Mount Queen Mary is one of the Royal Group of mountains that rise in a spectacular 9-km-long ridge in the northeast of HOTR Park.
An easily accessible mountain pass is southeast of Ralph Lake. Hike through alpine vegetation to the stark rock pass and appreciate views of the Royal Group. Each of these impressive and irregular peaks reaches to lofty heights over 3000 m: Mounts Prince John, Prince Edward and Prince Henry, and Mount King George at 3410 m (11,200 ft.).
The trail is steep and rough but well-defined and easy to follow. There are several large roots, rocks and blowdowns to climb over and around. The trail is not well-maintained, as Height of the Rockies Provincial Park is considered a wilderness area.
The lower part of the hike is through mature cedar and hemlock forest. Unfortunately, the previous decade of drought has reduced the lush green mosses and dense forest cover of this majestic old stand. Many trees are suffering, but the straight trunks and dappled light between the old cedars are still a marvel to enjoy.
The only spot with water along the entire route is at 4.4 km, on an avalanche path.
Near the lake, there is very rough “cabin” (if you can call it that) for public shelter. It has a dirt floor and is dirty, packrat smelly and holds three people, but it may be dry inside. There is no outhouse.
Camping at Ralph Lake is superb, however. Alpine meadows with creeks nearby and many sunny spots are sheltered by stands of alpine larch trees, creating perfect tent camping sites.
Soft carpets of vegetation welcomed our tent, and we spread out our backpacker’s kitchen on the big rocks near the shore. As we enjoyed the fine campsite, the alpenglow toward sunset improved with each passing moment. The days spent exploring the pass, alpine meadows, ridges and lakeshore made the hike to Ralph Lake a memorable and pleasing excursion, one that I will repeat.
Scenic Pass views of the Royal Group mountains
Distance from Ralph Lake: 2.5 km
Elevation gain to the pass: 200 m (700 ft.)
Unnamed pass: N10327-E09065, at 2400 m (7,900 ft.).
This short easy hike climbs to a pass overlooking the spectacular view of the Royal Group. Hike southeast through alpine meadows and beside small tarns. Climb up a talus slope to an unnamed pass that is wide, shaley and level. The stark grey cliffs of Mount Queen Mary rise east of the pass.
Rating: moderate but steep
Time: day hike (3 to 4 hours) or multi-day backpacking,
Distance: 4.7 km
Elevation gain: 845 m (2,775 ft.)
Ralph Lake: 2145 m (7,040 ft.)
Pass views: Royal Group
Trail: continuously steep in forest; mature cedar hemlock to subalpine lake in HOTR
Maps: 82J/11 Kananaskis Lakes; 82J/12 Tangle Peak (NAD83)