The trail to Upper and Lower Consolation Lake is one of the more popular trails in Banff National Park. Since we didn't have a lot of time to spend hiking long trails, we decided this would be a good one since it wasn't too long and was supposed to be relatively easy. The trail condition web site said it was muddy in places, but since they said that about a couple of other trails we had been on that weren't that bad, we thought they were again probably being conservative in their description.
The trailhead started at the same place as the short trail to the Boulder Pile at Moraine Lake. We had seen signs there before that said the Consolation Lakes trail was closed due to bears, but that sign was no longer there, so we started down the trail. The path led downhill for a ways and then leveled out. The only trouble was nowhere in the trail description was a discussion of a boulder field. Large, angular boulders had to be navigated over for about 100 yards or so. At the end of the boulder field was a sign. "Due to bears frequenting this area, it is illegal to continue on this trail with fewer than four people." Seriously? You couldn't put this sign on the other side of the obstacle course? Since it was only the two of us and the sign mentioned a rather large fine if caught with fewer than four people, we headed back. Instead, we decided to walk the trail alongside the length of Moraine Lake.
Once we hiked the lakeside trail, we decided to go back to the Boulder Pile to take some more pictures of Moraine Lake. As we approached the Consolation Lake trailhead, we noticed a guy headed down the trail by himself. Not wanting him to have to scramble over the obstacle course, we yelled out at him and explained to him the sign that lie ahead. It turns out he was from Italy and spoke only a little more English than we spoke Italian. As we stood there trying to explain the need for four people, four more people walked up to the trailhead. Since this made seven of us wanting to hike the trail, we all proceeded down the path.
After the boulder field the trail was relatively easy. We walked past a nice coursing stream with cascades only a little ways into the woods off the side of the trail (that I really wanted to go over and photograph, but I didn't get a chance to since I had to stay with the group). After about a mile or so, we hit the wet part of the trail. It was a challenge to try to pick out an alternate way that didn't have snow or mud or water. This continued on for a quarter mile or so until we reached the end of the woods. In front of us stood mountains soaring to our right and we could see Lower Consolation Lake ahead of us and another mountain on the other side of the lake. The only thing between us and the lake was another boulder field. This time, the field was larger and the boulders were bigger and more angular and sharper. Unlike the previous field, there was no obvious way that other hikers went, so it was every man for himself.
Sample of Boulder Pile Near LakeLower Consolation Lake
The three pairs and the Italian in our group all went different ways, scrambling over the boulders, sometimes jumping from rock to rock. Every once in a while we heard a loud crack followed by a rumble--an avalanche somewhere--we never saw anything falling. We finally got to the shore of the lake and a chance to take some photos and consider the other avalanches that brought down all the boulders we climbed over to get here--and that we would soon need to navigate back over them again.
Lower Consolation Lake
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