Panoramic views from the Sparrowhawk Tarns hike from Smith-Dorrien Trail in Kananaskis near Canmore
Panoramic views from the Sparrowhawk Tarns hike from Smith-Dorrien Trail in Kananaskis near Canmore

Sparrowhawk Tarns hike

Kananaskis – Smith Dorrien
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Rocks along the trail on the Sparrowhawk Tarns Hike near Smith-Dorrien Trail in Kananaskis, near CanmoreTrail up the valley on the Sparrowhawk Tarns Hike near Smith-Dorrien Trail in Kananaskis, near CanmoreView down the valley on the Sparrowhawk Tarns Hike near Smith-Dorrien Trail in Kananaskis, near CanmoreTrail goes up and to the right on the Sparrowhawk Tarns Hike near Smith-Dorrien Trail in Kananaskis, near CanmorePretty tarns on the Sparrowhawk Tarns Hike near Smith-Dorrien Trail in Kananaskis, near CanmoreBlue tarn on the Sparrowhawk Tarns Hike near Smith-Dorrien Trail in Kananaskis, near CanmoreTrail upon the Sparrowhawk Tarns Hike near Smith-Dorrien Trail in Kananaskis, near CanmoreRidge on the Sparrowhawk Tarns Hike near Smith-Dorrien Trail in Kananaskis, near CanmoreBeautiful tarn on the Sparrowhawk Tarns Hike near Smith-Dorrien Trail in Kananaskis, near CanmoreSparrowhawk Tarns Hike near Smith-Dorrien Trail in Kananaskis, near CanmoreBeautiful views on the Sparrowhawk Tarns Hike near Smith-Dorrien Trail in Kananaskis, near CanmoreView down from the Sparrowhawk Tarns Hike near Smith-Dorrien Trail in Kananaskis, near CanmoreGreat views on the Sparrowhawk Tarns Hike near Smith-Dorrien Trail in Kananaskis, near CanmoreValley view on the Sparrowhawk Tarns Hike near Smith-Dorrien Trail in Kananaskis, near CanmoreHikers on the Sparrowhawk Tarns Hike near Smith-Dorrien Trail in Kananaskis, near CanmoreTarn views on the Sparrowhawk Tarns Hike near Smith-Dorrien Trail in Kananaskis, near CanmoreBeautiful trail of the Sparrowhawk Tarns Hike near Smith-Dorrien Trail in Kananaskis, near CanmoreBoulder field on the Sparrowhawk Tarns Hike near Smith-Dorrien Trail in Kananaskis, near CanmoreSpray Lakes Reservoir on the Sparrowhawk Tarns Hike near Smith-Dorrien Trail in Kananaskis, near Canmore

Sparrowhawk Tarns hike

Distance: 9.3mi
Elevation: 2,362ft
Time: 4.5-6.5h

Difficulty Rating:

User Ratings:
9.5 Overall Rating
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The pretty hike to the Sparrowhawk Tarns is a hard trail to follow, however once you reach the tarns, the beautiful views make up for the route-finding challenges. Don’t wait until autumn, as the tarns dry up and are not as stunning.

Sparrowhawk Tarns hike Map

Getting there

From the Canmore Nordic Centre, continue west and then south on the Smith-Dorrien (Hwy 742) as it winds up into the Spray Valley for 14.1mi. Turn right at the signed Sparrowhawk Day Use Area.

I’ve done this 26 people have done this
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About

When to do

June to early October

Backcountry Campsites

No

Toilets

At trailhead

Family friendly

No

Route Signage

None

Crowd Levels

Low

Route Type

Out and back


Sparrowhawk Tarns
Elevation Graph


Route Description for Sparrowhawk Tarns

The hike to Sparrowhawk Tarns is a pretty hike, though route-finding can be challenging. Look at the map before you go, as knowing the general direction really helps you to know where to look for paths and cairns. There is a path, it’s just easy to miss on the way up. The way down from Sparrowhawk Tarns is much easier to follow.

