Zenfolio | Autumn Sky Photography | Caldron Lake

View Map

Rockies :: Icefields :: Caldron Lake

Download GPS Track


Peyto Peak and Caldron Lake from gentle talus slopes on north side of Caldron Basin

Trip Summary

September 15, 2013

Exceptional hike in the heart of Icefields leading to glacially fed basin below Peyto and Mistaya peaks.  This once relatively benign outing has become much more involved after spring floods of 2013 have destroyed bridge over Peyto creek.  To hike to Caldron lake and back is feasible as day trip, but considering higher water level of Peyto creek in the afternoon backpack might be better idea. Besides, there are many other well-worth opportunities for further exploration from strategically placed bivi near Caldron lake including straightforward ascent of Caldron peak or scramble of Mistaya mountain. Visit of talus bench just above toe of Peyto glacier is recommended option on return; couple of glaciology huts blend fantastically with environment and provide additional photo opportunity. Lower part of mountaineer route up Peyto glacier can also be surveyed from there.


Drive Icefields Parkway 42km north from junction with Trans-Canada at Lake Louise. At Bow Summit turn left and park at lower parking lot. Elbow your way up tourist walk-up leading to platform overlooking Peyto Lake. Despite the crowds it is worth stoping for a second as this is one of most photographed viewpoints in the Rockies and frequently found in various calendars.  From here hike consists of following parts:

  1. Descent to glacial flats. Find trail on left side of tourist platform and head down. This trail is well defined and descends to valley floor in about 30 minutes loosing over 300 vertical meters along the way -- keep this in mind, as return is the same way! 
  2. Crossing of Peyto creek and hike to toe of glacial moraine.  In the morning it is probably easier to follow trail on left side to alluvial flats for about 20 minutes to widest spot in the valley where the creek has braided into several channels and water is not so fast. This is about 5 minutes before the collapsed bridge.  Deepest part should not be above knee. Easier, and perhaps the only way in the afternoon,  is to cross directly at lake inlet as soon as descent trail from Peyto lookout levels off. This is much more cumbersome as you must cross several bushy/boggy areas, followed by awkward trash on the other side.  After crossing hike toward toe of glacial moraine curving above waterfall draining Caldron lake.
  3. Ascent of glacial moraine. To reach faint trial following the crest Caldron creek must also be crossed, but this is usually possible as rock-hop without taking your boots off.  Moraine crest is fairly narrow and loose requiring good balance and footwear.  Hiking poles are huge asset.  This section is considreably more difficult on return.
  4. Traverse of Talus bench leading to Caldron lake.  Trail is beaten in scree and it takes only 2 or 3 minutes to cross the exposed part, but some people not used to such places freeze or panic.  This part is key reason why winter trip would go into realm of mountaineering.  At the other side of the bench descend boulder field following cairns then hike cruncy shale toward the lake


Ascent of Caldron Peak:  South summit, rising  above north end of the lake is not the highest but can be incorporated as long day trip from Bow summit. It is as straightforward as it looks and it leads in just over an hour to the summit cairn.  Neadless to say, views are outstanding. Only mild challenge is crumbling rock band about halfway up and it can be negotiated without much difficulty.  To continue to north and true summit would require a rope and climbing ability due to steep drop; this part is not scrambling. Correct approach is to hike around the base of south peak without gaining much elevation, then angle up much scree. Views are not any better, so it appeals only for hard-core peakbaggers.

Ascent of Mistaya Peak:  Mistaya is snowcaped peak directly across Caldron lake as you first see it after traversing talus bench.  Ascent is much more involved and requires good route-finding.  Head around Caldron lake to its west end, then climb through several rock bands to upper ridge (class 3). This ridge can be followed in its entirety towards the summit.


Pleasant hiking-only alternative is high point of the basin - saddle between Caldron and Mistaya peaks. Takes only about 40 minutes from rock hop of lake outlet and grants great views of Barbette glacier. There is no trail or cairns, but way is obvious.


Peyto Lake on descent from Bow Summit
Glacial flats with ascent moraine under Peyto peak
Waterfall draining Caldron lake. Peyto Peak above
Peyto lake and glacial flats from top of ascent moraine
Caldron ClassicCaldron ClassicCaldron and Mistaya Classic view of Caldron basin with Mistaya peak on horizon
Swimming in Caldron Lake. Not for the faint of heart!
Glaciology Hut and Peyto glacier
Peyto Glacier toe and normal access route to Peyto Hut


Overall Difficulty


Knee high ford of Peyto creek. Steep and loose lateral moraine followed by exposed talus bench traverse

Snow Factor


Not a feasible winter objective.  Steep slopes below Peyto peak are major hazard


Fantastic views of Peyto lake and glacier. Caldron basin is very pristine and untouched



Initially good trail deteriorates and disappears in Peyto glacial flats. Route with occasional cairns afterward

Suggested Time


Return time for Caldron Lake only. Add  2-3 hr for false or 4-5 hr for true summit of Caldron Peak


Start: 2100m     Max: ~2400m     Total: ~1000m  (Caldron Lake only)

Round Trip: 20km  (Caldron Lake only)


Hiking boots, poles and gaiters. Pair of old sandals for creek ford are essential


Peyto glacial outflow and Caldron creek.  Caldron Lake in upper basin. Carry 1-2L

Dog Friendly


Peyto creek ford likely puts trip off limits. If bridge is repaired, standard  griz-country precautions.