On Monday, with the GeoKids in school for the day, Mr. and Mrs. GeoK headed to the Highwood Pass area to enjoy the fall colours once more. With the weather forecast calling strong winds and snow later in the week, we’re expecting to that the beautiful autumn shades will mostly disappear by the end of the week.
After some deliberation, we decided on the Picklejar Lakes Trail; the trailhead is from the Lantern Creek parking area just off Highway 40. We last made this hike in October 2004, our second year of hiking with our GeoKids and at that time we made it (barely) to the first of the lakes. The name comes from the fact that (at least in past years) fishing for trout is as easy as "pulling pickles from a jar". This area is a fly fisherman’s dream; the lakes are full of cutthroat trout. Keep in mind that grizzlies also like fish and are regularly seen in this area. The term "lakes" seems to be rather loosely applied in this case, as three of the four lakes are very shallow and, in our opinion, would be more properly labelled as tarns. The third lake does seem quite a bit deeper.
An interesting thing about this trail is that it doesn’t follow Picklejar Creek as one might assume, but rather Lantern Creek which is one valley over.
This is a great trail for families with limited hiking experience. The front section is primarily in light forest, which makes for a more comfortable walk on hot summer days. There is a fairly arduous section starting about 3 km into the route; you’ll gain just about 200 meters over a distance of 750 meters, but this section of the trail is not rocky so footing would only be a problem under wet trail conditions.
After you’re done gaining altitude there is a short rocky stretch across a talus slope before you arrive at the shores of the first lake; with smaller kids, a bit of hand-holding may be required to navigate up and over a small crux.
These are not big lakes; it’s less than a km to circumnavigate the largest of the four lakes. We passed the first and second lakes on the south shore, the third lake on the north shore and walked along the western shore of the fourth lake where we found a nice picnic spot and enjoyed our lunch before heading back along the south shorelines. Having pretty much circumnavigated the 3rd lake, we think the north shore is a much easier walk, as the south shore is nothing but a big talus field.
There are two RedRouge geocaches hidden along the trail and we placed a new cache at the fourth and final lake, as the scenic views, family-friendly trail, opportunities for fishing (or maybe skipping rocks) and interesting geology qualify this trail as Favourite Hike #10. Watch for the cache to be published in the next few days.
One final note: hunting is permitted in this area at certain times of the year. At a minimum, consider wearing bright clothing or a reflective, flourescent safety vest. For more information, contact Alberta Fish and Wildlife at 403-678-5508.