Waterton National Park
Time: 3 hours
Distance: 8 km (return)
Elevation Gain: 305 m
How To Get There: Take Akamina Parkway Rd. and park at the Cameron Lake parking lot. Head left along the lakeshore where you'll find the trailhead.
Matt and I headed down to Waterton during the long weekend to see if we could knock out a backcountry camping trip. Unfortunately, the weather didn't really agree with us and we were forced to stay in a hotel instead. However, this led to an opportunity for us to knock out a quick hike the next day. So the next morning Matt and I visited the Information Centre to try and figure out what hike we were going to do. Because we needed to get back home at a decent time and we didn't want to fight the wind the whole hike (the weather had improved from the previous day but it was still cloudy and windy), we chose Summit Lake. It is also a trail that connects to Carthew-Alderson which is one of the triple-crown hikes. I plan to hike that trail this summer (and hopefully this time we don't get snowed out!) but in the mean time, hiking Summit Lake was a great preview!
The trailhead started at Cameron Lake and then slowly ascends up through a thick forest of pine trees. There is one point where if you look to the south you can see the mountains in the background but for the most part the trail is pretty covered until you reach the four long switchbacks. By this point, the ground was getting pretty slushy with all of the snow the previous day.
Along the switchbacks, we were offered incredible views of Cameron Lake and the mountains off in the distance.
It was a beautiful hike from here on out as we continued to make our way through the muddy slush. After the fourth switchback, the trail veered straight across the top of the hill (this is where the snow got so dense it actually looked like we were hiking in the middle of winter!).
My shoes held up fairly well for a while in the slush but there were a lot of deep puddles at the top so my feet started to get pretty wet near the end of the trail. Along the way we followed someone else's' footsteps as well as dog tracks and ended up spotting a smiley face in the snow so we can only assume that is who left it.
Finally we reached Summit Lake. It was grey and a bit chilly so there wasn't too much to say but the quietness was very serene. The lake itself wasn't very big but I still managed to play around with my phone a bit to get a nice panoramic view.
We stopped to eat a quick snack before I insisted we head back because I had been cold enough for one weekend! On the way back down the trail, we rean into about 15 people (who we think were all part of the same group) that were planning on hiking the Carthew-Alderson trail all the way back to Waterton and it was already about mid-day. It's not something I would attempt but hopefully it was worth it for them. Not too long after that we were also joined by a spruce grouse who seemed perfectly content with walking beside us for a few hundred meters.
The sun peaked out from the clouds once or twice as we reached the last switchback so we got a few more nice shots of the lake below us.
Out of every trail option in Waterton, this one probably isn't the most rewarding. But if you only have so much time in the day or you're not a very experienced hiker, I would definitely recommend exploring the trail, especially if the weather isn't the most promising.
In the end, the hike was definitely successful in one regard- inflating my eagerness to explore Carthew-Alderson :)