Bourgeau Lake, Banff National Park
text and photographs by Mike Potter
Bourgeau Lake is the perfect medium range/moderate difficulty hike in Banff National Park, and a great way to get out and see some wild life, a beautiful Canadian Rockies lake, and still get back to town in time or a great dinner.
Hiking up south of the gorge of Wolverine Creek, you pass through a zone of Douglas-firs before crossing a slide path that gives views east to Banff National Park’s Sawback Range (named by James Hector in 1858). To the northwest is an unnamed outlier of Mt. Brett, on whose slanting ledges you may observe mountain goats and bighorn sheep.
The big boulders at the northeast end of the lake are often frequented by golden-mantled ground squirrels and at least a few chipmunks. The profuse flora that can be seen in the area includes western anemone, mountain sorrel, and glacier lily.
Although you may be tempted by the proximity of this trail to the townsite when you’re wanting to get up high early in the season, you should keep in mind that its elevation and sheltered situation result in deep snow until well into summer.
The names of the lake and the adjacent mountain honour Eugene Bourgeau, the popular French-born botanist of the 1857-1859 Palliser Expedition to western Canada.
Distance: 7.5 km (4.5 mi) – Trans-Canada Highway to Bourgeau Lake
Day Hike: 2.5 – 3 hr one way
Elevation Gain: 710 m (2330 ft)
Maximum Elevation: 2155 m (7070 ft)
Trailhead: Parking area on west side of Trans-Canada Highway, 2.8 km (1.7 mi) north of Sunshine interchange and 0.5 km (0.3 mi) south of bridge over Wolverine Creek.
0.0 – Sign (elevation 1445 m). Proceed into forest and begin steady climb.
2.5 – Cross avalanche chute.
3.7 – Cross tributary of Wolverine Creek flowing from south.
5.5 – Cross Wolverine Creek below waterfall on rock steps. Begin steep switchbacks.
6.8 – Trail levels out in meadows of lake basin.
7.5 – Northeast end of Bourgeau Lake (2155 m).