The Best Hikes in Kananaskis Country

things to do in canmore alberta

If you’re looking to do some hikes in Kananaskis Country, you’ve come to the right place. Nestled in the foothills of the Canadian Rockies, the Kananaskis is one of Alberta’s finest gems. Home to jaw-dropping mountains, turquoise-coloured lakes, gorgeous waterfalls, and lots of wildlife, it’s one of the most scenic areas in all of Canada.

With so much natural beauty, hiking in the Kananaskis is a very popular activity and a great way to see the stunning landscapes. It’s also relatively quiet compared to its neighbours Banff and Jasper, but is certainly no longer “off-the-beaten-track”. After all, Calgary is just around the corner, and with more and more people getting out into nature, hiking in the Kananaskis is growing in popularity.

Regardless, If you’re looking for some epic beauty, this Kananaskis Hiking travel guide will help you find the best hikes in Kananaskis, including those that are easy, moderate, and hard, as well as both day trips and multi-day backpacking trips.

When Is The Best Time To Hike In Kananaskis Trail?

Kananaskis Country is a year-round hiking destination, but depending on what you’re looking for and your skill level, you will need to judge when is the best time to go. The main hiking season runs from May to October as some higher elevation trails can remain covered in snow until mid-June, although you can start hiking some lower-elevation trails in early spring or late autumn.  If you decide to hike during the shoulder season, it’s recommended to bring crampons and hiking poles. Your timing also depends on where you’re going as most of the Kananaskis Trail Highway is closed between December 1st and June 15th.

Kananaskis Trail hikes are well known for their beautiful larch forests, and in autumn they become a vibrant gold colour, transforming the landscape and providing even more stunning views. It’s actually one of the best places in Alberta to see fall colours.

Now, if you prefer to enjoy a landscape completely different but equally beautiful, visit the Kananaskis in the winter when the trails are covered in snow.  Grab your snowshoes or microspikes and head out to see magical white landscapes with snow-covered trees, frozen waterfalls, and frozen lakes.

The Kananaskis is also one of the top spots for a romantic getaway in Alberta.

Best Kananaskis Hikes

Although Kananaskis Country is in the foothills of the Canadian Rockies and the mountains aren’t quite as big as in Banff and Jasper, the views are just as breathtaking, and we’re confident that you’ll want to come back again and again. From difficult hikes and family hikes to multi-day backpacking trips and day trips, here are some of the best hikes in Kananaskis Trail.

Easy Kananaskis Hikes

  • Rawson Lake
  • Troll Falls Hike
  • Upper Kananaskis Lake Trail
  • Ptarmigan Cirque
  • Grassi Lake Trail
  • Chester Lakes
Best Easy Hikes in Kananaskis: Rawson Lake
Rawson Lake. Photo Credit: Travel Alberta.

Rawson Lake Hike

Distance (return) : 7.8 km
Elevation: 320m
Time: 1.5-3h
Family Friendly: Yes
Where to Park: Upper Kananaskis Lake Parking Lot

The route to Rawson Lake is one of the best hikes in Kananaskis Trail, passing through a stunning view of the Upper Kananaskis Lake and crossing over Sarrail Creek on a wooden bridge. The route starts steep, but levels off as you reach the stunning lake, allowing you to stop at many places to enjoy the view. If you continue to the end of Rawson lake you can see the Sarrail Ridge in front of you. Return to your car through the same route.

Troll Falls Hike

Distance (loop) : 3.7 km
Elevation: 60m
Time: 1-2h
Family friendly: Yes
Where to Park: Stoney Trailhead Parking Lot

Located near Nakiska Ski Resort, this is a popular year-round and family-friendly hike. This trail passes through forest, meadows, and rivers, before arriving at the falls. But please, don’t go back the same way. If you follow the route to Marmot Creek, you will find beautiful views of the surrounding peaks through Hay Meadow, walking along the Kananaskis River. This route is wonderful in summer, but it’s also a good option for a winter hike in snowshoes to the frozen Troll Falls.

