Distance: 8.9km, day trip or backpack, allow 2.5-3 hours one way.
Access: Follow the Icefield Parkway (H93) to the trailhead located 1.2 km north of Highway 11 junction.
Tip: Don’t forget to tie up any and all food to the bear pole located just off the camp site at the lake. We had a very interesting encounter with a mouse at 2.30am in our tent…
Glacier Lake is located within Banff National Park, but is easily accessible if you’re located in Jasper. It’s not too far from the border of the two parks and can’t easily be missed, unless you’re staring in the other direction up at the mountains. This hike holds many good and “bad” memories for myself and my brother who first hiked it with me.
It was his first back country backpacking experience ever, and it was sort of mine too but I’d had more experience in the wild than he had so I counted myself as an experienced camper. I’d prove to be somewhat of a dimwit later in the hike…
The trail begins by traveling through lodgepole pine forest. After about 1 km the trail crosses the North Saskatchewan River where the river funnels through a short canyon. There is a bridge that allows you to cross easily and take time to admire the fast flowing water. Continuing on after another kilometre you reach an open, grassy bluff which provides excellent viewpoints for the valley leading to the historic Howse Pass. We used this spot to take a break and enjoy the view before continuing on.
Once you’ve taken in the valley from your lofty viewpoint, keep heading right towards the forest and continue to cut inland over a forested ridge to Glacer Lake. The lake is a beautiful sight. It’s 3 km in length and 1 km wide making it one of the largest backcountry lakes in Banff. The campground is to the left but don’t expect any tent pads or easily distinguishable places to set up. We found a relatively flat place to set up before we were hammered by rain and wind. There is a bear pole just behind the campground and an outhouse as well. Though we refrained from using it due to fears of the pine marten which we had no clue of until right before the trip.
I accidentally forgot a bag of nuts in our tent, and around 2.30am we woke to the sounds of a little field mouse chewing on the nuts in our tent which he managed to breach by biting a small hole at our feet. Don’t make the same mistake I did. We were just thankful it was a mouse and not a bear.
Looking out over the lake you’ll find the Southeast Lyell Glacier just ahead of you. The area can be further explored by following a rough trail along the north shore for 3.5 km. Some people choose to hike to the lake and back in a day, we decided to backpack it and stay a night just to make it worth our while. Other than the mouse incident it was a nice hike, though mostly forested, and the lake made it very worthwhile.