Hike: Lower Elk Lake Backcountry Campground

I considered titling this post “Hike: Mystery Destination” and leaving the actual name out, as this hike is too good to be true.

On Saturday bright and early, we drove out to the Elk Pass parking lot out in Kananaskis, which is in the vicinity of the Upper Kananaskis Lakes parking lot. On the way out, we saw a grizzly feeding in the ditch!  Haley, Dana, and I were all packed for an overnight trip, but Megan and Wade came along just for the hike in to Elk Lake.


The first kilometer is a pretty good climb on an access road, which got our heart rates up. After that, it’s a reasonably easy 10 km hike through pretty scenery into the backcountry campsite.  Lots of board walks and roots along the path, which reminded Dana and I of the West Coast Trail (WCT). We saw a fair bit of bear scat along the way, but no actual bears thankfully.


Elk Lake campsites can’t be reserved – they are first come, first served – hence our early start time. We were pleasantly surprised to find a very quiet campground, with only a couple of neighbours who arrived later in the day.  The lake itself is absolutely stunning!


Meg and Wade stayed for lunch and some pictures, then headed back to their car. A 20 kilometer hike that day for them!  Not too shabby for Meg, who famously isn’t very fond of hiking.

After we got our camp set up and our food stowed away in the bear lockers, then Haley, Dana, and I set off to explore in the direction of the Upper Elk Lake. We took the under-contruction pathway which was in various shades of development.


When we reached the shoreline, we noticed a fisherman set up on the opposite shore of the lake, so crossed a log over the river, scrambled a bit along the mountainside, and had a little visit with him.


To get back to the campsite, we took the overgrown old pathway back. There were lots of huge logs to crawl over, and part of the path was overtaken by a flooded section.  Of course, instead of admitting defeat and heading back, we scampered across some fallen logs and then carried on our merry way.  Haley was only momentarily petrified.


Our little hiking adventure added 6 or 7 kms on to the day’s total, but we felt light as air without our packs on.

We prepared and ate our freeze-dried dinners, then played a few card games to pass the time. It rained on and off, but not too bad until close to 10.


Then we tidied up camp and headed to bed.  It was pretty cold when we got into bed – we could see our breath – so I slept with a toque and long-sleeve on.  Poor Haley nearly froze, so she had a rough sleep.

Somehow, Dana and I slept until 8:30. Dana tried his best to start a morning campfire, but everything was too wet.  We all felt better though with some warm oatmeal and coffee/tea/hot chocolate in our bellies.


Our hike out was pretty uneventful. The hike out is pretty uphill initially so it helped us all get warmed up.  With the mud and tree roots, again we were reminded of the WCT!  A bit of a cold breeze was blowing as we got closer to the car, so we made good time as we speedily hiked out.

I carried about 25 lbs in my pack and it felt pretty good, other than something in my pack bruised my back pretty badly. Going to figure out how to avoid that issue, because I don’t need anything to complain about next week on the WCT!


I can’t say enough good things about Lower Elk Lake and the campground’s facilities. The backpack trip was a ton of fun!  I know we will go back soon!

 

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