- Physical DifficultyThis is the average user-submitted rating on the physical difficulty of this route. In general, green is beginner, blue is intermediate, black is advanced/most difficult and double-black is expert-only. It is recommended that users build up to black and double-black routes.
- Technical DifficultyThis is the average user-submitted rating on the technical difficulty of this route. In general, green is beginner, blue is intermediate, black is advanced/most difficult and double-black is expert-only. It is recommended that users build up to black and double-black routes.
Rae Lake is often completed as a day-hike, however it is a great place for a quick backpacking trip. Lying at the base of gigantic Mount Rae, Rae Lake is a wonderful place to spend a night, take a swim, and admire the wildflowers and larch forest on nearby ridges.
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Route Description for Rae Lake
Rae Lake is nestled below the north end of Mt. Rae and the east of Tombstone Pass. This beautiful and peaceful lake is rarely-visited. While it is easily accessible as a day hike, it is a great destination for a quick and easy overnight. An unofficial campsite exists near the outlet stream, however it is best to stay in the meadows above the lake.
The route is fairly simple, as you follow the trail to Elbow Lake. Once at Elbow Lake the views really are spectacular. Take the trail on the left of Elbow Lake and cross over the Elbow River at the far end of the Lake. You will continue up the valley with the Elbow River on your left.
Roughly 5.3 km from leaving the parking lot, a cairned trail to Rae Lake branches off to the right of the main trail.
After a short distance in the trees, emerge into the open, next to a grassy hill. A short distance further, the trail branches; head right for the most direct route to Rae Lake. The trail quickly becomes less distinct and overgrown in places, but it is relatively easy to follow as it weaves its way up and over the bald ridge to the southeast.
Cresting the ridge, the cirque holding Rae Lake pops into view. Rae Lake is just 5 minutes further at this point. While the trail has mostly disappeared, just walk towards Mt. Rae through grassy meadows and you'll be able to locate the trail again. Camp near the trail in the meadows, or continue on the trail to the outlet stream where there is a more established campsite with a fire pit. As this is in Elbow-Sheep Wildland Provincial Park, random camping is permitted, however please be a considerate camper, and leave as little trace of your staying there as possible.
The larch trees in the area are abundant, making this an incredible fall camping destination. The approach to Rae Lake and the ridge to the east of Rae Lake are covered in larches. With the backdrop of Mt. Rae, this would be as nice as many of the more popular larch hikes and significantly less crowded.
Return the way you hiked in back to your car at the Elbow Pass Day Use Area.
Day 1: Trailhead to Rae Lake (8.0 km / 363 m)
Day 2: Rae Lake to Trailhead (8.0 km / 128 m)
Insider Hints for Rae Lake
- Come in the fall to see the Larches!
- As Rae Lake is in Elbow-Sheep Wildland Provincial Park, you can random camp. IF you do this, there are rules. The most important is to leave no trace, as failure to be responsible random campers will eventually result in this privilege being removed.
Getting to the Rae Lake Trailhead
From Calgary, head west on highway 1 and take exit 118 toward Kananaskis Country, then turn left onto Kananaskis trail/Hwy 40 and follow for 62.0 km. The Elbow Pass Day Use Area will be on your left and is the start of the trail.
Rae Lake Elevation Graph
Weather ForecastCheck Area Weather
Rae Lake Reviews
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