Backpack the Fortress Cirque

Rate this Adventure Canada Chester Lake Trailhead

Added by Stephen Underhay

This is an amazing Summit Bivy with, 4 Alpine Tarns and great views of the Rockies. You will also be at 9800ft (3000m) on the summit.

No better way to watch the stars with friends than huddled up in your sleeping bag on top of a 3000m summit. This describes the bivy at The Fortress.

Starting at the Chester Lake Trailhead, take the unmarked trail on the right side of the parking lot. These winter cross-country ski trails take you SE until you come to a damaged bridge. Cross the logs and up the slight hill and there is a clearly flagged trail to the left into the forest. This trail will take you to the Headwall Lakes.

This set of 3 alpine tarns at increasing elevation are stocked with cut-throat trout. If you register your fish you'll have a great evening meal! Follow along the streams up the beautiful waterfall. After admiring this sight, carry on to the Col that leads you to the summit ridge.

Following the obvious low col gives you the first look down to the Chester Lake valley you'll return home on. Following the ridge leads you to The Fortress. A beautiful flat summit giving a view to countless high Rocky Mountains and Hwy 40 - A perfect open air bivy to take in the stars.

After enjoying a summit sunrise and a cup of coffee, head back down the ridge to the low col. Head to the right this time down a steep scree slope. Follow along the scree band further down the valley until you come upon Chester Lake. This is another stocked pond and a great place for a rest - or a swim if you're daring enough! There is a well maintained trail leading back to the parking lot from here. The cirque is finished!

Pack List

  • Hiking boots
  • Trekking poles
  • Water purifier
  • Sleeping pad/bag
  • Food
  • Stove
  • Camera
  • Friends!
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Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More



Backpacking, Camping, Hiking, Photography, Rock Climbing

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Trail Type:



12 Miles



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Added by Stephen Underhay

26 years old, originally from Yellowknife NT, central Alberta is now where I call home. A professional firefighter/EMT, I'm afforded a lot of time off to explore my hobbies. Climbing, paddling, hiking and camping off the beaten path are how I spend my time. Recently taking up adventure photography I've now gained a direction to focus my pastimes. 

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