One way distance to Petain Creek campground: 12 km
Elevation gain and loss to campground: ~200 m
Round trip distance to Petain Basin from campground: 6 km
Elevation gain to Petain Basin from campground: 550 m
This is one of the easier backpack trips we've done with no more than 200 m of mostly gentle elevation gain and loss. We camped at Petain Creek campground (also known as Upper Elk Lake campground, depending on the map/sign/guidebook you read), which is about 2 km from the head of Upper Elk Lake. The wardens, website, and signs along the way warn that routefinding and stream crossing skills are necessary to proceed from the head of the lake onward, but at least at this time of year it was easy. Only one channel of the braided creek wasn't bridged (boot deep) and metal poles with orange flagging marked the route over the gravel flats. Superstore is more confusing if you ask me.
The campground is on gravel flats with sandy tent pads and is reasonably nice, although with only a few benches around a fireplace in the eating area it could get crowded. The views from the campground are spectacular too!
An easy and flat kilometer beyond the campground is Petain Falls - definitely go at least this far. Beyond that (actually slightly before at a signed junction) is the trail to Petain Basin. It's easy to follow (no routefinding required), but is incredibly steep. The steep sections, however, travel through stunted and crowded trees so despite the fact that the trail is ridiculously steep it's not particularly difficult. It does climb nearly 400 m in less than a kilometer though! As it gets the full sun before the campground, start early to avoid roasting.
Once you crest the lip of the basin and can see the waterfall in the basin in the distance, look to your right. The grassy knoll you see extends to the back of the basin. Hike up here and stroll to the back this way to get full views of Petain glacier, which is nearly completely hidden from the bottom of the basin. With minimal routefinding you can descend from the knoll near the back of the basin and head over to the base of the falls, which are equally spectacular to Petain Falls.
Despite the elevation gain the trip into Petain Basin from Petain Creek campground takes only a half-day, and that's with lots of exploring, resting, and pondering.
Category:Lifestyle and Recreation
Keywords:Castleneau glacier, Elk Pass, Fox Lake, Petain Falls, Petain basin, Petain creek, Petain glacier, Upper Elk Lake