I’d like to tell you about a great, little backpacking trip I’ve gone on a couple of times, and its admittedly the only real backpacking trip I’ve ever been on (unless you count a failed on Alone the James River west of Sundre where we only managed to be about 100 yards off the highway a backpacking trip). Nevertheless, it’s an incredibly easy hike in some nice country and there’s plenty to do once you get there. This definitely isn’t for the hardcore hikers or backpackers out there, but if you’re a first timer or just looking for an easy to get to spot for a quick weekend trip, it’s not too bad.
Eagle lake is a pretty small lake nestled right in between 2 mountains (one of them being Maze Peak) just a few km east of the Ya Ha Tinda. The hike in to the lake from the parking lot (it’s on the right hand side of the road on the way out to the Ya Ha Tinda) is about 2.5 km and is an incredibly easy hike. There’s not a lot of challenging terrain or elevation gain, but there is one small creek crossing and if memory serves me correct there may be a few spots of water to dodge just before getting to the lake, so be ready to skirt around this stuff or make sure you have waterproof boots.
Once you get to the lake there is ample room to set up even the largest of tents and there is plenty to do. One can fish for trout in the lake, make you way to the falls at the east end of the lake, or for the more adventurous, you could go on a bit of a hike into the mountains surrounding the lake. Be aware that there is a very good chance you’ll run into people up there. The area is popular with ATV riders and a local horse ranch so if the weather’s nice it could be a little busy. I’d suggest setting camp up a little ways back from the lake if you want a little more privacy. There’s plenty of dead fall for firewood, so make sure to bring an axe or a small saw, and don’t worry about water, because there’s plenty. besides the lake there’s a nice, fast-flowing stream feeding into the lake on its northwest corner that will provide all the water you could possible need.
All in all Eagle Lake will continue to be one of my favorite places to hike into and camp for a weekend. yes, it isn’t a particularly exciting hike or a very challenging one, but what it lacks in excitement on the way in it more than makes up for in beautiful scenery and things to do once you’re there. It’s a great introduction to backpacking for kids or beginners, but the drive to it may make some shy away if they’re looking for a really quick trip; expect the drive to be 3 to 4 hours from Calgary depending on traffic and weather conditions.
Directions from Sundre, AB: Drive west out of Sundre on Highway 584 and turn south onto the Coal Camp Road. Continue following the Coal Camp Road until it ends at Highway 40/734, the Forestry Trunk Road. Turn left onto the Forestry Trunk Road and follow it until you reach the Red Deer River crossing. At this point DO NOT cross river, but continue heading straight, following the river out to the Ya Ha Tinda ranch. The parking lot will be on the right hand side of the road just as you are coming out of the trees.