When more than one mountain guide tells you that Lake O’Hara is his #1 pick for the Rockies, you listen.
Off the Great Divide, the Alberta side of Victoria and Lefroy drain to Lake Louise; water running down the other side of the divide into BC drains to Lake O’Hara. But what a contrast from one side of the divide to the other. While Louise is busy and bustling with visitors, O’Hara is a restricted alpine area – only 42 day users are permitted to enter daily by reservation only, unless you want to walk or run the 10km road, which I did.
Lakes, waterfalls, mountains, meadows, glaciers. And (nearly) all to yourself.
You can hike from Lake O’Hara to Lake Louise via Abbot Pass, where the historic 1922 hut sits. It’s a small stone building built in the style of the Swiss refuges, and is still in use today. In the early 1900s Swiss guides hired by the Canadian Pacific railway would take tourists staying at the Louise Chateau to hike the Plain of Six Glaciers, go up the Victoria Glacier (through the Death Trap), and attempt to ascend Mts. Victoria and Lefroy. In fact the Lake Agnes Tea House was built for these aspiring mountaineers as a rest stop. I’ve had to cancel my trip to Abbot Pass twice this summer, but darn it, I wanted to see O’Hara.
I ended up doing a modified version of the classic alpine circuit proposed by Parks Canada, in clockwise fashion. Though in order to get up close to the Seven Veils falls I decided to do the Oesa trail instead of Huber Ledges, and walk the stone steps laid by Lawrence Grassi. It really does take as long as Parks estimates, not because the trail is difficult, but because of all the photo stops! What an incredible area; my idea of Paradise. So much variety.
Lake Oesa Trail -> Yukness Ledges -> Opabin Plateau -> All Souls -> Alpine Meadow past the Elizabeth Parker hut -> back to Lake O’Hara.
Catching the bus back was simple. If there is room after those with reservations are seated, Parks allows one-way fares $9.75 for a ride back – pay the driver in cash. Next time(s) I’d like to hit up Abbot Pass, McArthur, Cathedral Lakes, Wiwaxy. And next summer… Victoria and/or Lefroy.