Grassi Lakes Hike
The Grassi Lakes hike is an ideal route in Canmore for beginners, families unaccustomed to hiking in the mountains, or visitors with smaller children. It includes a pair of picturesque, crystal-clear lakes surrounded by impressive rock faces.
To get to the Grassi Lakes trailhead, drive 1.1km past the Canmore Nordic Centre and take the left turn down Ken Ritchie Way to the Grassi Lake trailhead.
|When to do|
May through October
Grassi Lakes Hike
Grassi Lakes Trail Description
Perhaps the hardest part of the Grassi Lakes hike is getting to it. Head past the Canmore Nordic Centre and take the first left, down a paved road to a parking lot on your right. If you get here later in the morning, you may be parking on the road.
The Grassi Lakes hike begins on a wide gravel access road that leads into the forest from the parking lot. After approximately 150m, a smaller trail leads off to the left into the forest. At this point you can choose to continue on the wide “easy” path to the lakes or take this route to the left, which was built by Lawrence Grassi.
The “easy” path to Grassi Lakes is a steady climb on a wide gravel path. All-terrain strollers can handle this route, and the path is simple to follow. The “difficult” forest trail is a much more exciting route, though not suitable for strollers or young children. In wet or snowy weather we don’t recommend this trail, as it’s easy to slip and incur an injury on the wet ground.
Personally, we prefer to do a circuit where we go up on the “difficult” trail and down on the “easy” trail, which we’ll describe below.
After taking the left-hand trail, you’ll be on a smaller path that heads away from the main route. There are few challenges with route finding, and there are magnificent views from the path. After approximately 1.7km you will reach the Lawrence Grassi Waterfall. The stone steps are quite exposed, and they can get slippery when soaked in spray from the falls, so take care on this part of the trail.
Coming past the waterfall you’ll soon reach a road. Turn right on this road and head towards Grassi Lakes. Take time to enjoy the first lake and then travel up to the second lake. The path that runs to the right of the junction is known as the Riders of Rohan Trail, and will take you on a picturesque loop around the two lakes. Both lakes are fairly small, but incredibly beautiful – you won’t be able to take your eyes off them!
To return, head over the wooden bridges and towards the gravel path that is traveling back towards the start.
Hiking Trail Highlights
The Upper and Lower Grassi Lakes overlook the town of Canmore and the Bow River Valley, inside the Canmore Nordic Centre Provincial Park. They take their name from Lawrence Grassi, an Italian miner who worked for the Canadian Pacific Railway and later the Canmore coal mines. He became known as a skilled local climbing guide, and constructed the trail that leads to the lakes. The Grassi Lakes were eventually named in his honor.
This area is a particularly popular destination for rock climbers. The gray cliffs that tower above the lakes offer some excellent climbing routes, mainly because the cliff was once a reef, formed by now-extinct sponges that left convenient handholds and footholds in the rock.
The gorgeous turquoise color of the lakes creates some magnificent photo opportunities. Indeed, people have been admiring these beautiful lakes for centuries, attested by the presence of cave paintings close to the trail that date back 1000 years. Add this lovely hike to your Canmore itinerary and you’ll soon see why.
This is a busy hike, so it’s best to start early or late to avoid the crowds.
Head to Le Fournil Bakery in Canmore for the best pastries – the perfect accompaniment to this hike! Sit on a bench at one of the lakes and enjoy a wonderful break.
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