Paget Peak is a relatively modest sized mountain that offers up superb views of the Kicking Horse River valley and the charming town of Field BC situated far below. Along the way one can also see Wapta Lake to the south, the stunning turquoise of Sherbrooke Lake to the west (which we’ll visit) and it’s easy and fun to follow the CPR tracks as they snakes their way down the valley near the famous Spiral Tunnels.
This mountain is an easy scramble to the top, but we did not summit this day. After gaining around two thirds of the total elevation, making it to the bare scree slope up from the old fire lookout, we had to call our adventure off (or at least this part of it). The heat was stifling and this stopped us dead in our tracks. Heat is our kryptonite.
Rethinking things we decide to check out the the nearby Sherbrooke Lake. On a day like this it’s a much easier and cooler alternative and is still a fine destination in itself. Its lovely blue waters are famous and this makes it worth a visit.
The Paget Peak route is a continuation of the Paget Lookout trail and the start of it can be found just west of the Great Divide Lodge (formerly West Louise Lodge) near the Alberta/BC Border. From the parking spot on the north side of the Trans Canada Highway, just follow the combined Paget Lookout/Sherbrooke Lake trail, both official and maintained by Parks Canada staff. Just after the start another trail comes in from the east, which is the connecting route for visitors coming in from the lodge. Go left here. Gaining elevation as you go, before long there is yet another junction. Turn right here.
Climbing steadily the trail continues its way up and is well engineered and never a technical challenge. Soon after the first couple switchbacks you come to some cliffs and it makes you wonder how it’s possible to make it through. Perhaps it skirts further around to the east end of the mountain where the route may be easier? No, it tackles the cliffs head on, punching though a weakness in the bands. Around here the trees start to thin and shortly after you arrive at the lookout. No longer staffed it’s kept in fine shape by the parks department – it was however full of flies – thousands of flies – it was a scene from a horror movie. While many fire lookouts at perched on the very top of a mountain, this one is not, but the bench is lofty enough to provide the clear views needed.
Beyond the lookout there is no official trail but the way up is obvious – just follow the well-trodden path passing behind the lookout as it heads up though the ever thinning trees. Not long after you reach the tree line and from this point on the trail is in the scree (and is a bit loose in places). The hump above you is not the top, but rather the false summit. The real one summit is hidden at this angle and you still have a way to go.
Ever climbing we skirt around a another cliff band just below the false summit we mentioned earlier and its here the heat finally gets to us. It just sucks the life out of us and rather than risk heat stroke, we decide it’s time to head back down. But we are not done yet and decide a side trip to Sherbrooke Lake is in order. It’s a relatively flat trail and would not present any problems, even with the heat.
Before leaving, we take in the views – the lakes mentioned earlier, the little town of Field to the west with massive Mt Stephen towering over it. This peak is a challenging scramble and requires almost 2km of elevation gain to summit it (or roughly double that of the mountain we are on). We see a couple trains on the CPR tracks below, including one from the Rocky Mountain Rail Tours company. They move very slowly as they work their way down the steeply graded spiral tunnels.
Heading back down now we turn north at the last junction and follow the trail to Sherbrooke Lake. After perhaps a kilometre or so its wonderful turquoise waters come into view. Once you get to the shore you’ll really get to really appreciate the how beautiful this lake is. The colour – prepare yourself, it’s stunning. We follow the shore for a spell, but were turned back due to some flooding later on. A nice cooling breeze came off the lake and and this made for a pleasant lunch. Opposite our location, Mt Ogden looms above us and it and Paget Peak wall in the valley we are in.
These trails are located in Yoho National Park and a park pass is required should you wish to use them.
The whole understorey in the are was carpeted with False Huckleberry bushes (also known as False Azalea or Fool’s Huckleberry). Not to be confused with the true Huckleberry (also know as Wild Blueberry), the fruit of these plants look edible but are not. The delicate pink bell-shaped flowers are however very photogenic.
Keep in mind this area, especially around the lake, is prime bear habitat.
Our plans are to return some day to finish what we started. We are not done with Paget Peak, not by a long shot.
If you wish more information on this trail, by all means contact us!
Date of adventure: July 2012
Location: Field BC.
Distance: Paget lookout 7km return. Sherbrooke lake 6km return.
Height gain from start: Just past the lookout 650m. Sherbrooke lake 165m.
Technical bits: Some loose scree.
Notes: This is bear country.
Reference: Parks Canada Yoho park.