Elbow lake view on a hike near Kananaskis
Elbow lake view on a hike near Kananaskis

Elbow Lake hike

Kananaskis Trail
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Stunning views on the Elbow Lake Hike in Kananaskis, near CanmoreThe trail of the Elbow Lake Hike in Kananaskis, near CanmoreTombstone Mountain from the Elbow Lake Hike in Kananaskis, near CanmoreReflections in the water on the Elbow Lake Hike in Kananaskis, near CanmorePaddleboarding on the lake on the Elbow Lake Hike in Kananaskis, near CanmoreView of the lake on the Elbow Lake Hike in Kananaskis, near Canmore

Elbow Lake hike

Distance: 2.7mi
Elevation: 427ft
Time: 1-1.5h

Difficulty Rating:

User Ratings:
8.6 Overall Rating
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The hike to Elbow Lake is a wonderful, family-friendly hike in the Highwood Area. It’s also the perfect first backpack trip, as Elbow Lake is so close to the trailhead. We do this hike every year with our family.

Elbow Lake hike Map

Getting there

From the Stoney Nakoda Casino on the TransCanada, take Highway 40 south for roughly 38.5mi. Turn left into the Elbow Pass Parking lot.

I’ve done this 26 people have done this
I want to do this 59 want to do this route

About

When to do

June to October

Backcountry Campsites

Elbow Lake

Toilets

At trailhead

Family friendly

Yes

Route Signage

Average

Crowd Levels

Moderate

Route Type

Lollipop


Elbow Lake
Elevation Graph


Route Description for Elbow Lake

The hike to Elbow Lake is a classic family hike, with great scenery for limited effort. There is also Elbow Lake Backcountry Campground, and for many families this is the first backpacking trip they do as a family.

From the Elbow Pass Parking lot, take the signed path that heads out from the parking lot. You’ll follow this wide path for about 0.6mi. At the 0.6mi mark, you’ll find yourself in a wide-open cirque with views all around you. On your right, you can see a peak from the Mount Rae massif: its shape reminiscent of a breaking wave.

In a few hundred metres you’ll reach Elbow Lake.  With deep emerald and blue tones, this lake is as beautiful as they come. A mountain from the Elpoca massif on the left slides right into the lake.  If you’re camping here, the campsite is to your right.

We like to go around the lake counter-clockwise, as this takes us through the campground, which has a toilet. Follow the path taking you around the other side of the lake. You’ll have to cross over a shallow creek at the tail-end of Elbow Lake. The views as you round the other side of Elbow Lake are even better than the side you hiked out on.

Finish circumnavigating Elbow Lake. You’ll return to your car on the same wide path that took you up to Elbow Lake in the first place.

Insider Hints

  • Elbow Lake Backcountry Campground is a great option for a first backpack for families. This campground has 15 sites, firepits and toilets, though you’ll need to boil or treat the lake water for drinking. Due to the elevation make sure you do it on a warm night, ideally in late-July or early August.

  • If you can, drive the southern approach to the hike, which goes through Longview and has much less traffic, though absolutely incredible views.

  • The entire Highwood Pass area, including the southern portion of Highway 40, is closed from December 1st to June 14th each year. This hike can only be reached via a long bike ride while the highway is closed.

  • Check out our YouTube video on this great family hike.

Comments

Coll A. 2 years ago

Amazing view of the lake and the mountains. Trail was so easy and simple.

10.0 Overall Rating
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MayP 2 years ago

Took us a long time to finish because all we do is take snaps because there are too much scenery that blew us away!

9.0 Overall Rating
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2h 00m Time Taken
WendyMag. 2 years ago

As other mentioned it's quite the climb to start but we'll worth it. Nice and stunning lake&mountains view

10.0 Overall Rating
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Kelseyk 2 years ago

It's a nice hike if you're looking for something easy and chill! It's definitely beautiful, though.

6.0 Overall Rating
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Haffy K. 2 years ago

Stunning lake views! Nice environment. The hike to Elbow Lake is a classic family hike, with great scenery for minimal effort.

10.0 Overall Rating
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Perry K. 2 years ago

This is a wonderful, family-friendly hike. We'll try our first backpack trip next year!

10.0 Overall Rating
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LukeMc 3 years ago

The views keep getting better as we went further. It was a pleasant hike.

9.0 Overall Rating
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lindsaaay 3 years ago

Easy peasy lemon squeezy. Pretty without much effort. If you're going on a nice weekend, try to get to the parking lot early.

romeoM 3 years ago

Beautiful vistas! Camping, hiking, fishing, and photography can be done in this incredible hike!

10.0 Overall Rating
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Peggy Rosie 3 years ago

Easy walk, quite a few people. Struggled to get parking space.

8.0 Overall Rating
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13 Comments Show all

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