Total Distance: 11 km
Return Time: 6 hours
Elevation Gain: 797 m
Traditional Territory: THFN
The route follows the well marked Grizzly Ridge Trail, traversing rocky talus slopes and beautiful alpine meadows, with ever improving views as you get closer to the lake and its entourage of rocky peaks. This hike is an overnight destination (permit required) or can be done as part of a multi-day trip including Divide and Talus Lake. There are also numerous side trips you can do from the lake, including Grizzly Pass and Mount Monolith / Twin Lakes viewpoint.
At kilometre 58.5 of the Dempster Highway, there is road that leads to a large parking area on the left (west) side of the highway. The trailhead is signed at the highway, so you can't miss it. The parking area has many parking spots and an outhouse.
Note: The distances and times noted here are one way, from the trailhead to the campground at the lake, as many people continue to Divide and Talus lakes as part of a multi-day trip.
The trail starts out the same as Grizzly Ridge, winding through the forest for the first 15 minutes following along Cairns Creek. The elevation gain is gradual until the trail switchbacks up the slope, gaining elevation and exchanging the forest for subalpine shrubs.
The climb to the ridge is direct, gaining elevation quickly. There is a viewpoint partway up with the first glimpse of Mount Monolith at the end of Grizzly Valley. Once on the ridge there are moderate ups and downs and the trail stays mostly on the top or contours along the side of the ridge for most of the hike. The trail is marked with rock cairns and yellow flagging essentially all the way to the lake.
The trail drops down to a large meadow, and then continues along the side of the ridge. Once you turn the corner, you will start to slowly lose elevation but gain beautiful views of Grizzly Lake and the rocky peaks surrounding it, with Mount Monolith in the background. Once down in the valley bottom continue following the trail to the campground, crossing a small stream just before reaching the first few tent sites. The campground has ten tent pads, a cooking shelter, a grey water barrel, bear proof lockers and an outhouse. If you are camping at the lake you will need to register and pick up a permit from the Tombstone Park Interpretive Centre. Registration can be done online through the parks website or in person at the centre.
The ground squirrels at the campground love to chew on your sweaty gear that is left on the ground. Backpack straps and the tops of hiking poles are their favourite. Always keep your belongings in your tent, including your hiking poles, if you want to be able to use them again.
Cam August 13, 2020
Did an overnight hike to Grizzly Lake and back on August 10th-11th. Stunning hike. The first day was rainy and cold with no views, but just as we arrived at the Grizzly lake campsite the sun showed up! The weather changes extremely fast up there so be prepared for all conditions. Amazing facilities! with the cook shacks, tent pads, outhouses, grey water disposal, and bear proof storage. It isn't often mentioned but the last 4 km towards Grizzly Lake requires some technical skill to walk over the many boulder fields. When it is rainy it is quiet easy to slip on the boulders so it can be slow going. Didn't see any bears but saw lots of ground squirrels, marmots, and pikas. A few families out there doing the hike with their kids and two groups with dogs. If we had to do it over we would spend an extra night at Grizzly Lake and do the day hike up to Twin lakes look out and back (starts right by the outhouses). Overall, fantastic hike!
JCM July 6, 2019
Did a 5 day trip to Grizzly, Divide and Talus this past week (July 1-5th, camped at grizzly, divide, divide, grizzly). Other than a bit of smoke we had great hiking conditions. A few things of note:
1. Tombstone visitors centre rents bear barrels (but only takes cash, $60 each).
2. As you get further on the trail each lake gets more secluded. I would definitely recommend going all the way to Talus if you have the chance.
3. We camped at Divide lake for two nights before headed back to Grizzly which allowed us to do a day hike to talus (which was very nice with just a day-pack). But camping at talus would have been really nice too, there was no one there.
4. On the way back from grizzly to divide hiking up the pass is difficult. The rocks can be slippery, making it slow. We ended up a bit off trail where there were lots of loose rocks and boulders, dangerous when people were below.
5. If you are planning on bringing your dog a leash is a must. There is a long section of the grizzly lake trail that has a large marmot population and at the campsite there are ground squirrels galore.
6. We did not see any bears but there was fresh poop on the way back to grizzly lake from divide (July 4th). Other campers told us that there was a bear passing through the grizzly campground the previous day July 3rd.
Kathryn MacDonald July 2, 2016
Hiked in June 29th and out July 1st. Trail was in great shape. We had sun for the hike in but our two nights at the lake were very wet. Sun again on the hike out. Regardless of the rain, we hiked the Twin Lakes trail which was absolutely beautiful. Still a bit of snow up there but nothing major. An excellent afternoon hike - highly recommended. Because of the rain the creek was very high on the way out of Grizzly Lake. It was safer to just take off the boots and wade across. The camp trails were pretty soggy as well. A spectacular way to spend our Canada Day!
David Smith June 14, 2016
Completed a round-trip hike from Grizzly Lake trailhead on Dempster Highway (km 58.5) to Grizzly Lake via Grizzly Ridge today (June 13, 2016). Some snow but passable, sank knee deep in several locations but trail was easy to locate given the excellent work the trail maintenance crew has done on this trail. Would have been such a pleasure to spend a few days at the lake, perfect location for a base-camp.
Pierre Bélanger August 26, 2015
Superbe randonnée effectuée les18 et 19 août 2015 avec notre fils Arnaud! Le sentier et le site de camping sont tres bien aménagés. Le décor du lac Grizzli et de Monolith Mountain est impressionnant.
Les vues sont spectaculaires. Nous avons pu observer divers animaux et sutrout ..... un boeuf musqué!!!!
Votre description du sentier est juste et précise. Il faut être en bonne forme.
Jill McIntosh August 21, 2015
We just did a half-day hike to the view of Grizzly Lake and Mount Monolith. Probably about halfway, just before the highpoint at Marmot Meadows. Absolutely wonderful.
Andreas Lazda August 15, 2015
We hiked in with our 3 teenage kids on July 25, 2015 (then out on the 29th after going to Divide/Talus). Trail condition was excellent, although had forest fire smoke affecting visibility on the hike in - not enough to cause breathing issues.
Lots of variable mountain weather, but got some clearer skies too - great views!
No big wildlife encounters, but yes had ground squirrels interested in our boots and poles at the tents - had to keep the gear inside.
Highly recommend the Twin Lakes sidetrip if you have time.
Chris August 16, 2014
The trail description above is spot on. No grizzly encounters on the trail and Gladys at the Park Information Center/Hiking registration Center mentioned they've been staying away from moderately busy hiking trails as there's lots of access to food this season. However be aware that you've got to be equipped with bear spray (either your own or theirs) and have a bear proof container (a deposit is required for the bear spray and bear proof container [60$ and up]).
Some other notes. Mountain weather moves in fast. Over the 3 days we (myself and my friend) were in the Grizzly Lake area (Aug 11-13) there wasn't a day we didn't get some sort of precipitation. Often more than once a day.
The campsite is pretty wet when it rains continually. The trails are often underwater and even with the geogrid they've laid down you'll want waterproof boots.
We had no trouble with ground squirrels chewing on boots and such left in the tent vestibule however one did mark the tent (probably the one living beneath the tent platform). A fact I didn't clue into until once home and setting it up to dry out. So be aware of that odiferous bit of info.
casey October 15, 2012
one of my better photos from the hike, lots of other photo's including winter ones of divide and talus lake. ask if you want them