From the Sparrowhawk Day Use Area, cross over the Smith-Dorrien and take the clear path the goes up. Very quickly you come to an intersection with the High Rockies Mountain Bike Trail crossing over your path, which goes straight ahead. The High Rockies Mountain Bike Trail is an exciting new trail for bike-packers and casual day-riders in the Canadian Rockies.

Go straight through the intersection and continue hiking up on the clear trail.

The path soon splits (roughly 0.6mi from the car), with the left going to Read’s Ridge. Go right to continue to Sparrowhawk Tarns.

After about an hour from leaving the car, you come out of the forest and come to a boulder field. There are two ways to go here, we went left and contoured around this boulder field on the way up. You could also go right here and find the path that goes up through the rocks (you can see on the map that we took this route down). The path is hard to follow, so just keep going up the valley in the general direction.

As you ascend you’ll pass through some boulder fields that require careful footwork. Roughly 0.9mi’s after you come out of the trees, after a bit of downhill, look for a path cutting back up a small rock-band. This rock band requires one point where you need to use your hands.

From here, make your way up and over to the right. Soon you come over a scree hill and you’ll look down on the pretty Sparrowhawk Tarns, overshadowed by Mount Bogart. While some people stop here, spend the effort and hike down and explore the tarns.

Wandering around the tarns is great fun, and each one has a different colour, and varying views of surrounding mountains as you explore. The Sparrowhawk Tarns are at their peak in the summer and can dry up by autumn.

To return to your car, head back the way you came. You’ll see from our map that there are several variants as trails split until you get back in the forest. It’s a pretty walk back, with great views down to the Spray Lakes Reservoir.

Check out other amazing hikes in Kananaskis – Smith Dorrien:

Insider Hints

  • If there is one hike you want to have a map for, it’s this one. Once out of the trees, it’s hard to follow the trail and it’s useful to have a map to see where you are.

  • The tarns are greatly reduced by autumn, so this is a hike you want to do in the summer, while snowmelt is still feeding them.

Comments

hannahthorns 1 year ago

Sparrowhawk Tarns is an unpolished gem! It's lovely as it is, but it could get better!

9.0 Overall Rating
Technical Difficulty
Physical Difficulty
Margaret Theroux 1 year ago

It's hard to stay on the trail, but with some route finding it's an enjoyable hike. Just keep an eye on the signs and the map and you'll be okay. Not many other people which was refreshing compared to some other hikes in the area.

Rosemery Ash 2 years ago

It was one of the less-traveled hikes. There was not a single soul when we visited.

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Soli Petravron 2 years ago

Sparrowhawk Tarns got some difficult trails. But once you reach the tarns, the amazing views will make up for the route-finding challenges. Definitely worth the effort.

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Jeffrey Reagan 2 years ago

Genuinely amazing experience! Everything looked so stunning!

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noraliu 2 years ago

The scenery was breathtaking and the trails were fantastic! Enjoy!

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Haffy K. 2 years ago

Great hiking experience. Everywhere you look, it's simply beautiful. The scenery was spectacular.

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Tina Loo 2 years ago

Great hike! The first part, through the trees, is quite pleasant: but watch the signs to make sure you're on your way to the tarns and not going along the High Rockies trail (mountain bikes) or to Mount Sparrowhawk (which is different). When we did it, there was lots of flagging for pest control - don't let that fool you (we did it on 21 August 2019).. Once you're out of the trees, pick your way along the boot beaten path. It's a bit tricky when you get to the boulder fields but definitely do-able! Lots of pikas and marmots - and fossils! The rocks themselves are beautiful. Well worth doing.

9.0 Overall Rating
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Sidney A. 2 years ago

It's useful if you bring a map along the way. This trail is an underrated gem.

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akaneogawa 3 years ago

Lovely spot that gives you a perspective on the surrounding majesty of Kananaskis!

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14 Comments Show all

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