Elk Lakes Cabin is spectacular. Imagine a log cabin in a winter paradise of powdery snow and beautiful scenery and you get the idea. A trip to Elk Lake Cabin is a great weekend getaway in the Canadian Rockies. So grab your snowshoes or backcountry skis and head for this spectacular area along the border between Alberta and British Columbia, an easy drive from Calgary.
Upper and Lower Elk Lakes are breathtaking at any time of year, but in the winter, you’ll experience the peace and quiet of nature at rest. Get away from it all with a stay in the Elk Lakes cabin, where you’ll keep warm with cozy wood fires and relax by the light of propane lamps. Enjoy snowy adventures by day and cozy tranquility by night!
This Elk Lakes backcountry adventure is the perfect winter getaway. If you’re planning a trip to the Canadian Rockies, this is a great option to add a couple of nights in a beautiful log cabin.
Closest International Airport: Calgary International Airport (YYC)
Closest Major City: Canmore
Start: Elk Pass parking lot on Kananaskis Lakes Trail, off of Highway 40 (Kananaskis Trail)
Accommodations: Alpine Club of Canada’s Elk Lakes cabin
Costs: Per night: $25 per adult or $50 per family
Length: 10 km (2-4 hours) each way
When to go: Elk Lakes Cabin is open year-round. For skiing, you can usually start heading out there in November thru to April.
Gear to use: Snowshoes, XC skis or backcountry skis (light touring or alpine touring). We personally wouldn’t want to do the trip in XC skis, but many people do.
Elk Lakes Back Country Skiing Map
Accommodation – Elk Lakes Cabin
Reserve a night in Elk Lakes Cabin, a cozy, rustic cabin for a quick winter getaway. Ski or snowshoe into this beautiful area, surrounded by rugged peaks, to truly get away from it all. The Elk Lakes cabin is heated by a wood stove, and abundant firewood is provided to keep you comfortable.
The cabin is located in Elk Lakes Provincial Park in British Columbia, but its proximity to the Alberta border means that it is best accessed through Peter Lougheed Provincial Park (Alberta), with the trailhead near Upper Kananaskis Lake.
After dark, propane lights provide a relaxing, peaceful atmosphere. There is no indoor plumbing, but an outhouse is available and water can be found in a nearby stream or by melting snow. Cooking equipment is provided, including a propane stove and oven, pots, pans, dishes, and utensils. The second floor sleeping area has foam mattresses. You’ll need to bring your own food and sleeping bags.
The Elk Lakes cabin provides accommodations with basic amenities for up to 14 people. Sleeping is upstairs in a communal sleeping area, so bring earplugs.
Reservations are required at the Elk Lakes Cabin. You can get information on booking an ACC hut here.
Getting to the Trailhead
If you are traveling by air, fly to the Calgary International Airport and rent a car for the beautiful drive to Peter Lougheed Provincial Park. From Highway 1 (Trans-Canada Highway) heading west, go south on Highway 40 (at the Stoney Nakoda Casino) and follow Highway 40 for 50 km. At the winter gate turn right onto Kananaskis Lakes Trail. Continue to the Elk Lakes parking lot.
The trailhead for Elk Lakes Cabin is about 150 km from Calgary Airport and the drive takes about 2 hours. To get an earlier start, spend the night in Canmore, which is a 1-hour drive (90 km) from the trailhead.
Skiing or Snowshoeing to Elk Lakes Cabin
The total trip to Elk Lakes Cabin is 11km one-way, with 240m of elevation gain and loss. Most people get to Elk Lakes Cabin from Kananaskis Country. You start the trip in from the Elk Pass parking lot, which is near Upper Kananaskis Lakes.
From the Elk Lakes parking area, consult the posted maps to plan and verify your route. The trail begins as a track-set cross-country skiing trail. After a short section of trail that is flat, there is a significant uphill followed by a downhill stretch. The track-set portion of the trail is about 6 km long and gains about 200 m of elevation. Please note that those using snowshoes should ensure they don’t step on the XC ski track.
The track ends at the border as you enter British Columbia and Elk Lakes Provincial Park. After a big snow dump the trail can be difficult to follow, and having a GPS track to follow can help, as the trail meanders for about 5 km downhill, crossing the power line several times. At the bottom of the power line, follow signs for a short distance to reach the Elk Lakes cabin.
Day trip from Elk Lakes Cabin
While many people come into Elk Lakes Cabin only for one night, it’s really worth spending at least one day (and an additional night) exploring the area around Elk Lakes Cabin. A great day trip is to explore the stunning Elk Lakes themselves.
To reach the Lower Elk Lake, follow one of two marked trails through the forest. The first option can be found directly across from the cabin door on the far side of the creek. It begins with a steep ascent and ends by following the creek to reach the lake. The second option begins by following the creek north for about 100 m before turning west into the forest. Both trails are fun and easy and you are sure to enjoy the incredible views and the sounds of birds in the trees.
Watch for tracks in the snow and other signs of wildlife in the area. Follow the right bank of the lake, cross the bridge and find the sign where the trail splits. The left trail leads up to a spectacular viewpoint. Take time to admire the vista before taking the trail to the right, which leads to Upper Elk Lake and more breathtaking mountain views.
This ski tour to Upper and Lower Elk Lakes is an easy 4 km trail, round trip, and it only takes about 1-2 hours to complete it. Leave your gear in the cabin to travel light, but don’t forget your camera to capture the awe-inspiring views you will encounter along the way.
Return Trip to Elk Lakes Trailhead
From the Elk Lakes cabin, follow the same trail back to Peter Lougheed Provincial Park and the Elk Pass parking lot. The return route involves more uphill skiing so it may take longer to reach the groomed ski track on the Alberta side of the border.
You’ll return to your car invigorated by the exercise, refreshed from your rustic getaway, and with your head, heart, and a camera full of incredible mountain scenery.