This is one of the most popular hikes in the East Kootenay – the setting at the end is also one of the most dramatic = 11,000 foot peaks and Commander Glacier tumbling down the mountainside to end in the lake. It demands more than one day so try to spend at least one night.
History: In 1885, two horse thieves were captured and tried for their crime at Fort Steele. In 1935, Marjean Selby and 8 female friends traveled by horse from Kimberly to Lake of the Hanging Glaciers unescorted over 3 weeks.
Location: In the centre of the Commander Group. Visible from Glacier Dome, accessible from Monica Meadows and the West Kootenay.
Elevation gain: 701m (2300’)
Key elevations: Lake 2149m (7050’)
Distance: 9km one-way (to the glacier)
Time: 3-4 hours one-way. A long day trip or better as short backpacking trip.
Access: Good road. 50km drive up Horsethief Creek, 1.5h from Invermere or Radium.
Season: July to September
Map: 82K/7 Duncan Lake
Drive: From Invermere: Drive N to Wilmer and continue N on Westside Road. At 16.4km turn left (west) onto Horsethief Creek FSR at 4-way junction. Zero odometer. Zero odometer.
From Radium: Turn west at 4-way junction of Hwys 93 and 95. 1.5km Turn left onto Horsethief Ck FSR. 3.8 Go left 10.9km Continue straight (junction Westside Rd). Zero odometer.
15.3km Go straight for Lake of the Hanging Glaciers. (Right is for Forster FSR) The road becomes a lonely bush track. 41km Go straight (39km sigh). (Right goes to Stockdale Creek)
50km Go straight (46km sign). Farnham Creek FS Recreation Site – overnight camping.
52.4km Park at TH (50km sign).
Trail: Start on an old road then on a steep path through alder. A 2.5kms cross Hellroaring Creek on a bridge removed out of season (September to June) as it washes out every year. At 3kms cross Horsethief Creek. For the next 2.5kms, the trail switchbacks steeply 400m in the trees. Horsethief Creek flows as one continuous waterfall beside the trail. At 8.5kms reach the subalpine, a meadow and the campsite. The outlet of the lake is on the shallow north end and forms a rocky delta the entire width of the lake. It funnels into a huge waterfall and passes the campground.
Hike .75km south to the lake for dramatic scenery. Lake of the Hanging Glacier fills a 2.5km oval basin below several glaciers. The jagged Lieutenants to 10,500 feet fill the south skyline. Glacier Dome, a not uncommon destination from the west side of the Purcells fills the west horizon. Jumbo Glacier extends off Commander Glacier and dips well into the end of the lake. Walk to the end and up onto the glacier, covered with gravel debris. Ice regularly calves off the glacier into the lake and the lake is usually dotted with icebergs.