The Lake of Hanging Glacier in British Columbia is absolutely stunning, with unreal views, and vibrant aqua colored water!
Our day hiking into this jewel of a lake was all around magic! There were a few setbacks of course which I’ll mention below. But between the waterfalls and having this gorgeous destination all to ourselves, it was pretty incredible.
We hiked to this lake in September, and the larches were just beginning to turn golden. You start off deep in the forest with beautiful greenery everywhere, thanks to a good amount of rainfall.
The trail is on the steeper side with several downed trees, but nothing you can’t get around. As you near the lake, you’ll come across your 2nd waterfall of the day, and it’s spectacular.
From there, it’s just a short push to the lake. But when you first come over the hill, the lake doesn’t present itself fully. So it’s best to keep going across the rocks that make this lake similar in effect to an infinity pool. And if you have an extra couple of hours, the ridge to the right of the lake has a scramble route to give you an even better vantage point.
Everything you need to know about hiking to the Lake of Hanging Glaciers in British Columbia:
- Mileage: 9.8 miles or 15.9 km
- Elevation Gain: 3,100′ or 947m
- Trailhead: the Lake of Hanging Glaciers trail begins 50km up Horsethief Creek Forest Service Road.
- Directions: From Radium at the Hwy 93/95 junction, drive west past the sawmill along Horsethief FSR. Turn left for Horsethief creek road after 1.5km. Take left fork at 3.8km. Continue straight at 4-way junction near 9km sign. Also continue straight at 14km sign. Keep driving this narrow road, keep straight at 39km sign and also keep past footbridge at 46k sign. Park at the 50k sign, end of road and trailhead (52k from Radium). I can’t remember where we got these directions from, but between this and following the signs, we made it! Needless to say, you’re way out of any kind of cell phone reception, and Google Maps isn’t going to know where you are. So another thing that might be handy, is an actual map!
Basic Facts and Tips for Lake of Hanging Glaciers:
- As I mentioned above, you’re way out of cell phone reception, and all that means! Basically, you need to be prepared to be completely self sufficient. We had the whole day completely to ourselves, but also that meant we were way out in the wildness all alone. That means different things to different people. While we enjoy the solitude, it also means if anything goes wrong, you need to be prepared. We carry basic first aid, what we need to start a fire, a bivy sack for overnight survival, extra food, and a purifier for additional water if necessary. This is by no means a complete list, just inspiration to get ready if you’re new to being ‘off the grid’.
- Bathrooms: there’s a pit toilet at the trailhead and another one at the lake near the tenting spot, so you’re pretty well covered there. Don’t be surprised if there’s no toilet paper though!
- Road Condition: We heard the conditions of the road vary greatly! Much of the road is logging truck territory, and make sure to give them the right away. This also explains why the conditions change so much. From our experiences with logging roads in Montana, they like to come in a nicely grade the roads they’re using in the early summer. However over even a few months, the condition can deteriorate quickly. We drove in the 3rd week of September and the road was nothing short of brutal! It took us about 3 hours total just to drive the 50km. Also it should be noted that high clearance vehicles are highly recommended! We do have a truck, but it’s not as high clearance as we’d like it to be. There’s also the factor of wheel base, the longer your wheel base, the more you’re really going to feel it on this road. At one point we were crossing a washout, and we were barely moving. This is because as the front of the truck was starting to come out of the low point, the rear was still at the high point. This is the perfect kind of situation for undercarriage destruction. And like I mentioned, you’re on your own out here! Also there are a lot of sharp rocks, and we had read before going of several people who said they blew out a tire on these rocks. So just one more thing to be prepared for.
- Air Pressure: After this road, we started experiencing some air pressure issues with 2 of our tires which makes for quite the story when I tell you about our trip into Bugaboo Provincial Park. Something we’d like to do moving forward, is to get something small we can carry to manually air up our tires for future adventures like this.
- Camping: There are tent sites and a pit toilet near the lake if you want to do some backcountry camping. We have a camping set up in our truck with a full sized bed in the back, and so we took the option to stay at the Stockdale Recreation Site which is near the 39km sign. Watch carefully for it, we almost missed it in the dark. They have a pit toilet, nice picnic tables, and fire rings. We just needed a place to park overnight, so it worked out great!
