Banff National Park (Lake Louise Area)
Time: 2 hours
Distance: 6 km (return)
Elevation Gain: 60 m
How To Get There: Park at the Moraine Lake Parking lot. The trail begins at the north corner of the parking lot.
The summer of 2017 in Alberta was full of wildfires. Because of this, the sky was often left grey with hazy smoke. However, for the most part whenever I went out for a hike, I got lucky enough that the wind was blowing the right way and the smoke would be almost non-existent.
Today was not one of those days. In fact, today was one of the smokiest days I had ever seen. It was so bad, that on the drive out to Moraine Lake, we could barely see the surrounding mountains. Regardless, my mom and I wanted to hike so we decided to go on a trail that didn't require seeing too far. Enter Consolation Lakes. Probably one of the easier hikes in the Moraine Lake area, it still provides the reward of a mountain lake at the end.
Of course, going to Moraine Lake meant battling the busy tourists. Even though it was very smoky, tourists were in the hundreds. Mom and I arrived at the parking lot around 8:00 am and it was still a challenge finding a place to park the vehicle. We headed to the north corner of the parking lot behind the giant pile of rockfall. The trail head begins just before the bridge and is fairly obvious as it's marked with a giant wooden sign.
The hardest part of this hike is the short steps that ascend past the Rockpile.
The trail junctions not long after. Keeping to the left takes you further along Consolation Lakes trail. A permanent Bear Warning sign sits not too far afterwards, letting you know that hiking with a large group is either recommended or mandatory (depending on the season). Because this area is always so heavily populated, I'm never too concerned about having enough people with me. All you have to do is tag along beside someone else.
The trail goes from smooth to rocky as you continue on, descending down towards a scree field.
The boulder field comes from below the Tower of Babel. A short section of the large boulders sit atop running water, which provides the neat experience of being able to hear running water beneath your feet, but not actually seeing it.
Eventually the trail settles into old growth forest. It's very evident that the path is a popular one as the trail is well worn and any protruding rocks look nearly polished by constant wear of hiking boots.
The trail runs itself along side Babel Creek to the left, the sound of flowing water providing music to a passerby's ears.
There is a trail junction about halfway to Consolation Lakes that if taken will lead you to Taylor Lake. Taking the route to Taylor Lake this way is best left to the experts as the trail is poorly defined and sometimes completely fades. The better option to gain access to Taylor Lake is from the TransCanada highway.
As you get closer to the lake, there are several platforms that are placed carefully in order to protect several wetland areas. Make sure you stay on the platform the entire time as it is important to keep the surrounding fragile environment safe.
Just before a slight elevation increase in the trail there is a single large boulder that sits as a sort of marker. It's perfect to stop at and take a break.
A short stretch of remaining forest follows until you begin to reach heavy braiding in the trail.
As you begin to approach the lake, the view opens up, and despite the smokes best attempts, the surrounding display of meadow and mountain is still spectacular.
Babel Creek widens within the meadow and eventually drains into a wetland that sits just west of Consolation Lake.
The trail then exits the meadow into a massive field of boulders beneath Mount Babel. Fay Glacier sits off to the distance but with the smoke it's almost impossible to see.
In order to get a good look at the lake itself, one has to scramble over the boulders. It's a tedious but fun task, hopping from one boulder to the next (though fun is probably not the word my mom would use).
Eventually we made it to the other side of the lake and were able to get a decent glimpse of the mountain background as well as the second part of Consolation Lakes. We could even get a better look at Fay Glacier.
With views of the entire lake behind us, we took the opportunity to sit down and have some lunch and take some pictures. Because of the smoke, we opted not to go any further. Instead we enjoyed the views at hand.
A common theme that surrounded the lake was the constant presence of inukshuk's and other random man-made cairns. It provided a great opportunity for "artsy" photos.
As we headed back and reached the beginning of the lakes, we were alerted to the presence of a grizzly bear on the other side of the wetlands. The distance and the amount of people made the experience less frightening and more amazing. There is nothing more special than seeing wildlife in it's natural habitat, especially when it's in an environment where you can observe without causing a disturbance.
Consolation Lakes is a great hike for the whole family and is classified as easy. Because it is in Banff National Park, Lake Louise area, there will always be tons of tourists in the area, but that doesn't take away from the beauty of the hike. If you're looking for something a little more low-key, make sure you check out this hike!