Blog and photos by: Iain Robert Reid
Elk Lakes isn’t one of those parks that first comes to mind when one mentions Canada’s Rocky Mountains, however, there is no reason for its under appreciation. The density of incredible scenes in this park rivals any of the more well-known Rocky Mountain parks such as Banff or Jasper. It’s only a 15 minute walk to Lower Elk Lake and an exceptional backcountry campsite from the Elk Valley road. Waking up early to catch the morning alpenglow on the mountains behind the lake is absolutely worthwhile.
This area is certainly grizzly country. In fact, I ran into two grizzlies in the span of half an hour while hiking in the extraordinary Petain Basin area. Making lots of noise, carrying bear spray (and knowing how to use it), and travelling in groups will greatly reduce the chances of an unpleasant or negative bear encounter while hiking in the park. That being said, bears are some of the most beautiful and intelligent animals so seeing one at a safe distance is truly a memorable experience.
For waterfall lovers, Elk Lakes has one of British Columbia’s premier waterfalls. The Petain Waterfalls tumble 375 metres out of Petain Basin. The final drop of 61 metres is the most visible section of the falls and one can walk right up to the spray zone. Standing near the base of the falls one can truly witness the power of the waterfall as it crashes down.
Although the Elk Lakes themselves are spectacular, another worthwhile hike is up to Frozen Lake below Mount Fox. The deep blue colour of the lake hints to its glacial origins and the slate grey wall of Mount Fox behind the lake makes for an impressive backdrop. From the Lake it is possible for experienced hikers to scramble up to a ridge and get a view of Elk Lakes and the Elk River Valley from above.
This park has perhaps more incredible scenes per square inch compared to any other I have been to in Canada’s Rocky Mountains. I would definitely like to return and explore more of this beautiful mountain country.