Elbow Lake along Rae Glacier Trail

Rae Lake Hike - Alberta, Canada

Hi, everyone!

Hopefully you've had a fantastic week as the weather starts to cool here in the northern hemisphere. So far, here in Alberta at least, we have been exceptionally lucky. We haven't had any major snowfalls so far. Usually we get some in September and then it melts before having a bit of a second summer. This year, though, we haven't had our first major snowfall yet and the weather on the weekend was 19C. We were eager to get out and explore a bit.

Elbow Lake on Rae Lake Trail

The plan this weekend was to hit up a new hike for us. We wanted to try a bit of an easier one after Tent Ridge last week, but still a new one, so we decided to try Pocaterra Cirque. We remembered seeing a Pocaterra parking lot near the Upper Kananaskis Lake parking lot, so we decided to head there, thinking that was where the trailhead was... We were wrong. We got to the parking lot and it was empty. We had read the reviews on Alltrails and they had talked about how busy the parking lot was, so this made us question if we had the right location. There was a map in the parking lot, but there was no mention of Pocaterra Cirque. Unfortunately, none of us had remembered to download the offline maps from Alltrails, so we had no way of checking if we were in the right place. 

Instead of just wandering around aimlessly, we decided to hike as far as we could up to Rae Lake. It was a long 17km hike and since we were starting late in the day, we didn't think we would be able to reach the lake, but were willing to try and get as far as possible. 

Tombstone on Rae Lake Trail

We started the hike around 11.30 in the morning. We had all forgotten about the steep hill, right at the start of the hike. It is quite an introduction to both Rae Lake and Rae Glacier. Luckily, it only lasts about 1.5-2km. After that, the rest is pretty flat. When we got there, there was a decent layer of snow on the ground, so we used our crampons to make sure we didn't slip. I was very happy to have taken them with me. The first 2.5kms are walking through trees before they open up to a beautiful lake. I was able to get some great shots of the lake in the summer when we tried Rae Glacier, but a large portion of the lake had frozen over when we tried it this past weekend. It had certainly not frozen enough to carry any weight, though, so I don't advise walking on it. 

The trail forks at the lake though, so be careful. If you go right, you head up to Rae Glacier. If you go left, you head up to Rae Lake. Last time we were here, we went to the right. This time, however, we went to the left. Both trails skirt the edge of the lake and give you a lot of stunning views to photograph. Once you get to the far side of the lake, you walk through a valley with little to no tree coverage, so we were blown away by the wind yesterday... OK, not quite, but it was close a few times. We made it back into the trees again and while the wind did blow, at least here we were a bit sheltered. Then something unfortunate happened. We left the cover of the trees and this portion was even more open, so the wind really tried hard to blow our socks off. We made it about 1.5km into this portion before we started freezing, and there were a few times we struggled to stay on our feet. The wind was cold enough to start freezing the lake, so it was definitely chilly. 

Rae Lake Trail

We stood there and took a few pictures before we turned around to find a spot for lunch. Finding a decently protected spot was more difficult than we thought and it ended up being all the way back to about half way along the lake. By that point, I had worked up a decent appetite and I was very happy to stop for a bit. After the lunch, we headed back to the car. The trail was a lot clearer with regards to snow with regards to when we set out a few hours earlier, and a lot of it had melted. I still wore my crampons for this section as I didn't want to fall, but to be perfectly honest, I probably didn't need them. We managed to get back to the vehicles at around 15.30, so it was a decent day out at least. Once we left the mountains though, the weather started to warm up again, so just a word of caution: even if the temperature in Calgary is warm, that doesn't mean the mountains are. 

I will definitely do this hike again. I hope to do it as soon as the road opens next June 15th. The meadows should be looking fantastic at that time and the bushes may not have enough grown yet to get in the way of some pics of the surrounding peaks. They did look beautiful on the weekend when some of the tallest were partly hidden in clouds. 

Rae Lake Trail Hike

Hopefully, your next adventures will be a blast too! 

Regards.

G

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