Lake of the Horns

- 12 Kilometers
- Intermediate to Difficult
- Full Day

Hiking, Biking and Camping permitted


Lake of the Horns

Access: Hwy 40, Cat Creek (closed between Kananaskis Lakes Trail turn-off and Highwood Junction from December 1 to June 15).
Parking: Cat Creek

- Bike 'n Hike, approx. 2.5 hrs one way; nearby camping at Cataract Creek.

Also known as McPhail lake (perhaps because it rests below Mt Mcphail with a trail that follows Mcphail creek) it is nonetheless named Lake Of The Horns, apparently due to the presence of horn coral fossils when visited in 1935 by rancher Raymond Patterson. At the time there was a lumber camp situated in the basin which lies en route to where trails branch off one by one to "Hill of the Flowers", "Lake of the Horns", and at the end of the road "Weary Creek Gap", the Pass on the B.C.- Alberta Boundary. This Lake is another popular fishing destination and because the route is comprised of wide logging roads it's not uncommon to see horse drawn wagons making the journey.

It shares the same trail as Carnarvon Lake for the first 2.5 km's, but after fording the Highwood stay right at the first fork, climbing a steep hill to a bench above McPhail creek. At about the 6km mark you arrive at a meadow where you go right at the junction, descending to mcphail creek and an open area where the logging camp once existed. Keep right on the road through the clearing and you'll climb some more, cutting left before the 3rd rise to bypass "Hill of the Flowers" and at about the 8km mark coming to the spot where you'll camp and/or park the bikes.

From here it is actually a longer and more rugged climb to the lake than I'd anticipated, but at the same time there's a wondrous view of the valley below and headwall above. A fire that swept over the pass devastated much of this area in 1936, and even now it still has a stark and ghostly feel to it, especially with overcast weather serving as a gloomy backdrop for added surreal effect. The scramble up the headwall varies in difficulty depending on what line you take, but if you can follow the trail it's a fairly easy route that doesn't require any rock climbing skills. Shortly upon our arrival to the lake we found it can become a viritual wind tunnel, with the grand cliffs that loom behind it trapping gusts wihch swirl around relentlessly making it almost impossible to cast a fishing line. But with better weather the fishing here can be exceptional, and it's a majestic place with a sensational view from the headwall, much like Carnarvon Lake. In fact, when you add these lakes with nearby Loomis and Picklejar Lakes, it seems possible the Highwood pass may be pound for pound the best area for biking/hiking/camping/fishing in all of K-Country.

NOTE: Make sure to visit Cat Creek falls (Interpretive trail) . It begins from the Cat Creek parking lot and crosses Hwy 40, climbing up to a ridge and through the forest (at one point crossing a clearing that used to be the Kananaskis Trail) taking about 30 minutes to arrive at the lowest waterfall. Climbing to a vantage point farther up the gorge will get you a view of much larger falls.