Best Hikes in Kananaskis: Upper Kananaskis Lake
Upper Kananaskis Lake. Photo Credit: Corey Myke

Upper Kananaskis Lake Hike

Distance (loop) : 16.5km
Elevation: 295m
Time: 4.5-5h
Difficulty: Easy
Family friendly: No
Where to Park: Upper Lake Parking Lot. There are two parking lots, an upper and a lower.

This is a hike for all levels of hikers with varied terrain and amazing views of the turquoise lake and surrounding peaks. This hike is recommended to do counter clock-wise to enjoy great views with great light and finish with a postcard-picture view. Make sure to contour around the lake. This hike has the option to extend into a low-key backpacking route or to link up with Rawson Lake.

Ptarmigan Cirque Hike

Distance (return) : 3.5km
Elevation: 195m
Time: 1-2h
Family friendly: Yes
Where to Park: Highwood Meadows Parking Lot.

This is a wonderful hike for families but be careful of the initial ascent as it can be slippery. After that, it’s one of the best easy hikes on the Kananaskis Trail. The hike begins at Highwood Pass, which means you’re high in the alpine almost immediately, enjoying incredible views before you even start. This hike is famous for witnessing the autumn larches but the path can get slippery after recent snowfall so it’s recommended to bring microspikes just in case.
Return on the original path but keep looking back before you start the steep descent back through the trees.

Best Hikes in Kananaskis: Ptarmigan Cirque
Ptarmigan Cirque. Photo Credit: Travel Alberta & Paul Zizka.

Grassi Lakes Hike

Distance (return) : 4km
Elevation: 185m
Time: 1-2h
Family-friendly: Yes
Where to Park: Grassi Lakes Trailhead.

If you get here later in the morning, you may be parking on the road. This very popular hiking trail is an easy hike for beginners and families. The path is wide, leading through the forest and up to the first and second lake. The path is located to the right of the junction and is known as the Riders of Rohan trail, which will take you on a short loop around the two lakes. This trail can be done on the same path in & out or as a circuit where you go up on the difficult trail (left-hand trail) and down on the easy trail.

Chester Lake Hike

Distance (return) : 9.3km
Elevation: 320m
Time: 1.5-3h
Family friendly: Yes
Where to Park: Chester Lake Parking Lot (41 km past the Nordic Centre in Canmore)

This is a great year-round family hike near Canmore. Enjoy a beautiful alpine meadow and lake among towering peaks in the summer, the gold colour larches in the fall, or a snowshoe tour in the winter. Do note that the trail is closed from May to Late June to prevent trail damage. To return to your car, head back the same way.

Upper Kananaskis Lake is one of the top hikes in Kananaskis
Upper Kananaskis Lake. Photo Credit: Travel Alberta.

Moderate Kananaskis Hikes

  • Lillian and Galatea lakes
  • Ha Ling Peak
  • Pocaterra Ridge Hike
  • Wasootch Ridge Hike
  • Pickle Jar Lakes

Galatea Lakes Hike

Distance (return) : 16.7km
Elevation: 740m
Time: 5-7h
Family friendly: No
Where to Park: Galatea Parking Lot.

This hike takes you to three lakes: Lillian Lake, Lower Galatea Lake, and Upper Galatea Lake. This is a beautiful hike and is among the most popular hikes in Kananaskis as it’s quite varied, taking you through forest, rivers, creeks and over rocks to finally arrive at the sparkling turquoise lakes.

The route to Lower Galatea Lake and Guinn’s Pass is the same so make sure to take the left path at the junction.
This is also a great option for a first-time backpacking trip in the Canadian Rockies at the Lillian Lake Backcountry Campground where you can spend the weekend with great hikes over to Ribbon Lake or up to Galatea Lakes.
The easiest option to return is to go back the same way, however, there is a path that continues around Lower Galatea Lake, which can be easy to miss as it goes through the trees.

kananaskis hikes

Ha Ling Peak Hike

Distance (return) : 9km
Elevation: 860m
Time: 3-5h
Family friendly: No
Where to Park: Goat Creek Parking Lot.

