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An Overnight Backpacking Trip To Lillian Lake

An Overnight Backpacking Trip to Lillian Lake

Summer time is made for backpacking and with so many options within a short drive of Calgary, it can be incredibly hard to choose where to go.  Several months ago I decided on Tombstone Campground in Kananaskis but last week the permitting team called me to see if I wanted to switch to Lillian Lake as it had just reopened.

I’d been hiking to Lillian Lake previously but just as a day trip so the option to spend the night camping at Lillian Lake sounded intriguing.

The trail was washed out pretty significantly in the 2013 floods and had just reopened so I had the privilege of being one of the first to experience the revitalized trail and campground.

An Overnight Backpacking Trip to Lillian Lake
The trailhead for Lillian Lake

Parking for Lillian Lake

To kick off the hike, you park at the Galatea Day Use Area, just off of Highway 40 and about 5 minutes on the road up from Mount Kidd RV Park.

Drive south on Highway 4o  from the Trans-Canada Highway for 32.6 kilometres. Look for signage shortly before the turnoff to the parking lot. It’s on the west side of the highway approximately 20 kilometres south of Barrier Lake. Washrooms are available in the parking lot.

Lillian Lake when there is still a little snow in the mountains
Lillian Lake when there is still a little snow in the mountains

The trail to Lillian Lake

The trail starts with a quick descent to the river where you cross your first of several newly built bridges. After your second bridge, you take a left at the T intersection to begin making your way towards the lake.

The first part of the path was mostly easy with some light ups and downs. The area reminded me a bit of the west coast with the thick moss covering the overhanging branches and nearby rocks.

About halfway into the hike you head up into some open areas with stunning views of the mountains around you and in the distance. From here the trail gets a bit more challenging but there are ample logs and large rocks to stop and take a breath.

Cross many bridges on the way up to Lillian Lake
Cross many bridges on the way up to Lillian Lake
Racing to beat the storm at the end of the hike
Racing to beat the storm at the end of the hike

The final half hour up to the lake is a bit of a slog. There is a lot of uphill but the effort is worth it as you catch your first glimpse of Lillian Lake.

An easy flat walk takes you to the other side where you will find several flattened campsites including many newly built wooden platform tent pads – some with a lovely view over the lake.

All told the hike to Lillian Lake is 6.3 kilometres one way with a vertical gain of 475 metres (1558 feet).

An Overnight Backpacking Trip to Lillian Lake
Lovely Lillian Lake
An Overnight Backpacking Trip to Lillian Lake
Tenting conditions weren’t ideal but it was great to be outdoors

Enjoy a communal fire pit

While we had some rainy weather, we did enjoy the time spent at the communal fire pit. We met some other couples here and enjoyed chatting while we made dinner. There has been a bear warning in the area so we were grateful for the bear lockers where we stored our food and cooking gear overnight.

An Overnight Backpacking Trip to Lillian Lake
The communal eating area

A leisurely morning in the Lillian Lake campground

After a rough night – kept awake by the thunderstorms we spent a slow morning at the campground making coffee and oatmeal before heading out. Overall I  was very impressed with this 13 kilometre round trip adventure and would not hesitate to come back.

It’s easy to use Lillian Lake as a base for a short out and back to the Galatea Lakes or even Guinn Pass.

Booking a campsite

The Lillian Lake Campground is one of the prime ones in Kananaskis Country and so books up quickly. There is a reservation fee of $12 in 2020. There are 15 campsites in total with 9 on raides wooden tent pads.

They are available from June 24 – November 30th. If you go in the fall be prepared for some very cold nights – and snow. Rates for camping are $12 per person per night. You can book online here or call 1-877-537-2757.

More ideas for hiking in Kananaskis Country

This is a guest post by my daughter, Kristen McAdam

Leigh McAdam

Leigh McAdam is a Calgary based writer, author, photographer and social media enthusiast with over 61,000 followers. Her blog: HikeBikeTravel is frequently cited as one of the top travel and outdoor adventure blogs in Canada.

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta

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