Name of hike: Boom Lake
The area: Bow Valley/Castle Junction
Elevation gain: 175 metres
Difficulty: Once trail is clear of snow, easy. Currently: wet, muddy and difficult!
How to get there
Take the Highway 1 west towards Banff (for a more scenic route, hop onto the 1A or Bow Valley Parkway that runs parallel to Highway 1, beginning just west of Banff).
From either the 1 or 1A, take the exit onto the 93 Highway towards Radium at the Castle Junction intersection. Go six or so kilometres on the 93 and you’ll see signs for Boom Lake picnic area, where there is a parking lot, picnic tables, pit toilets, and the trailhead.
The coordinates are 51.248645, -116.023052
The return trip to the lake and back is 10 kilometres. This isn’t a loop, you’ll return on the same trail you took to get to the lake. It will take 3.5 to four hours. There aren’t a lot of steep spots, just a slight elevation gain of 175 metres.
This hike is known as a good early season hike, as the snow is usually melted, but at the time the photos were taken (early June 2017) there was still a lot of snow on the trail – knee-deep in some spots – and some very wet and muddy sections. Once the snow and mud subside, the hike is much easier.
You’ll climb through dense, mossy forest, with nice mountain views peeking through the trees from time to time. You’ll come out on the rocky shore of Boom Lake, which makes a perfect spot to eat that lunch or snack you packed, or just to sit and enjoy the sunshine and views before heading back.
Things to keep in mind
Cell service drops off for most of this hike, though we managed to pull up enough bars to post an Instagram update at the lakeshore!
Check the Parks Canada Trail Conditions Report before setting out for up-to-date information on trail condition, closures, bear and other wildlife warnings and more. No matter where you are hiking it’s always a good idea to let someone know your planned route and estimated time of return.
The trail starts at the far end of the picnic area. You’ll find a trail map here as well.
The first part of the hike has lots of views of the mountains, while further on the forest gets a bit thicker.
There are lots of little streams running along (and sometimes across) the trail, which makes for a beautifully mossy green understory.
There are lots of unique lichens on the rocks along the trail, and some more common species like these pale green Pixie Cups, that like to grow on moss
All those streams (and a heavier-than-average snowfall this winter) make for some very wet and muddy patches though, particularly early in the season.
At the time this hike was photographed (first week of June), there was still significant snowpack on the trail, particularly during the second half of the hike in to the lake. Good waterproof footwear is a strongly recommended, as this trail will likely remain sloppy for a while yet!
The hike in, even in muddy conditions, is worth it for the view of Boom Lake at the end.
There is a long open area along the shore with lots of convenient boulders for sitting on and soaking up some sun. Definitely a better spot for a picnic than the picnic area at the trailhead!