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Eagle Lake | James Falls and James Lake |Ya Ha Tinda

Eagle Lake | James Falls and James Lake |Ya Ha Tinda


On a whim, we decided to scoot out to Ya Ha Tinda and hike up to Eagle Lake.  The Parks Canada brochure  informed us that it would be 5.5 Km round trip to the lake.  It should only be a 3 hour trip to the Lake and back on a novice trail; perfect for what we were looking for.

We arrived at the Eagle Lake parking lot around 2:30 PM and located the trail head just behind the information sign. The path heads East up the hill to overlook the YMCA horse camp.

Eagle Lake Hike- YMCA Horse Camp

Not long after the YMCA camp fell away from view, we encountered a set of riders on horseback.  We chatted briefly with the two girls; about how lucky we were to have good weather and that the walk up to the Lake should be an easy and enjoyable one.  Then we watched as they rode off over the rise on their way out into the backcountry and onto the numerous horse-trails beyond.

Eagle Lake Hike-riders on horseback

It is my understanding that you can take off-road vehicles up to the lake on this trail; however after the lake it is posted no motorized vehicles. Eagle Lake Hike-Horse and quad trail

We followed the trail until we reached Eagle Creek (there is a wooden post that says Scalp Creek pointing left.)  Here we had to cross the creek to continue on the path to the lake.  We were determined not to get our shoes wet!

Eagle Lake Hike-Eagle Creek

Yet, after scouting out the best rock crossing both Shane and I ended up with one wet foot.

Eagle Lake Hike-Eagle creek crossing

Caulking it up to part of the adventure we shook it off and continued up the hill to a wide open meadow.

Eagle Lake Hike-Wide meadow

From here the familiar scent of moss covered ground and warming evergreen sap beckoned us forward as the trail meandered into the forest.

Eagle Lake Hike-Trail to Lake

Eagle Lake Hike-Buck grazing

Soon we found ourselves entering the Eagle lake camp ground with its pretty emerald green Lake tucked neatly between two formidable mountain ranges.  It was at this point I kicked myself for not tossing in my swimsuit.  I could picture myself lazily floating on the surface of the glassy lake with the protruding mountain vista’s reflecting in the water.

Eagle Lake Hike-Eagle Lake Campground

Eagle Lake Hike-Eagle Lake at sunset

Because it was such an easy walk up to the Lake, we decided to continue on to James Lake. Which was only 2 Km farther.  We followed the horse trail on the South side of the lake. Keeping our eye’s peeled for bighorn sheep on the cliffs across the lake.  We didn’t actually see any; however there is a definite sheep-trail that crosses the steep scree ground.

Eagle Lake Hike-Sheep trail thru steep scree ground

At the end of the lake there is a heavily trodden path that leads farther into the forest.

Eagle Lake Hike-Trail at the end of the lake

After about 10 mins we bumped into the same two girls on horseback.  They said if we were out this far that we should stop and see James Falls.  The water comes from high off the mountain and a person is able to walk right up and touch them.  Well worth the side tour!   Always up for an adventure, Shane and I were easily sold! In the distance we could see a small marshy lake in front of us (NOT James Lake!)

Panoramic of marsh area between lakes

We stayed left and followed the path that skirted the North side of this little marshy area.  Then we looked for the washed-out area the girls had described.  We knew we had found the area we were looking for when we could hear the falls in the distance.

Eagle Lake Hike-James falls

Plus, there was a small creek crossing the horse path we were following.  From there it was a just a matter of taking the trail to the left (North) once we crossed the little creek.

Eagle Lake Hike-Base of James Falls

Within five minutes we had reached the falls.  Simply beautiful! As promised we could walk right up and feel the chilly mountain water rain down on our hands and face.

Eagle Lake Hike-bottom plunge pool

Shane and I dropped our packs and scrambled up the steep trail to the second cascade pool.  We spent some time getting acquainted with the little plunge pool.

