NOTE: The 2013 floods forever changed the Ribbon Creek drainage and trail system from the Ribbon Parking lot. It also changed the North Ribbon Creek up to Memorial Lakes, but apparently not by as much. Be aware that official trails likely don't match my exact GPS track anymore.
I've done the hike into Memorial Lakes several times over the past decade or so. The first few times were just hikes to the lakes but the third time was an ambitious day with Sonny Bou to scramble Ribbon Peak and Bogart Tower in a day. The photos in this trip report are from that day, since it was the nicest one that I've been up to this very special area.
Be warned, this hike is not an official trail and as such it is almost more of a scramble even up the first section where you cut off of the Ribbon Creek Trail and start ascending along North Ribbon Creek. There are no signs indicating where the Memorial Lake trail starts, it's a cairn and a thin ribbon of trail on your right as you hike up towards Ribbon Falls. It's the first unmarked trail you'll come across and is quite a bit past the official trail cutting off to your left on the way up (that trail immediately crosses a bridge). You will know you're on the right trail as it starts out in forest and soon (within 15 minutes) you'll have a bubbly creek chattering to your left. There is also no noticeable height gain until you're off the Ribbon Creek Trail.
The trail goes fairly easily to the first lake and from there it becomes a bit more scrambly but still obvious enough. It's interesting to note that the Memorial Lakes area isn't part of a park - that's why people can set up camp without a permit at the first lake. This also means that the trail is 'unofficial' and doesn't get maintained the same way as some other Kananaskis trails do. One thing about the Memorial Lakes hike - don't bother if you're not going to the third lake! As nice as the trail to the first lake is (there's some beautiful waterfall scenery along the creek), the views at the first lake are kind of bushy and limited. The second lake is much nicer, with a backdrop of Mount Sparrowhawk towering above the clear blue/green lake. But it's the third lake where the charm really comes out. It is a beautiful and poignant place to remember those who died in three separate plane crashes in June of 1986.
A spider web along the trail with morning dew.
A nice waterfall along North Ribbon Creek. The viewpoint for these falls is exposed so hang onto your kids / dogs here!
Crossing one of the streams that comes down from Wind Mountain (Lougheed) as we work our way to the first Memorial Lake.
Bogart Tower looms over the first lake - note the waterfalls coming down from the third Memorial Lake in the background. There is a scramble shortcut up the slopes along that waterfall that skips the second lake.
Another shot of the first lake.
The first lake will probably be a wee bit disappointing - it was for me. The real reward is after a steep scramble / hike to the second lake and even more reward awaits at the third lake. Once you find the trail you should always have an obvious track to follow to the third lake - although depending when you go the trail from the 2nd to 3rd lakes is more scrambling than the previous bits.
Interesting trail up to the second Memorial Lake.
Columbine with the second lake in the bg. There are tons of wild flowers along this hike.
The lovely green waters of the second lake with part of Wind Mountain rising dramatically in the background.
Now the views are getting great! Looking back down on the second Memorial Lake with Wind Mountain rising to the left.
The final grunt up to the third lake from the second one starts to feel like easy scrambling in sections - but the all the work is very worth it when the first views towards Bogart Tower and the lake occur! Ribbon Peak stands dramatically over the entire scene, casting a shadow over the turquoise waters. The memorial cairn and plaque are located at the edge of a steep embankment at the third lake. Many hours can be spent here amongst the wild flowers and gentle breezes, meditating on life and the sacrifices we make for others.
The trail is almost indistinct here (lower right) but does exist. The third Memorial Lake is above the headwall just ahead.
Looking down towards the second Lake approach from the headwall to the third. Sparrowhawk's east ridge and south face on the left and Wind Mountain rising at center.
A great view of Bogart Tower from the top of the headwall.
Ribbon Peak (L) is accessed from this scree bowl via cliffs at center. As you can see, this is beyond hiking... :)
My favorite view of the area is from the slope above the third Memorial Lake showing Wind Mountain at far left, Bogart Tower left of the lake and Ribbon Peak looming above on the right.
A view back towards Bogart Tower and the third lake from our descent of Ribbon Peak.
Bogart Tower (L) and the third Memorial Lake. If you have the time and energy, it's worth hiking up scree beyond and above the lake for views like this.
More views from just south of the third lake with Sparrowhawk, Bogart Tower, Wind and Allan (L to R) in the bg.
The memorial cairn sits on an exposed ridge just east of the third lake with stunning views of Wind and Allan.
The memorial with Bogart Tower in the bg.
The memorial plaque.
Looking towards Ribbon Peak's summit high above the cairn.
Traversing back above the third lake to the top of the headwall again - Ribbon Peak in the background.
The way back is along the ascent trail and is often steep and loose. Hiking poles help greatly with this! While doing this hike several times with families, I noticed that especially kids under the age of 10 or so, may find the descent quite a bit harder than the ascent so be aware of this and ensure everyone in your group can safely get down whatever terrain they scramble up!
Descending the headwall with Bogart Tower beside, catching late afternoon light.
Sonny follows me through deep shadows beneath the headwall between the 2nd and 3rd lakes. Ribbon Peak rising dramatically still in the sun at upper left.
Sparrowhawk's impressive south face.
Back at the second Memorial Lake.
Carpets of wild flowers as we ascend slightly before dropping to the first lake.
More Saxifrage - a delicate alpine flower that has tiny red dots on small white petals and thrives around alpine meadows / lakes such as these.
Sonny works his way down along North Ribbon Creek to the first lake.