Get rewarded with some stunning views over the Canmore area. This is a popular hike that is only 20 minutes (drive) from Canmore and is often very busy, especially on warmer weekends during the summer. It’s moderately difficult, mainly due to the steep incline, and even though the trail has been improved recently with a series of stairs, it can still be challenging for the legs. The trail begins at a parking lot but as the trail gets steeper, be prepared to scramble the last section to Ha Ling Peak.

If you continue for a short hike past Ha Ling Peak to Miner’s Peak and the Three Bumps, you’ll be rewarded with other great views and fewer people. Since the weather changes rapidly and can be quite different from the trailhead to the peak, it’s recommended to dress in layers since the top is usually windy.

Best Kananaskis Hikes: Pocaterra Ridge
Pocaterra Ridge. Photo credit: Travel Alberta and AV Wakefield

Pocaterra Ridge Hike

Distance (return) : 12km
Elevation: 985m
Time: 5-7h
Family friendly: No
Where to Park: Little Highwood Parking Lot.

This is a challenging hike with spectacular views and is known as one of the best places to see the autumn larch foliage. This hike is extremely popular during the fall so be prepared to arrive as early as 8 am. There is a need for a 2nd car as this trail is often hiked as a one-way hike starting at Little Highwood Pass and ending at the Highwood Pass parking lot. However, there is a chance to make it a loop trail, but this can be tricky as the path is not well marked.

Wasootch Ridge Hike

Distance (return) : 11.7km
Elevation: 750m
Time: 5-6h
Family friendly: No

This is an easy to moderate choice and one of the best hikes in Kananaskis near Canmore with amazing views of the valley. There are several trails starting from the parking lot, so make sure to head up through the woods in a southeast direction. As you get farther along the ridge, you can see Wasootch, Barrier Lake to the north, and Nakiska Ski Resort to the south. Do note that this hike requires some scrambling at the end so it’s recommended to bring hiking poles. However, the scramble part can be avoided as the views are great early on the trail. Many hikers return at this point. To return, go down the same way you came up.

Pickle Jar Lakes Hike

Distance (return) : 10.5km
Elevation: 500m
Time: 3.5-5h
Family friendly: No
Where to park: Lantern Creek parking Lot

This is a great intermediate hike with varied terrain, including steep hills and loose black shale. Hiking poles are recommended. This is one of the absolute favourite hikes in Kananaskis as it offers wonderful views along the way and over three different lakes but be aware that the trail is not very well marked. Make sure to bring directions or download a map before starting the journey. Once you arrive at a plateau for a beautiful vantage point view over the third and fourth lake you can either turn around to go back or circumnavigate the 3rd lake by going right to then rejoin the path you hiked up.

Difficult Kananaskis Hikes

  • Sarrail Ridge Hike via Rawson Lake
  • East End of Rundle (EEOR)
  • Tent Ridge
  • King Creek Ridge
  • Smutwood Peak Hike
Best Kananaskis Hikes: Sarrail Ridge Hike via Rawson Lake
Sarrail Ridge Hike via Rawson Lake. Photo Credit: Mike Seehagel @mikeseehagel

Sarrail Ridge Via Rawson Lake Hike

Distance (return) : 11.5km
Elevation: 670m
Time: 3.5-6h
Family friendly: No
Where to park: Upper Kananaskis Lake Parking Lot

This hike offers some of the most stunning views but is perhaps the steepest of the hikes in Kananaskis. Avoid this trail when wet or icy. This hike passes Rawson Lake to finally enjoy incredible views of Upper and Lower Kananaskis Lakes, as well as Mount Indefatigable. Hiking poles are highly recommended for this hike as the hike can be tiring, tricky and very steep. To return, follow the route you came up on.

