As an enjoyable day of backpacking, the South Boundary Trail provides impressive companions for most of the hike. The Queen Elizabeth and Colin ranges, on the right and left sides respectively, are in full view until the path darts into the forest about 1.25 hours into the hike. The Queen Elizabeth range is the most visible and picturesque of the two. With a wide-open trail for more than half of the walk, minimal elevation gain, lakeside exposure and spectacular mountain ranges framing the valley, this hike is one to appreciate and enjoy. Stop and take pictures, or stop and look in awe, but be sure you stop to enjoy. Of the entire 167 km of the entire South Boundary Trail, this first 12.2 km is possibly the most scenic and enjoyable.
Distance: 12.2 km
Elevation gain: 78 m
Trailhead G PS: N52 50 57.8 W117 43 19.9
E levation: 1445 m
Junction at First Summit Lake G PS: N52 53 01.7 W117 45 02.5
E levation: 1523 m
Jacques Lake Campground G PS: N52 56 00.8 W117 44 18.8
E levation: 1492 m
Trailhead: From the traffic lights at the junction of the Icefields Parkway
and Highway 16, drive east on Highway 16 for 6 km to the Maligne
Road. After crossing the Athabasca River, immediately turn left and
drive another 28 km. The pull-off is on the left side, marked as the “South
The path begins as a spacious trail. You pass a cabin and corral within
the first few minutes. Fifteen minutes later the south shore of Beaver Lake with its boats and boat launch are passed. The trail then sidesteps the lake for several scenic minutes. Beyond the lake the trail continues to offer incredible neck-craning panoramas of the Queen Elizabeth and Colin ranges. This lasts for 2 km of easy trekking until the path emerges from the forest onto a hillside of small brush and vegetation devoid of trees, thus permitting much grander views of the parallel mountain ranges.The first of the three Summit Lakes is met at the distal end of the
brush field at a marked fork in the trail. Follow the trail marked “South
Boundary Trail” to the right onto a narrow path into a dank coniferous
forest. The trail is unchanged for the remainder of the hike, with intermittent
gaps in the trees allowing you to see the Summit Lakes. The left
option of the fork sends the trail along the shoreline of the first lake, but
there is some difficulty recovering the main trail since there is not a distinct
path heading back to it. So, some bushwhacking will be necessary if
you choose this alternative. A quick trip down the left fork toward the lake
should be taken for a relaxing break, as it provides views of the surrounding
mountains that are even more impressive.
The trail winds its way around trees in the forest for another 4–5 km.
Just when you have had enough of tripping over myriad exposed roots, the
trail emerges on the south bank of Jacques Lake. At the far (north) end
of the lake lies the campground in a wonderful setting back from the lake.