- Access: We didn’t know this before starting out, but the bridge over Hell Roaring creek is installed in early July, and removed in early October. This is due to issues with washouts. Also since this trail is maintained by the Summit Trail Makers Society in partnership with Recreation Sites and Trails, check with them to make sure it’s in place.
- Chicken Wire Fencing: There were only 2 coils of wire available at the trailhead when we were there. But they recommend placing it around your vehicle because porcupines have taken to chewing on tires, and also have gotten a taste for break line fluid. Since both brakes and tires are rather critical, we made sure to protect the truck knowing we’d be gone all day long. Some people think this is an over reaction, but from our experience a couple nights later I can tell you it’s not! We also strung up the chicken wire fencing around the truck when we went into the Conrad Kain Hut. But before we hiked in, we slept in the back of the truck one night. There were several times we were woken up in the middle of the night by the wires scraping against the truck as who knows what kind of wildlife tried to get in. So I can’t honestly say it was porcupines since I couldn’t see what we trying to get to the truck. But since it even woke up Tyler who sleeps through anything, we were glad we put the wire up!
And now… onto story time:
This hike into the Lake of Hanging Glaciers was our first one on a 10 day road trip through both B.C. and Alberta. I’ll be writing about all our adventures over the months to come, so stay tuned. Between sleepless nights, a serious rodent invasion, crazy massive snow storm, and countless breathtaking views, it was a ‘one of a kind’ road trip.
The trip started the day before this hike when we left Montana, and hoped to be in our camping spot making dinner before the sun went down. However, the road conditions had other plans!
It took us so long to get to the camp site, we arrived well into the night. So instead of dinner, we had some crackers and cheese instead.
(This idea of a quick dinner/sometimes no dinner has actually turned into a bit of a theme with our adventures.)
After our quick dinner, we hopped into the back of the truck to get some sleep. Somewhere in the night we heard some rustling about, but didn’t think much of it.
The next morning we got up way before sunrise and made coffee on the tailgate. We figured since it took us hours to get the first 39 km, we needed an early start. We had read the road just got worse and worse.
So with 11 km left to go, and our average speed around 6-8km/hour, we had over an hours drive left. To put it into other terms, we could have walked the remainder almost as fast as we were driving!
When we got to the parking lot, we started getting ready by pulling out our gear. It was then I found a bag of my Maple Cinnamon Granola I had tossed in last minute the day before. It had a small hole in it, and I remember saying to Tyler that all the bumping around must have punctured the bag.
“It’s always funny to me the things we convince ourselves of sometimes!”
Looking back, this is absolutely laughable, but I blame it on the sleep deprivation. I grew up in the woods, and mostly definitely know better than to leave food where wildlife, (or even more problematic… rodents) might get interested.
But I guess in my sleep deprived state, it didn’t occur to me we were looking at a rodent problem. Oh… but that situation would reveal itself in time. And you’ll hear the whole funny story over the course of the next 4 days of our road trip!
We finally arrived at the lake and spent as much time as possible exploring and looking for the best shots. It was so incredible, we wished we were staying overnight in the backcountry tenting site.
But as the day was waning, and we knew we had a over 3 hours drive back out, we reluctantly headed back out. Once we had unwound the chicken wire from the truck, we started the laborious drive out. And again, we ended up doing several hours of it in the dark.
From there we headed north past Radium to start our next backroad experience heading into Bugaboo Provincial Park. And from here, I wanted to leave you with a final tip!
Whatever you need, try and get it in Radium!
We had over a half tank of gas, so we figured we fuel up at the next town. That way we’d head into the backcountry with a full tank. This plan totally backfired when the next towns we came to didn’t have anything open. I mean you couldn’t even run your credit card at the pump ‘old school style’!
So now not wanting to head back through all the construction we had just come through, we decided to just wait until they opened in the morning. From there our story continues in the next adventure – Cobalt Ridge and Cobalt Lake!
Canadian Road Trip Series:
- Lake of Hanging Glaciers
- Cobalt Lake in Bugaboo Provincial Park
- Hiking in the Conrad Kain Hut Part 1
- Hiking the Conrad Kain Hut Part 2
- Helen Lake and and unnamed peak in Banff
- Hiking Mount Fairview in Banff National Park
- Bow Glacier Falls and Iceberg Lake in Banff National Park
- Natural Bridge in Yoho National Park