Lillian and Galatea Lakes
- Physical DifficultyThis is the average user-submitted rating on the physical difficulty of this route. In general, green is beginner, blue is intermediate, black is advanced/most difficult and double-black is expert-only. It is recommended that users build up to black and double-black routes.
- Technical DifficultyThis is the average user-submitted rating on the technical difficulty of this route. In general, green is beginner, blue is intermediate, black is advanced/most difficult and double-black is expert-only. It is recommended that users build up to black and double-black routes.
Another classic Kananaskis backpacking trip is the backpack to Lillian and Galatea Lakes, with a side-trip to Guinn’s Pass. For years this was a yearly Friday-night classic, finish work, get to the trailhead and get to pretty Lillian Lake. The real highlight of this backpack highlight is the easy Saturday daytrip to Upper Galatea Lakes and nearby Guinn’s Pass, both incredible places. This is another great backpack if you’re just getting into backpacking.
View Lillian and Galatea Lakes on Map
- Map Data: ©OpenStreetMap
- Tiles: ©CyclOSM
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Route Description for Lillian and Galatea Lakes
We love the backpack to Lillian Lake. While Lillian Lake is not a spectacular setting, the daytrips nearby to Galatea Lakes and Guinn’s Pass are spectacular.
Set out from Galatea Parking Lot on the clear path that goes initially downhill before crossing a bridge over the Kananaskis River.
The trail then goes up the Galatea Valley, following Galatea Creek, over which you will cross and re-cross several times.
Along the way, you get some pretty river views, however most of this first section is through the forest.
2.9 km from the car, the path will split. Take the right-hand branch and go up and away from Galatea Creek.
You reach the tip of Lillian Lake after anywhere from 1.5-2 hours. The hike is roughly 6.3 km while gaining 600 m. If you aren’t a regular hiker, expect this to take a bit longer.
Lillian Lake is a pretty lake, and many hikers stop here. There are some nice benches along Lillian Lake, as well as the Lillian Lake Backcountry Campground, which has 17 campsites, a group fire pit and toilets.
If you started early, it may make sense to make a quick trip up to Galatea Lakes or Guinn’s Pass. We normally start the trip into Lillian Lake after work, so leave the nearby day hikes for Day 2.
The daytrips today are spectacular! The views from Guinn’s Pass and Galatea Lakes are very special. Starting early means you get to them before day hikers arrive. Today’s route is roughly 7.2 km, with 550 m of elevation gain.
From Lillian Lake, the path to Galatea Lakes is a bit tricky. Go through the campground and follow the signs to the washroom. You will soon see the signs pointing the direction to Galatea Lakes or Guinn’s Pass.
The route to Lower Galatea Lake and Guinn’s Pass starts off on the same trail. Follow this narrow path through tall brush, which is at times steep. Once you come out of the trees you continue going up, now over rocks.
You soon come to a junction, where those wanting to explore Lower and Upper Galatea Lakes go to the left. Guinn’s Pass (3.0 km return, 240 m of elevation gain) goes up to the right.
You can go either way you want, for this description go to Galatea Lakes first. Go left here and you very quickly come over a ridge and look down on Lower Galatea Lake. Follow the path here as it goes around the right-hand side of Lower Galatea Lake before going around the back of Lower Galatea Lake. The views along this part of the hike are spectacular.
Once at the far-end of Lower Galatea Lake you hike up a short section and go right to see Upper Galatea Lake. You can hike a short distance on the right-hand side of Upper Galatea Lake.
From Upper Galatea Lake, the easiest option is to return the way you came back to Lower Galatea Lake and then down to Lillian Lake.
There is also a path that continues around Lower Galatea Lake, which is shown on our map. To go around Lower Galatea Lake, take the clear path that goes around the right-hand side of the lake. When you reach the end of Lower Galatea Lake, look on your left for a path that goes through the trees. This path will take you to the junction that goes up to Guinn’s Pass. It’s very easy to miss this path, which we did, and is shown on our map.
If you miss the turn, then the route down is a very steep and loose trail. The route looks like it goes down all the way to Lillian Lake, however we went left partway down the descent and bushwhacked 200 m through the forest back to the main trail. We’d recommend against our route, though it is possible. If you make it all the back to Lillian Lake let us know!
If you get back to the junction with Guinn’s Pass, take that route. The path is 1.5 km long, and gains 240 m on the way to Guinn’s Pass.
Once at Guinn’s Pass, the views are spectacular, looking across at a pretty high alpine meadow and peaks all around you. Many backpackers will continue over Guinn’s Pass down to Ribbon Lake Backcountry Camping site, roughly 3.3 km from Guinn’s Pass.
The only downside of the view from Guinn’s Pass is that you can’t see Ribbon Lake. To see Ribbon Lake, walk up Guinn’s Peak, a mountain to the right of Guinn’s Pass. You only have to hike for 250 m, during which time you’ll gain 70 m of elevation to get some incredible views. There is no trail up here, however the views are spectacular, and you can see the stunning greens of the valleys surrounding Ribbon Lake.
Return back to the junction and down to Lillian Lake.
Another option for Day 2 would be to backpack to Ribbon Lake Backcountry Campground, which is 2.3 km from Guinn’s Pass, and involves descending 330 m, after gaining 240 m to the pass. There are 20 campsites, pit toilets and firepits
Today is an easy 6.3 km hike back to the Galatea parking lot, retracing your steps from Day 1.
If you are starting at Ribbon Lake campground and you want to return to the Galatea trailhead, you’ll need to hike 5.1 km with 330 m of elevation gain and 440 m of elevation loss over Guinn’s Pass back to Lillian Lake.
If you are at Ribbon Lake, you could also go out via the Ribbon Creek trail, however you would need a car shuttle as you’d end up at Ribbon Creek parking lot near Nakiska. Going out via Ribbon Creek also has chains, which you need to use to get past one tricky section. Some people find the chains easy, others find them terrifying, it depends on your comfort with exposure. Going down with a full-pack is definitely a different experience to going up with a daypack.
Insider Hints for Lillian and Galatea Lakes
- Book your campsite early if you want to go on weekends.
- You could make a wonderful linear hike on Day 2 by hiking to either Ribbon Lake Backcountry Campground or Ribbon Creek Backcountry Campground. That would make your Day 3 roughly 11.0 km with 587 m of elevation loss from Ribbon Lake or 9.2 km and 310 m of elevation loss from Ribbon Creek. Note that there are some daunting chains between Ribbon Lake and Ribbon Creek, which are not good if you don’t like exposure. Down climbing with a heavy backpack, they are much more difficult. You’d also need to arrange a car shuttle.
Getting to the Lillian and Galatea Lakes Trailhead
From the Stoney Nakoda Casino on the TransCanada, take Highway 40 south for roughly 32.6 km. Turn right into the signed Galatea parking lot.
Lillian and Galatea Lakes Elevation Graph
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Lillian and Galatea Lakes Reviews
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