By: Laura Keil
Going into the alpine is always amazing, but there’s one hike that offers something extra one or two weeks of the year.
The Lily Meadows Hike – also known as Bulldog Ridge Trail – is a scene out of Sound of Music during late June to early July.
For centuries, bulb-digging grizzlies have cultivated millions of yellow glacier lilies. The meadow is covered in these delicate flowers, which crush easily under your feet. Here and there you’ll see freshly turned earth – evidence of a bear’s busy paw. Apparently the bulbs are slightly sweet in taste – like a turnip perhaps.
Even if you miss the lily explosion, you won’t be disappointed by this trail, which was recently re-opened after several years of being overgrown. Beyond the meadows, the mountain peak sits atop the meadow like a flat-top haircut – a rocky mesa void of plantlife. Skirting to the left of this and over a rockslide, you’ll discover a new alpine “room,” as you get closer to the Horse Creek headwaters and the glaciers that feed it. A turquoise lake stretches across this valley. The mountain top (on your right now) changes shape as you see it from a new angle – the word “grand” comes to mind. You have to take it in the same way you would an 18th century cathedral.
The groundcover of heather feels amazing on weary feet. Some hikers even choose to swim in the frigid water. High above in the rocky plateau, you may see a hawk or osprey circling slowly.
Beyond this lake are even more views, but some hikers turn around here. Rather than retreating on the same trail, you can follow the lake in a westerly direction where the water flows down a cliff. The waterfall isn’t huge, and nimble hikers can stand next to where it drops down and get an unparalleled view of the Kinbasket Lake valley.
The descent gets tricky from here as it is very steep and you have to pick your way down another rockslide just beyond the waterfall. Route finding is also a problem, as the trail here is not ribboned and it’s easy to lose your way if you veer from the creek. The descent follows Horse Creek closely until it meets up with the old better-tread trail.
The hike gains approx. 800m of elevation over 4.2km, for an 8.4km roundtrip to the first alpine lake. It takes roughly 6-7 hours to complete at a slow but steady pace.
The access to this trail is found by travelling to the Valemount Marina past all the campgrounds. Just before the marina, keep to the left when the road forks. It will fork again shortly after, but stay again to the left (the road will ascend). A high clearance vehicle and/or 4×4 is recommended for this logging road. Watch out for logging trucks. Follow this road for approx. 8 km until you come to a bridge. Park just before or just after the bridge on the side of the road so vehicles can still pass. The trail begins on your right about 100ft from the bridge. If you look carefully, you’ll see yellow trail tape denoting the start.
This hike is not recommended for beginners. It is challenging and should be approached only by experienced hikers or with a guide. This is bear country and the mosquitoes and black flies are also bad.
For more on this trail visit: http://valemounttrails.com/lily-meadows-horse-creek-trail-valemount/
For more on this and other trails, visit www.valemounttrails.com.