East End of Rundle (EEOR)

Distance (return) : 6.7km
Elevation: 855m
Time: 5-6h
Family friendly: No
Where to park: Goat Creek Parking Lot

This Kananaskis hike is a popular scrambling hike but also a challenging route, especially for new scramblers

Best Hikes in Kananaskis: Tent Ridge
Tent Ridge. Photo credit: April Kahli @kahliaprilphoto

Tent Horseshoe Ridge Hike

Distance (loop) : 10.4km
Elevation: 747m
Time: 4-6h
Family friendly: No
Where to park: Park in a parking lot located 1.8 km past Mt. Engadine Lodge, heading to Mount Shark.

This is one of the most “instagrammable” hikes in Kananaskis, showing stunning peaks over the beautiful Spray Lakes. Although there’s a bit of scrambling to do in some areas, this is a quick and moderate hike that is worth doing. The best time to go is from June to October but if you decide to go in the shoulder season, make sure to bring crampons and poles.

King Creek Ridge Hike

Distance (loop) : 7.3km
Elevation: 740m
Time: 4.5-5h
Family friendly: No
Where to park: King Creek Day Use Area Parking Lot.

This is a spectacular hike recommended for adventurous and fit hikers. During this hike, you can enjoy the different colours of rock, the meadows in the Opal Range, the views of Kananaskis Lakes in the south and by frequently stopping you can look back at Mt. Wintour as well. Try to come early in the season when the wildflowers dot the trail and the meadows are a vibrant green. The trail offers a better grip after rain and it can be quite challenging when dry. Hiking poles are highly recommended as well as good hiking boots.

Smutwood Peak Hike

Distance (return) : 17.9km
Elevation: 782m
Time: 7-9h
Family friendly: No
Where to park: Park just before or after the bridge crossing on the Smith-Dorrien (hwy 742) nearby Mt. Engadine Lodge.

Enjoy spectacular views of the two jagged mountains from which it derives its name: Mount Smuts and Birdwood as well as a creek, waterfalls, and deep blue lakes. There’s basically no elevation during the first hour of the hike until you get to Smuts Pass to then see Mount Birdwood after 2km uphill. Even though you make it to a wonderful view of the surrounding lakes, the hike doesn’t end here. The route from the saddle up to the top of Smutwood Peak is easier and shorter than it looks. Return the same way you hiked up.

Backpacking Trails

Backpacking in Kananaskis Country is a great way to get some of the most stunning views in the Rocky Mountains with fewer crowds than the nearby National Parks. However, this is changing rapidly as this area is gaining a lot of popularity due to the growing population around it. Some of the top trails include:

  • Big Elbow Loop
  • Lilliand and Galatea Lakes
  • Turbine Canyon

Big Elbow Loop

Difficulty: Easy
Distance : 45.6km
Elevation: 1050m
Time: 3-4 days
Where to park: Forget Me Not Pond or Little Elbow Campground.

This is an excellent option for an introductory multi-day backpacking trip with not too much elevation. This hike offers beautiful views for relatively little effort and you can spend the night at one of the various scenic campsites next to the Elbow River. Your itinerary is as follows:

Day 1: Trailhead to Romulus Backcountry Campground (12.4km / 252m)
Day 2: Romulus Backcountry Campground to Tombstone Backcountry Campground (10.0km / 442m)
Day 3: Tombstone Backcountry Campground to Trailhead. (20.0km / 184m)

Lillian and Galatea Lakes

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance : 21.1km
Elevation: 1115m
Time: 2-3 days
Where to park: Galatea Parking Lot

Even Though this hike can be done in a day, it can also e turned into an easy backpacking trip. A popular itinerary is to start later in the day and set camp at Lillian Lake and then wander up the next day to Upper and Lower Galatea Lakes and the nearby Guinn’s Pass.

