Paradise Lake

July 2, 2019. A short hike to a tiny blue lake in the Castle Wilderness, with a return via Haig Ridge.

  • Distance: 4.9 km one-way to the lake, 9.8 km loop with return via the ridge (quite a coincidence)
  • Total Ascent: 575 m to the lake, 807 m if returning by climbing the ridge
  • Elevation of Objective: 1838 m
  • Total Time: 1h 14m one-way to the lake, 3h 23m for loop route with return via Haig Ridge

It was another cloudy day with rain in the forecast, so I decided to return to the Castle Mountain Resort and explore another one of their newly marked-out trails. Having enjoyed exploring Haig Lake last week, this time I decided to go to Paradise Lake.

The trailhead is next to the parking lot at the Castle Mountain Ski resort near Pincher Creek, Alberta. They have signs set up in the main area, in between the ski lodge and the pub. The well-signed trail leaves the village heading south. The first 3.4 km goes past the foot of Haig Ridge, gently ascending on a long traverse, hooking west now and then. The trail is as obvious as it gets, being a wide, rough road. Here and there I got a clear view down the West Castle Valley, but this wasn’t a particularly scenic approach.

At 3.4 km the trail takes a hard right turn and begins a steep climb for a little under a kilometre. Eventually, a sign directs you to the left, off the wide road and onto a narrow forest trail. After a short time in the woods, the trail emerges in a cirque under the eastern face of Mount Haig. A sign makes the end of  the maintained trail, but trail markers continue and soon enough Paradise Lake comes into view.

The lake is a small blue tarn, with steep banks all around except on the south side. A large pile of rubble rises above the eastern bank with a distinctive white boulder at the top. I climbed up there to take in the views and eat my lunch. Moving fairly briskly, I reached this point in 1 hour and 14 minutes.

After enjoying the seclusion for a short time, I decided to make my way back. Returning via the same trail would have been easy and quick (and I’d recommend it for most people), but I decided to get a bit more exercise and adventure by returning via Haig Ridge.

Haig Ridge looms north of the lake. There’s a trail to the top of it from the village, which follows (I think) a Cat Skiing road to the ridge high-point. There’s no trail from Paradise Lake, but the way looked obvious enough. I ascended about 200m while traversing east and hooking to the north around a blunt spur of the main ridge. There was a wide valley beyond there, descending to the east. I proceeded north, staying high on the slope to avoid descending into the valley. The main part of Haig Ridge was straight ahead. I bumbled in some vegetation, likely bushwhacking more than I needed to, then gained the ridge.

Once up on the ridge, I followed the road down to the top of the Huckleberry ski lift, From there, I followed the ski runs down. Returning by this route got me above the trees, so the views were better than during my trip to the lake. I didn’t encounter any dangerous terrain, but some of the bushwhacking on steep slopes was tricky. What was interesting was that although I wasn’t near any discernible trail, I came across a lot of deadfall that had clearly been cut by chainsaws.

Click on the pictures below to access full-sized images.

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Topo map of the route. I went clockwise.
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Route overview, west is at the top. PL = Paradise Lake; HR = Haig Ridge
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A higher-angle route overview. PL = Paradise Lake; HR = Haig Ridge; HL = Haig Lake

 

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The trailhead down in the village, in between the ski lodge and the pub. Paradise Lake is to the left.
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Outbound I went left, on my return I came down on the right.
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The view looking south down the West Castle Valley.
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A small waterfall along the trail.
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Wildflowers, with Rainy Ridge in the background.
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When the trail turns west it begins to climb steeply for a little under a kilometre.
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Once the climb eases off, a sign directs hikers into a trail in the woods.
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A creek, which is audible for a long time before it’s visible, eventually comes into view along with the southeast ridge of Mount Haig.
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Beyond this sign the trail is less distinct, but orange trail markers on rebar posts are still present. It’s not hard to see where to go.
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First view of Paradise Lake. The banks are quite steep all around except on the far side. Mount Haig rises up behind. The summit is obscured by clouds at the top right.
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Up on the rubble pile to the east of the lake. A distinctive white boulder is perched on the slope.
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For my return trip, I decided to ascend to Haig Ridge. I headed up the open slopes north of the lake, traversing right. The top of the rise directly in view from here isn’t the main ridge. I had to go right and  hook around the “toe” of this bump, then stay high above a valley and continue traversing north until I gained the actual ridge.
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One more look down at the lake before leaving the valley.
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Mount Haig’s summit peeked out of the clouds momentarily.
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The clouds broke up for a time and I got a great view down the West Castle Valley.
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Finally up on Haig Ridge. Barnaby Ridge is in the background. The white hut at the top of the Huckleberry chair lift is visible in the distance. The resort village is in the valley bottom, to the left. From here I just took a long, steep walk down the ridge.

 

 

 

2 thoughts on “Paradise Lake

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