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Lake McArthur

  • Difficulty
  • 8.3km
  • 310m
  • 3-5h
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The hike to Lake McArthur is a gem. This is another walk in the Lake O’Hara region, so access is limited by Parks Canada. Lake McArthur is an awe-inspiring hike that you should absolutely put on your hiking bucket list.

Getting there

To access this hike, you must either hike in on an 11km access road or else make reservations on the Lake O’Hara bus through Parks Canada. These reservations fill up early, but cancellations happen.


Total Gain: 310m


Type of Hike Out and Back
Crowd Levels Low
Route Signage Good
Toilets Trailhead
Family Friendly No
Backcountry Campgrounds Yes
When to Do June through October

 Detailed Description

Starting at the Le Relais Day Shelter, head into the forest uphill coming to a junction where you can choose to go straight and pass the ACC Elizabeth Parker Hut or go left into the Big Larch Trail. We prefer to head past the ACC Hut, which sits in a beautiful meadow. The hut is wonderful, but access inside is only granted to ACC members with reservations.

From here take the well-maintained trail, eventually reaching Schaffer Lake. Walk around the lake and make sure you don’t take the All Souls Route (off to the left). Continue on the right side of the fork and travel through a wonderful boulder field and into alpine meadows. There will also be a path veering off for Odaray Highline trail to the right.

Continue uphill to McArthur Pass, where the trail forks. Both trails go to Lake McArthur, and we typically go up on the Low Level Trail and back down via the McArthur Highline Trail to create a circuit. As you come down to the water, savor the incredible blue of Lake McArthur below you. Continue down to the lake and explore the region for yourself. On a nice day, this is a wonderful break spot.

Continue on your path forming a circuit back to the trail junction. From here, travel back to Schaffer Lake, where you can retrace your route up or else go down via the Big Larch Trail. The Big Larch Trail isn’t as scenic as the route you ascended, but is wonderful in autumn as the colors change. You reconnect with the main trail just above Le Relais.

Insider Hints

  • For a full day, start with McArthur Lake and then take the All Souls Route over the shoulder of Mount Schaffer and continue all the way along to Wiwaxy!
  • Coffee is available at Le Relais.