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Rockies ::  Kananaskis :: Galatea Lakes

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 Panoramic view of lower Galatea Lake. Upper lake is behind the low ridge center right; Tower rising above

Abstract

Overall Difficulty D3 Easy trail hiking to Lilian lake followed by moderate ascent to upper basin.  Awkward talus slope for optional alternate descent
Snow Factor S3 Considerable avalanche risk from Mt. Kidd south in Galatea creek
Scenery Galatea creek with small waterfalls and canyons.  Nice Lilian Lake.  Classic high-alpine cirque hosting Galatea lakes
Trail/Marking Excellent Official Park trail. Bridges have been rebuilt past historic 2013 floods. All junctions are marked.
Suggested Time 7 hrs Round trip allowing plenty of time for exploration of Galatea cirque.  Possible extensions to Guinn pass, scramble of Mt. Kidd south or crossover to Ribbon Lake are better done as separate trips
Elevation Start: 1540m     Max: 2230m     Total: ~900m Round Trip: ~19km
Gear Day hikers are sufficient. Micro-spikes for icy creek sections in winter conditions.  Poles recommended for Galatea cirque
Water Galatea creek and lakes. No need to carry more than 1L at any time.
Dog Friendly Yes Very popular trail - keep control of your dog at all times. Standard back-country travel precautions

 

 

Gallery

Suspension bridge over Kananaskis River near the start

One of several bridges over Galatea creek in lower part

Views back as trail crosses avi slope below Kidd South

Benches at west end of Lilian Lake near the campground

View back to Lilian Lake from lip of Galatea cirque

Lower Galatea lake - reservoir like in early fall when water level is low

View back as trail ascends to upper lake. Kidd south upper center

Herd of mountain goats that makes lower Galatea lake their home

Trail continues to west end of upper Galatea lake

Unexpected sandy beach on west shore of upper Galatea lake

Fall colors above lower Galatea lake on alternate return

Lilian lake on alternate return. Steep talus descent below


 

Summary

Galatea creek is popular K-country trail leading to official back-country campground at Lilian Lake.  Fishing in the lake is very good, so anglers can often be spotted as well.  Real reward lies in continuing to alpine cirque below the Tower that hosts 2 back-country lakes.  Other destinations accessed via Galatea creek include Guinn Pass/Ribbon lake crossover, Kane scramble of Kidd south or cross-over to Smith-Dorrien corridor via Lost Lake/Rummel Pass.

 

Parking is west side of Hwy 40,  5-10 minutes south from Kananaskis Village junction (~20 mins from Trans-Canada Highway). Large parking lot fills fast on summer weekends.  Road-like trail descends to Kananaskis River, crosses on suspension bridge, then continues to Terrace junction.  Turn left and follow Galatea creek trail.  This canyon has been ravaged in epic 2013 floods, but all bridges have been rebuilt. There are still some washouts in lower part but good bypass trail has developed.  It takes about 1.5 - 2 hours to Lilian Lake, with steepest part after the last bridge. Past Guinn Pass junction trail descends slightly to east end of the lake and hikes around on the often muddy north side to the campground.  There are several good tent sites, outhouse, food cache as well as couple of nice platforms on west shore. Needless to say, it gets filled often during the summer!

 

There are 2 ways to Galatea cirque past Lilian Lake.  Normal access follows good trail that starts just past NW corner of the lake (before the campground). It switchbacks through thinning forest, then up talus slope above treeline to terrace above lower Galatea lake.  Second way is less obvious and more demanding.  Rough trail starts on the left side of the outhouse and scrambles steeply up talus slope to south side of lower lake. Most people hike up the 'normal' way then sometimes descend the 'outhouse trail' to form a loop.  In each case it is well worth to hike up all the way to the upper lake set below sheer cliffs of the Tower: It is more beautiful and does not have 'reservoir-like' appearance of the lower lake when water level is low.  Watch for herd of bighorn sheep that make upper cirque home.

 

Return the same way.  Note that Guinn Pass/Ribbon Lake/Kidd South are all accessed from marked junction 5 minutes before Lilian Lake. Less frequently hiked Lost Lake/Rummel Pass crossover junction is now harder to find as turnoff has been obscured by post-flood deadfall - watch for flags just before crossing Galatea creek for the 7th time.  All these options are not really feasible as Galatea Lakes extension and are best done as separate trips.