Key information: Carthew-Alderson Trail
- A beautiful hike with outstanding scenery, where one can see mountains, glaciers and high alpine lakes. Along with wildflowers in season, marmots and mountain goats and maybe even a bear! You may understand why it is said to be one of the best hikes in Waterton Lakes NP.
- From Summit Lake to the Carthew Lakes it is 6km. The trail crosses long and steep scree slopes to reach the Carthew Summit at 2,311m.
- Then head down steeply through a barren landscape of rock, although you can see the blue and clear Carthew Lakes in the distance. If you look south you can see the peaks of the wonderful Glacier National Park.
- Very windy in fall and spring, but considered less volatile in summer.
- This walk is in high, remote mountains, on which you will have to be self-sufficient and where altitude can cause real problems. Come prepared.
- Walkopedia rating82
- Natural interest16
- Human interest0
- Negative points0
- Total rating82
- Length: 20.1km
- 8 hours
- Maximum Altitude: 2,311m
- Level of Difficulty: Variable
Walkopedia friend Richard Bukowski says:
"This is a wild area of Alberta with lots of high Chinook winds and changing conditions. I started off at the waterfall trailhead and moved through to the edge of the tree line. This is an uphill hike for most of the way starting at this trailhead. Below the tree line the winds are calm but above I was in for a beating. The low clouds were moving very fast and the temperature went from an October 16 C to 5C when leaving the tree protection. When I reached the lakes I was buffeted by high winds and got some wind-burn. It's good to bring layers, a toque, and a windbreaker. Some of the wind was inflating my lungs so I had to put my hand in front of my mouth to facilitate breathing.
The lakes themselves were blue and clear but I missed the most important part of the trek. I was tired after 6 hours of hiking and went back where I came. I found out later that there was a continuation to a summit.
The next day I returned but started instead at Cameron Lake Trailhead. The weather was nice at the bottom and it looked like there was going to be more sun. You start the Carthew-Alderson Summit Trail in spruce switchbacks overlooking some snake clouds across the horizon. In the fall there's still some humidity and you can see moss and green grass highlighted by the morning sun. The summit lake was a peaceful and photogenic place to rest after those switchbacks. The trail continues towards the summit on easier switchbacks. There are loose rocks but hiking poles are enough. Once at the summit you can see a mesa and eventually the other side of the Carthew Lakes. At this view there are smaller mountains on each side that are at decent angles for off-trail hiking to get different views of the lakes.
The main tip here is that if one can get a shuttle to drop you off at Cameron Lake then most of the ascent is dealt with in the early part of the Carthew Alderson Summit Trail, and it can connect with the rest of the Carthew-Alderson trail walking 80% of the trail downhill ending at the waterfall trailhead.
As windy as it is in the fall or spring it's considered less volatile during the peak in summer."
Walkopedia says thanks Richard!
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For more information and photos, including detailed practical information and some warnings, see our Waterton Lakes NP walk page.
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Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and potential problems, and many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks, dangers and problems. Problems of any sort can arise on any walk. This website does not purport to identify any (or all) actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to any particular walk.
Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.
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