The trailhead begins at the barricade at the end of the Akamina Highway. Make your way to Cameron Lake either by the snow-covered highway or through the parallel forest path that starts behind the picnic shelter at the trailhead. Cameron Lake is about 45 minutes by skiing or an hour by snowshoe.
At Cameron Lake, take a left at the shoreline after the closed-for-the winter park office. When pausing to admire the view, don't be alarmed to hear ominous cracking noises from the ice on the lake - it's a normal event (but quite a disconcerting sound, especially when people are walking accross the frozen lake!)
The trail to Summit Lake is actually the first part of the Alderson Carthew trail. From Cameron Lake, the trail crosses a bridge and follows the shoreline for a few minutes before turning South into the forest, beginning a series of switchbacks that go Up! Up! Up! (just like the Shania Twain song). Huffing and puffing at the top of the switchbacks, skiiers/snowshoers will be happy to know that Summit Lake is not far, perhaps another 30-45 minutes. The trail at this point most often disappears in the snow, but the Lake is not too difficult to find. Since there's no trail to speak of because of the snow, the 'make-your-own' trail that skiiers usually follow goes up the first little ridge that's ahead to the right (Southwest) from the top of the switchbacks. From this little ridge, you can look down on Cameron Lake on the North side, and on the South side you can see Summit Lake. Further to the Southwest Lake Wurdeman and Lake Nooney can be seen below Chapman Peak in Glacier Park, Montana.
The Lake itself is unremarkable in the winter, just a snow covered field in the valley between Alderson-Carthew and the peaks to the South. The real attraction is the powder on the ridge above the lake (at least it is an attraction for the lucky skiiers with telemarks, that is!) The view is worth the trip on snowshoes or cross country skis, but you will develop telemark envy when you see skiiers ripping up the powder (there is a few hundred feet of elevation difference from the top of the ridge to the lake, making a nice spot for doing a few runs if time permits). The powder at this spot is pretty reliable throughout the winter.
It takes about 3 hours for average skiiers/snowshoers to get to Summit Lake and perhaps 2 hours to get back to the cars. Factoring in the time spent admiring the view and playing on the slopes above Summit Lake and it's a full day's trip (plan for a 7 hour return trip).
During avalanche season use the trail with caution. Under normal conditions there is little risk (you don't cross any avalanche chutes, but you pass close to one and the switchbacks in the forest are a possible avalanche area). Best bet is to forget about this trail if the park posting says there is an avalanche hazard in the backcountry.
The return trip can be a bit of a nightmare on the way down if you're on cross country skis, especially if it's icy because the path is so narrown on the switchbacks... so be prepared for some of those emergency butt-flops!
In winter please check the Avaluator
(Online Trip Planner) rating is: Challenging.
See more trip planner route details here.
Access Point: Trailhead at the Little Prairie Campsite (the barricade where the snowplough stops towards the end of the Akamina Highway to Cameron Lake).
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