The physical exertion of a mountain hike soon etched a wide smile into our faces. We paused for a moment to enjoy the splendour along the short but steep hike up to Bear Lake. I especially cherish the calm feeling I get when I’m at the lakeshore.
Bear Lake is a 500-m-long lake that is clear, cold and a fabulous blue-green. Large spruce trees cling to the sparse soil along the shore, separated by gently sloping, grassy meadows. It takes about 1 to 1.5 hours of steep climbing on a trail to reach Bear Lake. The path is muddy in the middle section, as a creek trickles down the trail, making it very slippery.
A small campsite with an outhouse is about halfway along the northern lakeshore. Bear Lake is a fine trip for beginners, and the surrounding mountain landscapes make it a great hike for everyone.
Pass above Bear Lake
From Bear Lake, continue east on the trail across alpine meadows. Climb another 213 m (700 ft.) up to the pass in a serrated ridge between Bear Lake and Ruault Lake at 2377 m (7,800 ft.). The defined trail, about 2 km long, climbs steeply and the last incline switchbacks in tight turns with increasing steepness.
Loop trail via Little Bear Tarn
You can make a loop and return to your vehicle via Little Bear. From the pass, scramble up to a small peak just south (right) of the Bear/Ruault Pass. Gain 60 m (200 ft.) and follow the scenic ridge south for about 600 m to Little Bear Pass, N13100-E11000. This little ridgewalk is worth it and scenic, and it is the subject of the back-cover photo of this book.
Beyond Little Bear Pass, a trail heads down in the non-descript forest along the northern slope of Little Bear Tarn, which is a swampy mini-tarn about 100 m wide or less, and through a damp meadow. Little Bear trail intersects with the main Bear Lake trail about 1 km from the parking lot.
Many hikers enjoy a loop trip, but the route from Little Bear Pass is not nearly as nice as the Bear Lake side. I prefer the finer scenery, more flower meadows and the interest of the main Bear Lake trail. So I hike up to the ridgewalk near Little Bear Pass for the view and descend via Bear Lake.