Eagle Lake Hike- James falls Top plunge pool

Here we could peek over the waterfalls edge and watch as the fresh mountain spring continued its magnificent cliff dive into the pool below. We inspected the rope rigging left behind by climbers and located a geocache that appeared to have been raided by some kind of animal (human or otherwise.) Or thoughts were how this location would make the perfect spot for a photo shoot.

Eagle Lake Hike-Edge of James Falls

We pried ourselves away for the secluded little location, retrieved our backpacks and headed downhill to re-connect with the horse trail we had been following.  We walked the rest of the way to James Lake in a euphoric haze.  Shane and I questioned each other about whether we would have veered off trail to go see the beautiful falls, if our new horseback riding friends had not mentioned it to us in passing. We both assured each other we would have!

Eagle Lake Hike-James Lake

Finally we reached James Lake. We stood on her marshy banks and listened to the far off sound of yet another waterfall cascading down the face of the neighboring mountain range.  We scanned the horizon in hopes to pick out a moose or something coming down to the water’s edge for a drink, but no luck.

Eagle Lake Hike-James Lake marshy banks

Eagle Lake Hike-James Lake Looking toward Maze Peak

I thought its pale aqua blue water was a perfect location to dip my toes and test the temperature of the shallow lake. (brrr… glacial!)  Soon it was time to gather our gear and started the walk back to the Eagle Lake parking lot.

Eagle Lake Hike-James Lake Aqua blue

It had been a perfect day for a walk in the woods. We made only one side trip on the walk back to the truck when we heard more running water on the south side of the valley.  We followed our ears until we found this beautiful waterfall, carving her way down the steep mountain face, making her own path on its journey to meet up with Eagle Lake.

Eagle Lake Hike-Second Falls at end of Lake

There seems to be so much to explore out here.  We have decided we will be coming back to Ya Ha Tinda to spend some time finding all the cool spots!  We will keep you posted on our progress.

Eagle Lake Hike-Chipmunk

    • Date of the Journey: August 12th 2016
    • Location: Ya Ha Tinda area
    • We Parked at:  At the Eagle Lake parking lot
    • Distance: 12.7  km round trip
    • Highest Point: 1632 m
    • Height gain cumulative: 396 m
    • Things to watch for: Horses,seeing as you are using their trail and some can get spooked by you. Look for King fishers hunting at the end of the lake, and keep a look out for Mountain Goats and Bighorn sheep.
    • Places nearby Hidden falls Ya Ha Tinda
    • Bighorn falls and Bighorn Campground


  1. Thank you for your explanation in detail. Though I didn’t have a chance to visit Alberta, I think it’s worthwhile to hike this beautiful place. Thanks again.

  2. Thank you for your explanation in detail. Though I didn’t have a chance to visit Alberta, I think it’s worthwhile to hike this beautiful place. Thanks again. I live in Busan, Korea and really love hiking. I usually go hiking ,whenever I have free time , to look at the beauty of nature.

  3. Just watched the season 5 episode 11 of Heartland (Canadian TV series on Netflix). It is set in Alberta not far from Calgary. A family on the show spoke of their trip to Eagle Lake as the best time they had ever had; so I was curious to see if there was a real place. Your description sounds like the same Eagle Lake. I guess the producers knew what they were talking about.

    • How cool, thanks Richard I will have to watch that episode.

  4. Great story and pictures ! Wondering about the parking. Did you need permission to park at the camp or is the parking outside of the camp ? Also , do you need permission to hike through the camp to access the trail to the lake ? Thanks

    • Hi Rick, thank you for your comment. There is a parking spot located just past the camp designated for this hike. There is no cost to use it. And you will not need any permission to walk through the camp… As you don’t actually walk into camp but on a trail over looking it. Happy hiking!

      • Thanks !

  5. HI THERE,

    • Its a bit of a walk. But I believe you can take a quad up to the lake.

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View of Moraine lakes deep blue colour from the rock pile

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