Turbine Canyon and Three Isle Lake

Difficulty: Hard
Distance : 44km
Elevation: 2127m
Time: 4-5 days
Where to park: North Interlakes Day Use Area

If you’re looking for a variety of different scenery, this hike is a great option as it goes through two alpine passes, canyons, glaciers, and lakes. Your itinerary is as follows:

Day1: Trailhead to Turbine Canyon Campground and day trip to Haig Glacier (20.0km / 1177m )
Return to Turbine Canyon Campground and enjoy your night in the backcountry.
Day 2: Day trip to North Kananaskis Pass and on to Three Isle Lake via Forks Campground (16.0km / 600m)
Day 3/4: Three Isle Lake back to the trailhead via Forks Campground (9.5km / 350m )

hiking trails near me
Hiking in Canmore, Alberta

Popular Questions about Kananaskis Trails

How far is Calgary to the Kananaskis?

Kananaskis is approximately 70 km from Calgary, which is about a one-hour drive. However, the Kananaskis is a big area and there are a couple of different points of entry. For example, another beautiful slice of the Kananaskis is in Sheep River Provincial Park, which can be accessed from the small town of Turney Valley. This is a one-way drive, so you won’t be able to access any of these hikes from this spot, but it’s beautiful none the less.

Is Kananaskis a Provincial Park?

Kananaskis Country encompasses five provincial parks, four wildland provincial parks, one ecological reserve, and several provincial recreation areas. So, yes?

Do you need a park pass for Kananaskis?

Starting June 1st, 2021, Alberta is introducing the Kananaskis Conservation Pass for users who want to visit Kananaskis Country and the Bow Valley.

Kananaskis Conservation Pass Fees:
– $15 Vehicle Pass Per Day
– $90 Vehicle Pass per Year.

More information can be found on the Alberta Parks Kananaskis Conservation Pass website.

What does Kananaskis mean?

According to popular legend, and the testimony of John Palliser, an early explorer of the region, the name Kananaskis is taken from the Cree word meaning ‘meeting of the waters’. However, the Cree peoples never actually inhabited this region, and this is not the correct etymology. This doesn’t surprise us. Although the Cree word ‘Nakiska’ (meaning meeting place) does give its name to an area inside Kananaskis Country. Another theory suggests that the word Kananaskis is derived from the name of a native man named Kin-e-ah-kis who was attacked or killed at the confluence of the Bow and Kananaskis Rivers following an altercation over a woman

Can you go hiking in Kananaskis?

Yes, you can definitely go hiking in the Kananaskis, hence the title of this article. However, if you’re asking due to COVID, the answer is still yes, but as part of Alberta’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, public access to the outdoor spaces is open, BUT the permanent outdoor shelters within Kananaskis are closed to public access. Please maintain your distance, pick up after yourselves, and as of June 1st, don’t forget your park pass.

How long is the Kananaskis Trail?

The Kananaskis Trail, which starts just after Highwood Pass and continues just past Kananaskis Village is about 104 km (65 miles). It takes you from the Highwood Pass and through Peter Lougheed Provincial Park and Spray Valley Provincial Park. If you’re interested in some epic Kananaskis road trips, check out our guide to the best Alberta road trips.

Is Highway 40 in Alberta paved?

The surface of the road is asphalt, with a couple of long gravel (dusty and bumpy) sections. The first gravel section runs for approximately 102 km (63 mi) from the Municipality of Crowsnest Pass to Highway 541 and is currently marked as Highway 40. However, the section of Highway 40 that goes through the Kananaskis is paved. Keep in mind. however, that the Highwood Pass area, as well as the highway leading from Highwood Pass to Kananaskis Village, is closed during the winter from December 1st to June 15th due to animal migrations.

That’s it! For more awesome things to do in Alberta, check out these travel guides below:

Source link

Laisser un commentaire