The Glacier Lake hike begins along Icefields Parkway just north past the Highway 11 intersection in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada.
David Thompson, Canada's pioneer surveyor and fur trader, was recorded as the first white man to view Glacier Lake in June, 1807. Glacier Lake was named by Sir James Hector of the Palliser Expedition in 1858. The Glacier Lake trail-head is located along the Icefields Parkway in Banff National Park about a kilometer north of Saskatchewan Crossing.
Following a very early start from Calgary, this hike begins at 9:20 AM on a cool, overcast day.
The downstream view of the North Saskatchewan River from Pony Bridge on the Glacier Lake trail in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada
Good quality trail travels through predominantly lodge-pole pine forest on rolling terrain with a relatively gentle descent. At 2.3 KM (1⅜ miles) there is a Pony Bridge crossing over the North Saskatchewan River with beautiful views of emerald water contained by canyon walls and surrounded by forest and towering mountains. Past the bridge, the trail deteriorates moderately with distance.
The view from Howse River Viewpoint across the plains to glaciated mountains looming over Glacier Lake in Banff National Park, Alberta Canada.
Glacier Lake is actually about 10 M below the elevation of the parking area. About 1.2 KM (¾ of a mile) past the bridge is the Howse River viewpoint. David Thompson camped here for 2 weeks in 1907 while guiding a group past Glacier Lake. The Glacier Lake trail descends to a bend at the Howse River before heading inland through forest on the sustained climb to the ridge hosting Glacier Lake.
Near the 7 KM (4⅜ mile) mark the trail attains maximum elevation of 1,645 M (5,400 ft) before descending to Glacier Lake on a descent trail littered with tree roots. Also, at about the 7 KM mark, the trail passes a unique plaque carved into a tree by the 1928 Topographical survey team.
Names of participants on the 1928 Topographical Survey carved on a tree along Glacier Lake Trail in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada
At 9 KM (5⅝ miles) the hike arrives at the shore of Glacier Lake which is about 3 KM (1⅞ miles) long and one KM (⅝ of a mile) across. Following a short break the hike continues along and above the shoreline of Glacier Lake on 5 KM (3⅛ miles) of rustic trail to arrive at the end of the lake.
This trail offers a number of wilderness camping sites as well as a couple of off-trail canyon access points that beg for exploration but there is no time for recreational scrambling and discovery on this day. Parts of the lakeside trail wander through stands of juniper bushes, bountiful with baby-blue berries.
Reflective ponds past the end of Glacier Lake with Mount Lyell in the background
At the end of the lake there are excellent views of the Lyell Mountain Glacier. Many of the surrounding mountains have remnants of glaciers on them. Lyell Glacier ice is turquoise.
Melancholy sky is overcast with brief interruptions of periodic sun on distant peaks. Glacier Lake is surrounded by magnificent mountains. Following a leisurely meal at lake-side, and local discovery, the return hike follows the reverse route taken in for a total hiking distance of about 27 KM (16⅞ miles).
Views along the Saskatchewan River from Pony Bridge and a group photo at the end of the hike into Glacier Lake, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada
Another spectacular wilderness hiking adventure in the mountains, rivers, lakes and forest of Banff National Park west of Calgary in Alberta, Canada.