Lillian Lake is a beautiful spot, a wonderful destination, it’s superlative, but it’s not the place to go if you want solitude. It’s busy! That aside, the trail to it is still a very pleasant affair following the Galatea Creek valley west until it meets up with the lovely lake.
On the day we went the parking lot at the trail head was completely full, spilling out on to the highway and the whole route was wall to wall people, many not really prepared for the hike. Who hikes in flip flops?
Along the way you cross many bridges keeping low down by the creek initially (where it’s nice and cool). Later you go up higher on the hillside, steadily gaining altitude. The views are nice up there and the going easy save for a few steeper sections. After a junction with the Guinn’s Pass trail it’s a short “up” to the lake. It’s a busy place with a large back country campsite, but one can still find a place to themselves to have lunch or to reflect, if you circle the lake a bit.
Lillian Lake is crystal clear and I assume it offers good fishing – we could see many fish swimming about. And the colour, it’s amazing!
If you wish to continue, and we didn’t account of the heat (our nemesis), you can go higher up to the Galatea Lakes. Prettier yet I am told, and less busy. Something to look forward too, but we’ll return in the shoulder season when things should be quieter overall. And cooler.
My GPS gave the elevation gain on this trail as 450m. This contradicts other trips reports I have seen online, which claim anywhere from 250-500m. Odd.
The Lillian Lake trail head is south of the Kananaskis Village at the Galatea Creek day use area. The trail starts at the northwest corner of the parking lot and initially descends to a bridged crossing of the Kananaskis River – this bridge by the way makes an appearance in the film Brokeback Mountain. Shortly after there is another bridge, this time over the smaller Galatea Creek (the first of many times you’ll pass over it) and right after there is a T junction. Take the left branch, to the right is the Terrace Trail that if you follow it to the end it will take you to the Kananaskis Village.
The rest of the way it’s a well defined trail and outside of the signed Guinn’s Pass trail there are no other junctions or things of note to worry about. The going is always obvious and for the most part, up. Most of the time you are in the trees, but now and then there are openings giving one an occasional good view of valley you are travelling in and the mountains that rim it.
As mentioned there is camping at the lake, and judging from the traffic here, one would need to reserve a spot well in advance of their trip.
On the way back a school or church group was passed struggling up the trail. Judging by the loud moans and groans it was not going to be a fun trip. Perhaps once at the lake though, with the hard work behind them, maybe they all calmed down? Let’s hope for the sake of the leaders they did. I’d hate to have to listen to a whiny bunch all weekend. Haha!
We managed to find a fairly solitary spot on the south side of the lake, which requires circling around it in a anti-clockwise direction, and we enjoyed our lunch in relative peace.
If you wish more information on this trail, by all means contact us!
Date of adventure: July 2011.
Distance: 12km return. You can go further up to the Galatea Lakes if you like.
Height gain from start: 450m (which seems to contradict every trip report out there).
Height gain cumulative: 500m.
Technical bits: A few steep sections could be slippery if wet.
Notes: A very busy place.
Reference: Kananaskis Trail Guide by Gillean Daffern.