Buller Creek to Chester Lake

This is one of the more appealing sections of the High Rockies Trail for hikers, with views transitioning from the head of Spray Lakes Reservoir to the British Military group of mountains — Smuts, Birdwood, Sir Douglas and Tent Ridge, etc. Best hiked from north to south.

The first two sections are undulating forest walks taking in viewpoints and crossings of Engadine and Rummel creeks to Rummel Lake trail. Then follows a long stint through forest high above the road. The final stretch to Chester Lake parking uses the Chester Lake ski trail.

Buller Pass trail to Engadine Burn 3.1 km

A glimpse of Spray Lakes from one of the burns.

The trail leaves Buller Pass trail about 550 m from Buller Mountain parking. If coming from the north it follows Buller Pass trail for about 550 m from the bridge over Buller Creek.

Turn south onto the High Rockies Trail. A twisty uphill climb through spruce forest on the west flank of Mount Engadine ends at high points where the trail crosses four fingers of burnt black forest allowing views of Spray Lakes Reservoir and Tent Ridge. Note the magnificent spruce just before the first burn.

Descend across steep slopes to another burn. A short distance on, cross the Engadine Burn access route to Engadine cirque and Rummel Ridge.

Engadine Burn to Rummel Lake trail lower junction 2.8 km

On the bank top above Engadine Creek valley first visit the viewpoint for Tent Ridge, then head down left to Engadine Creek bridge. Climb up the other side of the valley, at the top wending left across to the Rummel Creek drainage at a gentle gradient featuring banked corners for bikers coming the other way. Look down on the forested valley of Rummel Creek.

Descend and cross Rummel Creek on a bridge. A long climb up the far side ends on a ridge top open to the west. There join Rummel Lake trail at the upper T-junction. Go right. (Trail to left heads to Rummel Lake.) Going downhill, enjoy new views of Mount Birdwood and Commonwealth Peak. In another 330 m reach the lower T-junction with its clear view of Spray Lakes Reservoir and Tent Ridge. Bear left. (Right is Rummel Lake trail down to Hwy. 742, 2 km distant.)

Rummel Lake trail to Chester Lake ski trail 5.4 km

Sir Douglas, Birdwood, Commonwealth

The trail continues through once-logged forest dipping into and out of a seasonal creek, then then back in once logged forest, climbing past old skid trails to a flat, perhaps once a sawmill site. This signals a much longer uphill to the trail’s high point. No view.

The trail then undulates, the ground stony underfoot. Part-way down a hill the side slope steepens. This is the best part, big gaps in the trees allowing views not only of Smuts and Birdwood again, but also the great peaks of Robertson, French and Sir Douglas as you progress. Highway 742 looks incredibly far down at the foot of Commonwealth Ridge. Have we really climbed this high?

Gradually the side slope lessens and the trail wends left to the bridge over Three Lakes Valley creek. After climbing out of the valley, the route joins a logging road, then follows a very long straight to a T-junction with the Chester Lake ski trail return loop.

Chester Lake ski trail to Chester Lake parking 1.3 km

Turn right down the road — a view ahead of the north outlier of Mount French. At the next T-junction with the upward leg of Chester Lake trail turn right and make the final steeper descent to the scenic Chester Lake parking lot.