Owen Creek - Michelle Lakes
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||11.0 km (one-way)
||5 - 8 hours
||Linear - One Way
Heading west Highway 11, just prior to the Banff Park signage, there is a small parking area beside an unmarked bridge which crosses Owen Creek. Here a crude handwritten sign marks the trailhead.
The trail follows the creek for a short distance before climbing beside a spectacular canyon, so narrow at points that you can literally walk across the top while the creek courses far below your feet. The stream soon flattens out again, and the hike turns serene as the water channels through mossy rocks. Be ready for deadfall, its not too bad but getting worse every year.
When the valley widens, it becomes more difficult to pick a good trail. Stay within earshot of the creek and pick through a network of game and foot trails. The Wilson Icefield to the northwest comes into view during this part of the trail.
When beginning the ascent up Owen creek towards the pass, it might be easier to rock-up up the valley than to keep to the trees. Views begin to open up to the south. As one approaches treeline, several good camp spots are apparent. Please leave no trace!
At the confluence of the creek flowing out from the Wilson Icefield and Owen Creek the trail continues to follow the creek to the northeast for about 10 minutes then disappears completely along the washed out creek bank. Note the e9 marker at this point in Dustin Lynx's GDT book map may be in the wrong place !! At this point a large tree has fallen down the bank and you can see where people have taken to the boulder strewn stream bed, this is a very rough option and you're forced to bushwhack up into the forest around 2 or 3 large washouts, allow 2-3 hours to reach near tree line. Alternatively, if you look carefully there is an old horse trail that starts right at the base of the fallen tree that angles upslope and takes you away from the creek, i.e. roughly east, up to the top of the first creek on Dustin's map. It's a much longer option but if you follow this overgrown trail for half an hour it'll take you to the top of the gully where you can get a little water and from there contour up a little and bushwhack around to the north and eventually you'll come out into the valley of a major distributory creek which flows down to join Owen creek. You are now high above Owen creek and the wild scenery in this side valley is wonderful, from here you can scramble up onto ridges south of Mt. Cline, the shoulder on the north side is a great place to camp with views up and down Owen Creek and east into the unnamed valley, but take water up with you. Continue to contour round north and then west and you'll come back into the Owen Creek drainage just below the pass. You'll have added about 2 hours onto the trip so far, but the 5 hours to reach Michelle Lakes mentioned in other trip reports is too short for mere mortals anyway !
The route to the pass is obvious; it is a long but moderate ascent, and relatively sheltered from strong northwesterly winds. The view of the lakes from beyond the pass is magnificent. Descending to the lakes, one can enjoy excellent fishing. Expect to encounter some heli-fishing groups.
From here your options are to return to the trailhead or continue over two more passes to reach Pinto Lake.
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