"the toughest bus to get on in British Columbia." That's how our driver described his bus that took us from the parking lot just off the Trans Canada Highway up the closed 12 kilometre (8 mile) dirt road to Lake O'Hara.
The trail to Lake Oesa starts at the northwestern pocket of Lake O'Hara, hugging the shoreline of this picturesque turquoise lake. This serene setting is nestled among beautiful old-growth forests, which abruptly give way to the steep, chiseled peaks for which the Canadian Rockies is famed.
The turnoff to Lake Oesa introduces another dimension as you hike up from O'Hara through alternating meadows and boulder fields to present spectacular views of O'Hara and the cascading waterfalls that feed the lake.
As you progress past first Yukness then Victoria Lake, the landscape takes on a more alpine appearance as the avalanche-battered trees give way to flowering meadows, which themselves recede into boulder fields. All the while, the peaks above grow grander and views open toward the glaciers tucked away in the sheltered pockets of the peaks above Oesa.
At the end of this out-and-back trail lies Lake Oesa. It is a beautiful blue alpine gem, but it is also a stark contrast to O'Hara at the start of the trail with the boulders and avalanche evidence all around and peaks towering on three sides. The sounds of the water running into the lake is occasionally joined by the chatting of the many pikas and marmots nearby. If you're very lucky, you may also see wolverines in the area.
This is the top of the day hike, and you'll have the option to continue along the Lake O'Hara shoreline trail on your return; this route takes you past the magnificent waterfall that cascades from Oesa down to O'Hara.