Lake of the Hanging Glacier is an alpine lake at 7,000 feet in a cirque below the Jumbo Glacier and Commander Glacier in the Purcell Mountains of British Columbia. The Purcell Mountains are located in one of the last pristine wilderness areas in Canada. This is not a hike for the beginning hiker, but one for those who are seasoned and comfortable with being in a remote area without the comforts or relative safety of civilization. It is a good idea to be in a group of six or more people as the hiker will be entering wilderness that is prime grizzly territory. ParksCanada has a webpage regarding bears and your safety.
Rated: Moderate to strenuous hike Distance: 18km (11mi) round trip Elevation gain: 720m (2,362 ft) Location: Rocky Mountain Forest District, B.C. - Purcell Mountains Map: 1:50,000 scale - Duncan Lake 82K7 available at Government Agents office in Invermere. Best Time: July to September only, with the trail being driest in September. The B.C. Ministry of Forests recommends waiting until July for the bridges to be put in place.
The trailhead is located at the end of a logging road about 52km from Radium Hot Springs. From the Junction of Highways 93/95 turn west onto Forsters Landing Road and cross the bridge. Here the road will angle to the right. After reaching the fork turn left onto Horsethief Creek Forest Service Road (a gravel logging road, stay to the right and watch out for the logging trucks!). Ignore any of the other turns. Go straight through the 4-way intersection with the Westside Road. At 39km there is a footbridge at a camping site at the Stockdale Creek FS Recreation Site (not large enough for motorhomes or trailers). A little farther on park at the 50k sign where there is room for 10 vehicles.
The trail begins by following an old roadway for 2km to the trail registration box. There is no charge for the use of this trail or the campsite near the lake. The hiker/camper is expected to pack out whatever they bring in.
[2-View of glacier from trailhead]
Here the trail narrows and begins to climb toward the first bridge over Hell Roaring Creek.
[8 - Steep sides of Hell Roaring Creek - click to enlarge]
[9 - Crossing Hell Roaring Creek - click to enlarge]
The bridge is removed during the off season, and crossing the creek without a bridge is not recommended due to the treacherous current and the slick sides.
[10 - Horsethief Creek - click to enlarge]
[11 - Golden Eagle]
[12 - Steep sides above Horsethief Creek - click to enlarge]
[13 - Waterfall from icefield above - click to enlarge]
From the creek the trail climbs up into thicker forest and a junction. Stay left (the right trail leads to a horse crossing) to cross a metal bridge over Horsethief Creek.
[14 - View through the trees on the way up]
[15 - Another view through the trees - click to enlarge]
[16 - Waterfall]
From the second bridge the trail goes along the creek for 1 km or so through mature forest to reach the start of the switchbacks. There are 13 of them, and the grade is moderate. Those hikers unaccustomed to the altitude should take it slower to avoid respiratory problems.
[17 - Waterfall farther up]
Once above the switchbacks, the trail goes through the valley until alpine meadows are reached. This is where the camping area and pit toilet is. Use a gas stove in sub-alpine areas like this.
[18 - Wildflowers enroute]
[19 - Alpine Cinqfoil]
From here an 800 m hike past a beautiful cascading waterfall brings you to the head of the lake. To this point in the trail there has been no glimpse of the lake.
[20 - Cascading waterfall below Lake of the Hanging Glacier - click to enlarge]