Landslide & Lake of the Falls
Lake of the Falls
We arrived at the Pinto Lake Trailhead at 9:30 on Friday night. With plenty of light, we decided to start onto the trail rather than camp at the trailhead. We biked the first section to Sentinel Creek which had the usual rocky/rooty/muddy obstacles, but overall it was quite manageable despite our backpacks with 4 days worth of supplies.
The next morning started off with an adrenaline shot as I carried the bikes across the creek and up Turkey Ridge. Even early in the morning the sun was starting to bring a lot of heat, not to mention three trips up and down the ridge. We again made pretty good time as we worked our way through open forest downhill to the Cline River. This is where it became clear that our memory of the trail wasn't as accurate as we thought. The flat section along the Cline had so many roots that with our backpacks on we were forced to walk more than ride. The north bank of the Cline has some interesting formations.
As the trail branched left at the large outfitter's camp, we again found ourselves pushing our bikes through eroded trail and nasty willow overgrowth in an old burn. Where the trail reaches a viewpoint overlooking the confluence of the Cline River Valley and Entry Creek, our frustration led us to stash the bikes and continue on foot (a decision approximately 2 km too late ).
From here, the trail started to become more enjoyable as we flanked Entry Creek. Views continually improved and we reached the Landslide/Lake of the Falls junction quickly.
A bridged crossing over the first creek was followed by a knee-deep ford of Entry Creek shortly thereafter. We made it to the campsite at the base of the mountain for lunch before starting up the switchbacks. It was nice to finally gain some significant elevation. As the trail drops down to the creek above the second falls, there is a cairn on the opposite side where the trail is picked up again. We crossed here, but found out later you can keep your feet dry by picking your way upstream for 50 m to a rudimentary log bridge (depending on water levels I suppose).
The trail flanks the opposite side of Entry Creek for just a short distance before climbing steeply and without the aid of any switchbacks up the treed slope. Before long, you find yourself heading back downhill into a beautiful valley. Because of the melt, the path was quite wet in sections all the way to the lake.
We passed a couple of sunbathers wearing not much more than a smile (dropped off and picked up by helicopter) but found only two other real campers at the lake. On a sunny long weekend!
The next morning we explored the meadows above the lake, opting not to pursue the lookout on this trip. We saw some marmots and mountain goats here, but the goats were too far away to get a good picture.
We left Lake of the Falls before noon. It was another hot morning. Upon descending to the lower Entry Creek crossing, we discovered that the water level had risen more than a foot. It was now a thigh-deep ford whereas it was just below my knee level 24 hours earlier. We had witnessed much of the ice on the lake disappear during the time we were camped there.
After the ford and bridged crossing to follow, we turned up the Landslide Lake trail. It was a more direct trail with a steady but moderate ascent. Just after a point where there is a log "guard rail" defining the edge of the trail on your right, look for a small trail leading left up into the trees. There is a "H" carved into a tree which denotes the path to Hidden Lake. It's only a five-minute walk off the main trail and worth the short side-trip.
Some annoying deadfall slowed our progress on the main trail and we were confined to the trees for 3 km with the sound of the creek below on the right. After passing by a pretty little stream that tumbled through the moss, the trail started weaving through the rocky terrain which is the lake's namesake.
After approximately 3 hours, we reached the lake. It seemed we were the first ones of the day to claim a campsite, so we got a prime location on the point. We had a great evening around the campfire with our neighbours.
Once the sun went down, what was initially a lakeside paradise descended into mosquito hell. Morning brought no relief from the little buggers, and their attack on my wife was unrelenting. We also awoke to the sound of thunder, so we hurried to pack up just in case.
The bikes really didn't pay off on the way out like we thought they would until the other side of Sentinel Creek, when we finished on a high note, ripping downhill towards the trailhead. In the end, I think we saved quite a bit of time using the bikes, but they certainly did not spare us any effort. Decision: not recommended. The best way to do this trip would be to start up Wild Horse Creek to Landslide Lake, then Lake of the Falls, and out via Entry Creek/Cline River. However, this option requires two vehicles or hitch-hiking.
Keywords: Alberta, backpacking, Canada, David Thompson, hiking, mountains, Rockies
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