Ross Lake is near the Continental Divide in Yoho National Park, BC, Canada.
The trail-head for Ross Lake is accessed via the entrance to Lake O'Hara parking in Kicking Horse Pass about 3 KM (1⅞ miles) west of the Alberta - British Columbia border in British Columbia, Canada. This short section of historic two-lane highway is the stuff of legends and a precursor to the present TransCanada Highway.
The hike along the old Great Divide Road begins just inside the entrance to Lake O'Hara. A quick left turn crosses the railway tracks and leads to parking at roadside near a closed and locked gate. Blocking the gate could be very expensive in the event of an emergency. Parking in the larger and formal Lake O'Hara parking area is further along a sweep right on the road and will add about a kilometer to the overall hiking distance.
This old, two-lane, paved Banff to Yoho highway crossing over the Continental Divide was very popular between the 1920s and the 1970s. The infamous old road was decommissioned in 2000 and is allocated for recreational use to hikers and bikers in the summer and cross country skiers during winter.
The easy hike to Ross Lake consumes 3.2 KM (2.0 miles) one way from the gate. Elevation gain is a modest and gradually apportioned 100 m (328 ft). Access along the old highway is easy walking and offers a number of interesting features. Over many years, natural growth continues to slowly and relentlessly consume the surface of the road.
Cracks in the surface support the growth of wildflowers and occasionally trees. Ground cover and border brush reaches out across the surface to create artistic mosaics of flowing plant life along undisciplined road edges.
A large 'Ross Lake' roadside sign provides more than adequate notice at hiking speed prior to arrival at the conspicuous trail head with barriers to prevent bicycle access from damaging potentially damp ground.
The picturesque trail to Ross Lake provides a variety of relaxing wilderness features along the next 1.3 KM (⅞ mile) one way. Wilderness features include a babbling brook, dense aromatic forest and moss ground cover canopies with massive mountain monuments soaring above the treetops.
Sturdy plank bridges cross active streams which feed the babbling brook. Wildflowers and a diverse variety of plant life carpet the forest floor in a broad mosaic of natural color. The short forest access trail approaches Ross Lake directly beneath the headwall of Narao Peak.
The lake access is preceded by a trail junction to Lake O'Hara Road and a long wooden platform across wetland to allow fisher people safe and dry access to the end of the lake. Sheer cliffs and scree slopes occupy the far shoreline. The quiet beauty here is palpable and relaxing.
Signs announce bicycle traffic here is prohibited to prevent damage to the damp and soft terrain. There are bicycle tracks in the muddy areas surrounding the lake shore. Pristine terrain is damaged by the higher pressure per square inch presence of bicycle tires.
Following a short, quiet visit and the opportunity for photographs, the return hike begins via the same route used for access.
If time permits, the historic and infamous wooden Great Divide arch with accompanying picnic area is about a kilometer further along the old, closed highway. Standing at the crest of the Continental Divide provides a unique photo opportunity enjoyed by millions of past visitors over many decades.
The return hike is easy and swift. Like every return hike, the different perspective adds detail and quality to the overall experience. Forest aroma is magic.
Back at the old, closed highway, a light, refreshing and rejuvenating, misty kind of rain begins to accompany the return hike. This refreshing rain is short-lived and never strong enough to appreciably subdue surrounding mountain images.
Halfway down the road, the sun returns. Rising steam temporarily confuses the surface of the old asphalt highway. The imagery of sun in mist is mesmerizing. Sink Lake is even more beautiful on the way back and fog rolls up the side of Mount Bosworth. Nature is providing a refreshing multi-media display for the end of this short and worthwhile hike.
The short hike completes in sun and the return drive home to Calgary begins.
Photographs for this hike to Ross Lake in Yoho National Park were taken on Thursday, July 13, 2017 following partial day hikes to Paget Lookout and Sherbrooke Lake. Spectacular Yoho National Park is located in British Columbia on the west side of the Alberta / British Columbia border in western Canada.