Elk Pass & Frozen Lake Trail
To BC and Back Again!
Out and back
Easy to Elk Pass, moderate to Frozen Lake
Elk Pass and Frozen Lake: to BC and Back Again!
Have you ever started a hike in one province or state and reached the destination in another? OK, in Kananaskis that’s not so rare, our blessed location being where it is, but the Elk Pass and Frozen Lake Trail gives you the ability to hop back and forth between our two favourite provinces!
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The Elk Pass Trailhead is located on Kananaskis Lake Road on the approach to Upper Kananaskis Lake. The trailhead has picnic tables available, is very well marked and is in fact part of the TransCanada Trail. The Elk Pass leg of the trail is fairly wide and flat, and is used for cross-country skiing in the winter. The nature of the trail also makes it more than suitable for winter hiking, or even a snowshoe trek through the forest.
Once on the trail, follow the gravel access road to Fox Creek, stay right when you arrive at the fork in the trail and cross a bridge over the creek. Continue on down this path 100 meters past the Blueberry Hill Trailhead and you will encounter a sign with a hiker on it and a path to the right. This is the path that leads to Elk Pass which takes 4-5km of fairly easy hiking to get to.
Easy First Half, Larches in the Autumn
It has to be said, the hike so far will come across as fairly uneventful, mostly flat through forest, without the panoramic views we’ve become accustomed to on Kananaskis trails. The exception to this is in autumn when your hike through the forest will be a hike through a canvas of golden larches, as you’re immersed in this unique phenomenon. It’s one thing to see them on a far away mountainside and revel in their beauty, but it’s another altogether to be walking right through nature’s art gallery.
Into BC for a Beautiful Lake
Once you arrive at Elk Pass, you will very shortly see a sign denoting crossing into BC; shortly after that the Frozen Lake Trailhead will be on your right. What had been a leisurely, gradual elevation gain will now become quite steep, as the path to Frozen Lake gains 300m in a relatively short distance. While it’s steep, it’s not unmanageable for those in reasonable fitness and with moderate hiking experience.
Upon arriving at Frozen Lake, you will find that it’s, well, frozen, unless you’re there from July to September. Assuming you’re there in warm months the reward for your journey is a most spectacular, tiny, glacier-residual lake. A jagged mountain cirque graces the western half of the lake, while the crystal blue waters reflect alpine glory and turquoise sky like the clearest mirror.
To this point you’ve hiked 6.5-7km (with the last bit being the most difficult), so grab a resting spot on the plentiful banks of the BC lake, have a rest and a snack while basking in the quiet and beauty and prepare for the hike back to Alberta. Now, a lake with the name Frozen will most likely be too cold for most to take a dip in, but hey, if you’re brave and need to cool down on a hot day, it’s there for you!
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Choose Your Own Adventure: Easy or Rewarding
The Elk Pass and Frozen Lake Trail is an excellent choice for those who want an easy hike through a calm forest to Elk Pass, or for those who want the reward of an alpine lake and want it easy up until the final ascent. After all, doesn’t it make it all the more rewarding to be huffing and puffing up a hill, then reach its crest and spread out before you is your postcard-perfect destination?
- Bears are known to be in the area, so be sure to carry bear spray, or travel in a larger group that makes plenty of noise to let our forest friends know we’re approaching
- If you plan on making this hike in the winter, make sure to read our Top 10 Tips for Winter Hiking to be better acquainted with the necessities to make your winter trek a safe one!
Hero credit: Richelle Watson @richelle_watson