Distance: 16 km
Elevation gain: 375 mView mapDownload GPS track
Rae Lake, nestled below the north end of Mt. Rae and roughly to the east of Tombstone Pass, is a beautiful and rarely-visited lake. While it is easily accessible on a day hike, we chose to backpack in and spend a night in the meadows just above the lake. An unofficial campsite exists near the outlet stream as well, but it was occupied by a party of 8 while we were there.
The cairned trail to Rae Lake branches off to the right of the main road/trail to Tombstone Pass, well before the intersection with the Sheep River trail and immediately following the cairned trail to Piper Pass on the left. After a short distance in the trees, emerge into the open next to a grassy hill. A short distance further the trail branches; head right for the most direct route to Rae Lake. The trail quickly becomes less distinct and overgrown in places, but is relatively easy to follow as it weaves it's way up and over the bald ridge to the southeast. If you should lose the trail, aim for the dead, nearly branch-less tree on the ridge to the southeast.
Cresting the ridge, the cirque holding Rae Lake pops into view. Rae Lake is just 5 minutes further at this point. While the trail has mostly disappeared at this point, just walk towards Mt. Rae through grassy meadows and you'll pick the trail back up. We camped near the trail in the meadows, but if you follow it to the outlet stream there is apparently a more established campsite with a fire pit. As it was full with a group celebrating a birthday, we chose to camp in the calm solitude of the meadows!
While we were a week too early for the larches, this would be a fantastic hike during their prime (generally within a few days of Sept. 24). The approach to the lake and the ridge to the east of the lake are covered in larches. With the backdrop of Mt. Rae, this would be as nice as many of the more popular larch hikes and significantly less crowded.