Buster Lakes Hiking Trail
The bluest lake in the world? A local secret for many years!
- Season: June-October
- Difficulty: Demanding
- Distance: 13.6 kilometers (loop)
- Elevation Gain: 1,210 meters
- Duration: 5-9 hours
About Buster Lakes
There are many adventures in the Canadian Rockies and Purcell Mountains which rank high natural beauty, but this place is magical! It may be the most vibrant blue lake in mountains, perhaps in all of Canada, perhaps in the world? Upon setting eyes on it, the quote uttered was "it's like a highlighter exploded in the water!"
There are actually two lakes in this immediate area. Names are unofficial and so is the trail. It seems like this has been a local secret for many years and as such, these names may vary depending on who you talk to. Buster Lake seems to be the most common and it seems to be used for the upper lake. The lakes as a whole may be referred to by the locals as Azure Lakes.
The vibrant colour may be caused by leaching minerals and the amount of leaching occurring seems to change from year to year, and from lake to lake! If the upper lake is not as vibrant, make sure to visit the lower one.
This adventure is especially recommended when the larch trees change colour during the autumn season. The contrast of the blue against the yellow and orange of the larch needles will leave the adventurer with a sore camera trigger finger.
If more time is available, make sure to gain the surrounding ridge. There are no trails, but some easy scrambling will allow access and some amazing views of the area.
Getting there is not easy, and perhaps that's a good thing. The driving distance from major cities and the logging roads will mean fewer people. The logging road conditions should be checked before setting out. A high clearance or 4x4 vehicle is recommended. A map and a gps unit as well!
From Radium, take Foresters Landing Rd for about 2.3 km to Horsethief Creek Road (left at the fork). Follow Horsethief Creek Road for roughly 6 km and turn right on Westside Road. Follow Westside road for 26 km to Leadqueen Frances Road (this is a loop road, keep left). Leadqueen leads to Frances Creek Road, which you will follow to its end. The road ends at remnants of a bridge. Parking is on the right.
The trail, at the time these photos were taken, was faint and marked with a bucket holding skiing poles. If you are facing the river, look for this marker on your left. Within seconds you will be crossing the river via makeshift bridge. In just over a kilometer after crossing the bridge, you will reach a creek bed and lose elevation.
The trail continues south, paralleling the creek for 500 meters before gaining elevation and leaving the creek bed. As you climb up a hill, you'll see more and more larch trees before finally seeing the upper lake.
The surrounding ridges can be scrambled and offer fantastic views of the nearby peaks. Thunderwater lake and numerous glaciers can also be seen from the top. If the water at the upper lake is not the vibrant blue seen in these photos, venture down to the lower lake by following the shoreline to your left (west), then the drain from the upper lake.
- High clearance or 4x4 vehicle recommended on the logging roads
- Logging road conditions can change with seasons and logging traffic, check conditions prior to going
- Leave extra time for exploring the area and returning
Where to stay
Questions or comments? Let us know.
By Marko Stavric
Marko has been on numerous adventures in the Canadian Rockies and all across the world, always bringing his camera along with him.