20km total, about 5-6hrs each way
Elevation gain : you will read online that the total elevation gain is about 325m… don’t let this fool you… The trail goes up and down quite a bit, and the elevation is actually quite a lot (refer to a topo map to have a better idea… the max elevation point is 1325m but the lake is down at about 740m!!)
Driving distance from Vancouver : 45min
This trail starts from the Mount Seymour parking lot, on the regular 1st pump Mount Seymour trail. Pass Broncton Point and keep going towards the first pump. Just before the trail heads left up the first pump, you will see a pole with markers for the Elsay Lake trail. Some people decide to do this hike as a day hike round-trip ; I do not recommend doing this, unless you want to have a really long day and you feel quite in shape! We did it overnight and stayed at the lake and it was perfect!
One you start going on the official Elsay Lake trail, keep following the markers. You will walk right under a ‘Careful High Avalanche Risk Zone’ sign……….. this tells you a lot about what is waiting for you on the other side. The trail is well marked all the way to the lake. It starts down on the “Wes Staircase” which is pretty much a staircase of rocks going down quite a lot on a steep trail. You will cross about 4-5 boulder scree / rock fields on this trail… There is also a lot of bushwhacking involved and the terrain varies quite a bit. Rocks, creek beds, bushes, old growth forest… All of this put together for an awesome trail and tired legs! Bring a lot of water (although a few creeks can be seen on the way to the lake to fill up your water bottles). You will also cross the ‘ Canadian Pass ‘, which is a bunch of rocks/moss crossing a creek between two small lakes.
Eventually you will go down the path of a bed creek (with a view of Indian arm in the distance to your right) and you will come accross this sign down the hill on your way to the lake, just before you head back in the forest :
Follow the Seymour marker and keep following the well marked trail to the left. There are some visible orange markers lower down the hill and you might be tempted to follow them… Don’t!!! We did. I believe it is an older version of the trail or a lower Elsay lake trail that might be going around. However it is not well maintained and the official BC park trail definitely is well-marked with the big orange losanges… So keep left and keep going!
From there the lake is only a few km away. You will have to cross a creek about 1,5-2km before you arrive to the lake. I believe sometimes the water level can be too high to be crossed. We didn’t have any problem and it was quite easy to cross while being careful.
We had a great swim at the lake that was well deserved. We pitched the tent beside the shelter but cooked inside to avoid the mosquitos and hang out with another group of hikers also there for the night. It took us 5hrs back the morning after from the lake to the car at Seymour parking lot!
This is a difficult hike and I wouldn’t recommend it for beginner hikers. It is a fun hike, but should not be done without proper equipment/water/food supplies. We saw some trail runners down the trail ; I’m not sure how I feel about seeing these guys running these complex terrain with no gear and only few granola bars and small water bottles… hopefully they have emergency devices in case something happens!