lengthened by a right turn at the signed junction for a 1.2 KM (¾ mile) northwest diversion to interface with the East KootenaTrail (Reference Gemtrek Map #10 for Kootenay National Park). This hike retreats via the same route used for access.
The ascent to the bench at the top of the ridge seems shorter on retreat and hiker traffic into Dog Lake is increasing substantially. Gentle descent on the other side of the ridge is a pleasant forest walk back to the suspension bridges over the formidable and beautifully-colored Kootenay River with magnificent views west to Mount Kindersley and the Brisco Range in the Kootenay Ranges.
This short, easy hike to Dog Lake from the McLeod Meadows Campground travels a round trip distance of about 6 kilometers, with minor elevation gain/loss and will consume less than a half day at average pace. Trail quality is excellent and the rich forest aroma sets up the remainder of the day.