Distance: 17 km
Elevation gain: 375 m
I've said it before, but I'll say it again: The valley between Elbow Lake and the Tombstone Pass area is one of the prettiest, most easily accessible valleys in the region. There are negatives - like the old road you walk on - but the scenery and rolling open fields of the valley more than make up for it. This trip we even discovered another secret gem of this location!
Today our destination was Rae Lake, nestled up against the north end of Mt. Rae, roughly to the east of Tombstone Pass. If you're headed this way, watch for the cairned trail on the right immediately after you pass (heading north) the cairned route to Piper Pass on the left. The trail is obvious for about a kilometer until you reach another cairn, at which point the trail to Rae Lake forks right (SSE) and begins ascending. We lost the trail at this point as there was about 40 cm of snow down, but the route is obvious - just aim for the ridge SE of your position. As you ascend, scan the ridge for a prominent dead tree (essentially just a pole) on the ridge and aim for it. While there may be an obvious trail when the snow is absent, we found that heading higher when gullies were encountered worked best and kept us from losing elevation.
As you crest the ridge, Rae Lake appears to the south, tucked in against the north end of Mt. Rae. While everything was snow covered and the lake was frozen solid when we were there, it is obvious that without snow there are vast meadows stretching out and gently rising from the north shore. We spent about an hour just lounging in the surprisingly warm sun. We returned the way we came, but a quick glance at the map reveals that there is one other route descending from the lake and several intersecting trails, but there doesn't seem to be any particular advantage to them.
One of the nice surprises of this hike was our "discovery" of a beautiful waterfall on the Elbow River. It's unlabelled on the Gemtrek map, but if you're open to a little exploring it's not too hard to find and I'll leave the directions at that. At about 10 feet in height it's not huge, but it falls into a round bowl filled with crystal clear turquoise waters, and this time of year was surrounded by icicles from the seeping cliff walls. It will definitely be a picnic or swim stop on future trips!
As always, the photos are far more spectacular full-screen. Use the mouse-over function "dim-the-lights" or use the slideshow button.
Category:Lifestyle and Recreation
Keywords:Edworthy Falls, Elbow Lake, Rae Lake, Tombstone Mountain, Tombstone Valley