Paget Lookout is an abandoned fire lookout in east Yoho National Park, BC, Canada.
The trail begins near the picnic shelter just west of the Great Divide Lodge (also referenced as Wapta Lodge; or West Louise Lodge) about 5.5 KM (3 miles) west of the Alberta / British Columbia border. The clearly signed provincial border is also the delineation point between Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada and Yoho National Park in British Columbia, Canada.
With TransCanada Highway widening construction frantically underway, this hike will begin from verbally requested and approved parking on a patch of grass at Great Divide Lodge. Preferred parking at the Wapta Lake Picnic Area is accessible a short distance further west and features an outhouse, a picnic shelter and slightly shorter Paget Lookout trail access.
The Paget Lookout trail head at Great Divide Lodge is obvious at the back of the property between the main lodge and the closed fuel supply building. Trail beginning is easy to navigate on narrow good trail with a gentle ramp periodically punctuated with small platform bridges and brief rocky, rugged sections through drainages. Trail-side wildflowers enhance the hiking experience.
The trail junction for Sherbrooke Lake to the left, and Paget Lookout to the right, is clearly defined by a large tree and an obvious trail sign. From beginning, the Paget Lookout option is a 3.5 KM (2.2 mile) one-way effort with an elevation differential of 520 m (1,705 ft) to a maximum elevation of 2,135 m (7,005 ft). The majority of the elevation is on switchbacks in the second half of the hike past the junction. Trail quality ranges from very good at the beginning to rocky and more aggressive towards the lookout. Sporadic vistas of surrounding mountains and the occasional glimpse of Sherbrooke Lake below help to motivate and enjoy consistent progress.
Prior to achieving the objective at Paget Lookout there is a minor T junction at the end of one of many switchbacks. The marginally less-traveled option to the right will need to be investigated. The short diversion leads to a rocky outcropping offering spectacular vistas across Wapta Lake into the Lake O'Hara area. Vistas to the right offer breathtaking views of the braided Kicking Horse River plain and the TransCanada Highway framed by dramatic mountains of infamous Kicking Horse Pass. This is the typical grandeur of Yoho National Park.
Back on the main trail, more switchbacks gain elevation past ancient, smooth rock and soon arrive at the abandoned Paget Fire Lookout with a lofty 180° view along the dramatic Kicking Horse Pass.
From the guide book 'Fire Lookout Hikes in the Canadian Rockies' authored by Mike Potter, we can learn the fire lookout is named after Reverend E. C. Paget (1857 - 1927) who attended the first ascent of 2,560 m (8,399 ft) Paget Peak as well as becoming a founding member of the Alpine Club of Canada.
Paget Lookout stands at an elevation of 2,135 m (7,005 ft).
The sturdy lookout provides a commanding view of mountains to the east and south as well as Kicking Horse Pass to the west. The spectacular panorama is breathtaking. Paget Lookout is maintained and in remarkably good shape with minimum vandalism considering the cabin has been vacant for several decades. Predominately intact glass window panels provide protection from the elements. A sturdy storage tank rests adjacent to the historic building. The picturesque, single room cabin was abandoned as a fire lookout in the 1970's.
Rugged trail continues to gain altitude above Paget Lookout for an easy (scramble definition) scramble access to the true summit of rocky alpine Paget Peak at 2,560 m (8,399 ft). Aspirations to obtain a photo of Paget Lookout from above with Sherbrooke Lake below in the background are abandoned on the physically demanding trail but an alternate consolation prize is a photo across the valley where, near the fragile and access-limited Lake O'Hara region, a chain of forest-surrounded lakes, with glaciated mountains above, feed the whitewater waterfalls into turquoise Wapta Lake at valley bottom.
The return descent is via the same route used for access but in significantly warmer temperatures. Down hiking provides sporadic vistas of surrounding and breathtaking mountains with periodic, spectacular views of emerald Sherbrooke Lake beneath the dramatic rust-colored face of 2,695 m (8,842 ft) Mount Ogden. The Lake Louise and Yoho Gem Trek Map is invaluable here with so many visually profound targets within such a small space.
Back at the trail junction, the fork is taken for the 1.6 KM (1.0 mile) one way hike to Sherbooke Lake. The Sherbrooke Lake hike will be posted as a second independent adventure to divide the photographs.
The hike to Paget Lookout and/or Paget Peak can begin and end from the Great Divide Lodge 5+ kilometers west from the Alberta / British Columbia border or more appropriately from parking at the Wapta Lake Picnic Area a short distance further west along the TransCanada Highway.