Distance: 16 km
Elevation gain: 370 m View map Download GPS track
The smoke has been quite terrible so far this month, and after a simple walk
in the smoky forest set off my asthma last week I didn’t think it would be a good idea to take on anything too strenuous this week. After a couple days of sitting around the trailer reading, however, it was high time to get out and get a bit of exercise, and so we drove to Waterfowl Lakes campground for an easy hike to Chephren and Cirque Lakes, with quick side trips to Upper and Lower Waterfowl Lakes. We weren’t particularly enthused about this hike, but a hike is still better than no hike.
We followed the directions in the “Don’t Waste Your Time in the Canadian Rockies
” guidebook (which rightfully ranks this hike as a “Don’t Do”) to the trailhead, then followed easy signage to a bridge across the Mistaya River. Gently ascending on good trail we soon reached a T-intersection and turned right to head to Chephren Lake (left goes to Cirque Lake). The trail deteriorated here and remained very rooty for the entire trudge to the lake. In a normal year I imagine it would also be exceptionally muddy, but the drought this year had dried up nearly every mud hole along the trail.
Upon reaching Chephren Lake we paused to take in the wonderful, albeit singular, view, then backtracked to the T-intersection and headed for Cirque Lake. The trail was again very rooty with rocks mixed in for good measure higher up, and while the trail did parallel the beautiful outlet stream of Cirque Lake for much of its length, the nastiness of the trail meant I had to spend much more time watching my feet than admiring the scenery.
The trail eventually deposited us on the rocky, and quite frankly, ugly, shore of Cirque Lake. Chephren Lake was beautiful, but this lake was pretty darn ugly by Rockies standards. A few tiny glaciers at the head of the lake did their best to enliven the scenery, but were largely unsuccessful. There wasn’t even a decent place to eat lunch, so we retreated back down the trail and ate near the lively creek instead.
Post-lunch we headed back towards the truck, making quick detours to Lower and Upper Waterfowl Lakes. Both lakes are theoretically nice, but the smoke largely detracted from the view today. It certainly wasn’t a fantastic hike, but clocking in at 16 km it did get us a bit of exercise, which was the best we could’ve hoped for today.