After checking the most recent weather forecast (posted by Parks Canada staff at Le Relais day shelter by 9 o’clock each morning), we decided to save our attempt at the Alpine Circuit for our fourth and final day of our Lake O’Hara stay. With clouds and rain showers in the current day’s forecast, we opted to head up West Opabin to explore the network of trails on the Opabin Plateau before descending by way of East Opabin trail.
From Le Relais, we headed counterclockwise along the Lake O’Hara Lakeshore trail, past the lakeshore cabins of Lake O’Hara Lodge to the clearly signed West Opabin trail.
After a short, gentle climb in the mixed forest, the trail skirts the shoreline of Mary Lake, named after our sister-in-law. 😉 JK! It’s really named after Mary Schaffer (1861-1939) pioneer botanist and explorer, painter and photographer. Not long after emerging from the woods, there’s a clear view of Opabin Prospect looming above and on of our intended stops over the course of the day.
West Opabin Trail
The trail continues around the lake before breaking out onto the scree slope above the lake, gaining elevation through a series of switchbacks and then hugging the shoulder of Opabin Prospect for the final steep push. Just before reaching the plateau, a sign indicates the junction with All Souls’ Prospect.
We opted to turn left (northwest) onto Opabin Prospect, where we headed to the first overlook that let us peek down at the Lake O’Hara Valley. We quickly agreed that we prefer the views of Lake O’Hara Valley from All Souls’ Prospect, so retraced our route, stopping briefly to photography the still water of the tarn just off the trail.
Side Trip Part Way Along All Souls’ Alpine Route
This side trip added about 2 km to our total distance for the day, but offers not only some of the most beautiful views of Lake O’Hara Valley but also the chance to ascend/descend some of the most impressive, constructed stone steps in the valley.
We hiked the entire All Souls’ Prospect as part of the Lake O’Hara Alpine Circuit a few years ago. Read about it here.
Opabin Plateau to Opabin Lake
After returning from our side trip along the south end of All Souls’ Prospect, we continued up Opabin Plateau, eventually reaching Opabin Lake. There was fairly extensive lingering snow beyond the final ascent from Hungabee Lake. Mrs. GeoK slogged her way through to the shoreline of Opabin Lake, while Mr. GeoK preferred the drier, loftier views from the ridge overlooking Opabin Lake to the southeast and Hungabee Lake, behind.
East Opabin Trail, Opabin Highline Trail, Opabin Prospect Trail
We stopped for lunch a few hundred meters along East Opabin Trail from Opabin Lake. As we ate, the cloud overhead thickened, the wind freshened and we concluded that the rain in the forecast would soon be upon us. Over the next while, we donned and peeled off our rain gear multiple times, as every time the rain stopped and the sun broke through the clouds, even our breathable rain gear with pit zips fully opened became unbearably hot in just a few minutes.
We spent a fair while exploring the various trails on the plateau, including Opabin Highline Trail and returning to complete the Opabin Prospect loop before finally taking the trail that passes Cascade Lakes and reconnecting with East Opabin to descend back to the Lake O’Hara shoreline.
The trail parallels a creek/river pretty much the whole way, so we stopped several times to practice our waterfall photography.
Seven Veils Falls
After warming up on the continuous cascades along the creek, once we reached the Lake O’Hara lakeshore trail we continued counterclockwise to Seven Veils Falls. The Lake O’Hara Trails Club has put in some hard work here since our last visit in 2014. Rather than a hodgepodge of braided trails, there is now one clear trail to the falls and a couple of viewing/photography platforms constructed from back-filled stacked rocks. It’s now well set-up for waterfall photography.
After packing away our ND filters and tripods, it was time to head for Lake O’Hara Lodge in time for afternoon tea. There it was, across the lake. We opted to continue counterclockwise, to complete the shoreline trail loop.
Distance = 10.4 km
Elevation gain = 512 meters (304 net)
Time = 6 hrs, including 2 hrs 45 minutes for lunch and photography stops
While many consider the trail to Lake Oesa the easy/moderate hike to do if you have only one day to hike at Lake O’Hara, we actually prefer Opabin Plateau. Arguably, Lake Oesa is more picturesque than Opabin Lake, but Opabin has a more extensive network of developed trails along which to explore, including the Opabin Prospect trail with a couple of lookouts above Lake O’Hara. Also, there are a lot of larch trees on Opabin Plateau, which we would love to see in September some time. Which one is at the top of your list – Lake Oesa or Opabin Plateau?