The Mause Creek tarns are a clump of four or five very shallow tarns rimmed with larch and fir trees, heather and low bushes. The tarns are scattered throughout an open fertile meadow dotted with monkey flowers and purple asters (or showy daisies). The flowers are their best in the first two weeks of August, provided there has been enough rainfall and the flowers have not suffered a midsummer frost during mid-bloom (common in recent years). If the weather co-operates, the lower meadow by the first tarn is crammed with flowers. Summer is the most popular season to visit the tarns.
Autumn used to be my favourite time to visit the Mause Creek tarns, but over the last five years a blight of some sort has killed most of the dramatic alpine larch trees in the area. The area that once was so beautiful now looks like a swath of gnarly posts. It will take a decade or so for the immature larch that didn’t succumb to take up prominence again.
Mause Creek makes a good destination in winter, although the road is not maintained. Ski touring in the basin is good for intermediate skiers, and steep mountain slopes welcome more experienced enthusiasts. Caution must be exercised, as most of this area is avalanche terrain.
The hike to Tanglefoot Lake (see entry #37) is my personal favourite. The hike has everything, from a nice lake, high ridges, healthy larch forests (for now), great views and carpets of wildflowers.
The passes are easy to cross in this compact hiking area and there are many rewarding destinations (see entry #39).
The Five Passes trail is a loop traverse that begins at the Mause Creek trailhead, crosses over into Sunken Creek and into the Tanglefoot Lake area. Eventually the connection brings the weary hiker all the way back to the vehicle. It is not a new trail, but the connections to the passes are worn and obvious enough to be hiked.
Unnamed Mountain south of tarns
The mountain just south of the tarns offers a view out to the Rocky Mountain Trench and is a good uphill workout. Make your way up through forest and some steep sections gaining 90 m (300 ft.) to a pass. From the pass, hike west (right) up a rocky, but an accessible grey mound of a summit and gain another 200 m (700 ft.) to the top 2370 m (7,800 ft.).
Just east of the Mause Creek tarns and up 160 m (540 ft.) is another scenic tarn tucked amidst the grey rock. Hike up through the open forest to the east of the main group of tarns. The trees are widely spaced and the slope is crossed with a few rock bands, which are easily avoided. A few bubbling creeks and springs emerge from the soil. The eastern tarn, N95938-E12376, is at 2220 m (7,287 ft.) elevation.
For a good view down into blue-green Tanglefoot Lake, hike up the talus slope east above the eastern tarn and gradually hike left to the north ridge, up a series of blocky talus steps. At the ridge look to the right and see Windy Pass. It is the low alpine pass about 500 m away.
The Victor Mine was established in 1893. At that time some free gold in a thick, copper-stained quartz vein was reported. Today, ruined logs, planks and metal junk are piled into a mound. The site used to be a thriving mine with several buildings, a concentrator and a trestle leading up to the tunnel. The tunnel is still visible up on the rocky slope above the creek trail on the way to the tarns.
Time: short day hike
Distance: 3.1 km
Elevation gain: 405 m (1,330 ft.)
Mause Creek Tarns: 2118 m (6,950 ft.)
To Tanglefoot Pass:
Distance: 3.5 km
Elevation gain: 535 m (1,750 ft.)
Tanglefoot Pass: 2345 m (7,369 ft.)
Trail: good trail to main tarns; small creek crossings
Maps: 82G/11 Fernie, (NAD27); 82G/12 Cranbrook (NAD83)