Shark Lake rests dramatically beneath the sheer cliffs of Mount Shark in the Spray Valley Provincial Park component of Kananaskis Country.
Our chosen driving route is Calgary to Canmore and South on Smith Dorrien / Spray Road (Hwy 742) past entrances to the Nordic Ski Centre and Grassi Lakes. Pavement ends and terrible gravel road continues up and through Whitemans Gap to continue South. The condition of the gravel road on this Thursday morning is very poor, approaching dangerous. Creeping vehicles are weaving around major potholes and rock debris. The drive continues south at a substantially reduced pace to diminish damage to the car.
Access to Shark Lake parking is via the road hosting Mount Engadine Lodge across Hwy 742 from the Rummel Lake hike trail-head. Buller Pond and access to Buller Mountain trails is nearby just north from access to the Mount Shark Day Use Area complex. Past Mount Engadine Lodge, the bridge over Monica Brook precedes ascent on dirt road curling up the hill to an off-road parking area on the right hand side of the road. Most of the vehicles parked here will be hiking Tent Ridge a short walking distance back.
Shark Lake Trail Access is visible a short distance up the road. On this occasion, signage for Shark Lake has been removed. The overgrown route to unsigned Shark Lake is blocked with logs, perhaps to allow trail recovery time from sin's past..
Trail to Shark Lake has a log crossing at a well defined trail going elsewhere.
The hiking route continues straight past minor barriers on old gravel road hosting new growth shrubbery. In spite of new growth, the route is reasonably easy to follow. Wildflowers are prolific and surrounding mountain and lake views supplement this short, easy hike.
The overgrown route to Shark Lake is relatively easy to follow and hosts an impressive display of green shrubbery and wildflowers. There is substantial evidence of wildlife population provided by occasional deposits of deer and bear scat. Many varieties of fungi, some fascinating, add substantially to the artistic array of dense, natural growth.
Sketchy trail continues to an old gravel pit, no doubt used for material in the construction of the Cross Country Ski Routes used for the 1988 Olympics hosted by Calgary and Canmore.
The far side of the gravel pit hosts game trail entry through dense, old-growth forest and muskeg to the shoreline of Shark Lake. The forest is fresh, humid and fragrant. There is wildlife in the area and we call routinely to notify them of our presence.
Although there are multiple sets of bear, deer and smaller animal tracks, we have no sightings and no evidence beyond the occasional sound of nearby, well-hidden, animal activity. Lunch is thoroughly enjoyed on old and musty fallen tree logs near shoreline. The pristine ambiance is incredibly relaxing and peaceful.
Lake and forest feature photographs are endlessly lucrative as we carefully choose game routes to the nearby North end of Shark Lake where the outflow into Shark River eventually empties into Spray Lake.
There are many spectacular but fragile forest features. Our focus remains on leaving the lake and surrounding wetlands in exactly the same condition they were found.
Following thorough and cautious enjoyment of pristine natural features, all that remains is the collection of filtered drinking water and the retreat to parking via the same route used for access.
This hike is best accompanied with the availability of bear spray combined with the knowledge and experience to use it effectively. The area is pristine and will benefit from absolute respect gained from years of experience.
The hike is 3.7 KM one-way to the lake, i.e. 7.4 KM round trip (4⅝ miles) with height gain of 36 m (120 ft) height loss and 68 m (225 ft) of gain. So, pretty much flat.
I hesitate to post this short hike for fear the area will not receive the mandatory level of respect and reverence resulting in this pristine experience being unintentionally destroyed.
This area has previously been known as Shark Lake. An initiative to rename the lake Marushca Lake with its outflow to be known as Marushca Creek seems unnecessarily confusing although the story is touching. The mountain remains as Mount Shark and the Nordic Ski Facility continues to be known as Mount Shark. Although the Marushca story is tragic and important, perhaps a memorial cairn would serve better than a confusing change to a long-standing and sensible, original naming convention. No offense intended - simply an observation and independent opinion.
This half-day hike to Shark Lake in the Spray Valley Provincial Park component of Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada is completed with photographer and guide, Justin Howse, on July 25, 2019.