I was returning from Ross Lake along the Great Divide on my bike yesterday when I stopped to take a picture of a thick patch of paintbrush. As I was getting my camera out, I was startled to see, not five metres away, a grouse hen looking up at me from the trail side.
I just stood there observing, and within 30 seconds she began making those soft, soothing, calming, sounds somewhat like an abbreviated cooing from a mourning dove. Now reassured by mom, a chick made an appearance, then another one, and finally a third one revealed itself.
Everyone set about foraging for seeds and insects, mom included, and she continued making those delightful, tranquilizing sounds. It was an idyllic scene.
I didn’t want to overstay my welcome so after about five minutes I reluctantly moved along.
Grouse are well-camouflaged and if they remain motionless, you never see them. If I hadn’t stopped in that exact spot, I never would have had this lovely encounter.
Ross Lake is a big reward for small effort. I’ve skied past the Ross Lake trail sign dozens of times in the winter, and always wanted to check it out.
The Canadian Rockies Trail Guide describes Ross Lake: “Set within a rugged amphitheatre carved from the walls of the Great Divide, this emerald tarn is a real treat for those who would escape the hiker-choked trails of nearby Lake Louise.”
Ross Lake is an easy hike of 1.3K one-way with a net elevation gain of 101 metres. Of course, you’ll need to get to the trail, and that involves a 1.9K hike or bike along the Great Divide, starting from the Lake O’Hara parking lot.
After turning onto the RL trail, there’s a refreshing babbling brook alongside the trail for the first 500 metres. From the Lake Louise end of the Great Divide, it would be an 8.1K hike or bike to the RL trail.
You can also do a number of loops involving other trails. There’s an 8k trail through the trees which parallels the Great Divide and starts at the Chateau. Two bikers who did the trail said it was extremely rough.
From Ross Lake you can also hike 3.3K west to the Lake O’Hara fire road. From there to the parking lot is about 2k. No bikes allowed on either of those trails.