Sarrail Ridge Hike via Rawson Lake

Difficulty
This reflects the 10Adventures difficulty rating for each route. We aim to keep ratings consistent across regions.
Hard
Duration
This reflects the estimated time the majority of users will take on this trail. If you are slower, add time to the top-end figure. If you are fast, then you may complete this route faster than this time range.
4-5.5h
Distance
This reflects the return distance of this route as measured by the GPS file.
11.5 km
Elevation
This reflects the total elevation gained throughout this route as measured by the GPS file. This includes all ascents and descents, and is higher than what is quoted in most route guides, which simply measure the distance between the starting-point and high-point of the route.
670 m
User Ratings
These ratings are completed by users who have completed this trail and not subject to reviews by 10Adventures.
Overall Rating
This is the average user-submitted overall rating on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest.
9.7
Physical Difficulty
This 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.
Advanced (Diamond)
Suitable for advanced experience level looking for a solid adventure.
Technical Difficulty
This 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.
Easy (Circle)
Suitable for beginners, families, young children, and those looking for a casual adventure.
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Directions to Trailhead
Panoramic views from the Sarrail Ridge via Rawson Lake hike in Kananaskis, the Canadian Rockies

The hike to Sarrail Ridge offers some of the most stunning views in the Canadian Rockies, it is truly spectacular. The final push up Sarrail Ridge is also perhaps the steepest hike we share in the Canadian Rockies. The informal route is degraded and challenging, and not one we’d do when icy or wet.

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Route Description for Sarrail Ridge Hike via Rawson Lake

Before starting, make sure you are prepared for this hike—it’s steep. Going to Sarrail Ridge is not something to do when it has rained or snowed recently, or ifthe trail is snowy or wet. The path up Sarrail Ridge also goes through classic Avalanche Terrain, and should be avoided in winter.

From the Upper Kananaskis Parking lot, walk down to Upper Kananaskis Lake where you’ll find a wide path. Go left on this path and follow it, while it edgesthe lakeshore. The views along this part of the walk are spectacular, and many tourists come just to look at the stunning Upper Kananaskis Lake.

After approximately 20 minutes you cross over Sarrail Creek on a wooden bridge, where just afterwards is a signed turn-off to the left for Rawson Lake. The sign lists the distance to Rawson Lake as 2.7 km.

The path to Rawson Lake goes steadily uphill through a subalpine forest. This part of the hike to Rawson Lake is described anywhere from an easy hike to ‘actually quite difficult’. It all depends if you are a seasoned hiker or just starting out. Everybody agrees that hiking up the switchbacks to Rawson Lake is worth it though, so don’t give up!

Once at Rawson Lake (it’s 3.4 km and 275 m of elevation gain from the car), the path goes to the left, contouring around Rawson Lake. If you look across the lake you can see a path at the far end that snakes up Sarrail Ridge. It’s steeper than it looks.

If you’re looking for a stopping point, there are many great options as you hike along Rawson Lake. As you get near the far end of the lake, the path gets rocky, though it is still easy to hike over. The path soon swings to the right at the end of Rawson Lake and you hike up a small hill. You may need to get over a few wet areas or streams if it’s early season or it has rained a lot recently.

Look up and you can see the trail directly ahead of you, going straight up to Sarrail Ridge. Before you begin the ascent, you go through a pretty meadow filled with wildflowers.

The hike up to Sarrail Ridge can be both tiring and tricky, and we have seen people use their hands to help steady them on the trail as it’s so steep. This is a hike that you definitely need your poles going up and we couldn’t imagine coming back down from Sarrail Ridge without poles.

Partway up the trail, the path splits. The right-hand path is the more popular path, though you do need to use your hands to get up a steep bit. The left-hand path is rougher, though does feel like it’s the easier of the two, and is the route we normally go.

Continue going up and soon it eases a bit, and this means you’re getting near the ridge. Soon, all this trouble getting to the top of Sarrail Ridge is worth it when you come to the col and see the stunning views all around.

While some people stop at this col, go right and hike up on a clear path for another few minutes and hike up higher on Sarrail Ridge. From this higher view point, you get incredible views of Upper and Lower Kananaskis Lakes. You also have a great view of Mount Indefatigable across the Upper Kananaskis Lake.

Meander along the top of Sarrail Ridge, trying to find the best viewpoint, however it is a challenging scramble to get to the peak roughly east of the ridge. Sarrail Ridge has a dangerous drop on the other side, so stay well clear of the edge.

To come down, follow the route you came up on. Be prepared that you may end up scooching down on your bum in some places, and poles really help. Watch for where the path splits and take whichever route you prefer. Eventually you’ll arriveback at Rawson Lake, and from there the path is wonderful all the way back to your car.

Hiking trail Highlights

Upper Kananaskis Lake

Up on the peak of Sarrail Ridge, you’ll have a fantastic viewpoint over the famed Upper Kananaskis Lake. Looking down, you’ll notice the unique shape and cutouts that form the lake. Though it’s hard to focus on the shape when you’re greeted by the vibrant blue waters.

Lookout even further beyond the lake and take in the majestic mountains that surround this natural beauty. From this vantage point, you should be able to spot both Mout Rae and Mount Lyaytey.

Rawson Lake

For double the beauty, hikers will also pass the breathtaking Rawson Lake. This natural waterway is surrounded by a subalpine forest and gorgeous wildflower meadows. Kick back with a book or a picnic here for a picturesque rest stop. Before heading out, be sure to go down by the water's edge to take in the pristine crystal-clear waters and snap a photo or two.

This trail is considered one of the best hikes in Kananaskis. Would you like to do a similar hike? Check out the Pocaterra Ridge.

Insider Hints for Sarrail Ridge Hike via Rawson Lake

  • This trail is not recommended if it is wet or icy.
  • We couldn’t imagine doing this hike without poles.
  • Get here early, as the hike to Rawson Lake is very popular, and the parking lot fills up early
  • This is prime bear country, so hike in groups and take bear-spray.
  • You can snowshoe to Rawson Lake in winter, however the route around Rawson Lake and up to Sarrail Ridge is very dangerous due to potential avalanches and should not be attempted. Rawson Lake doesn’t often freeze, and people have fallen through in recent years.

Getting to the Sarrail Ridge Hike via Rawson Lake Trailhead

To get to the start or Sarrail Ridge hike, take Highway 40 South from the Trans-Canada Highway for 63.4 km. Turn right at the “Winter Gate” onto highway 742 and follow this 2.2 km. Continue straight (passing the turn-off for Smith-Dorrien Trail) and continue for roughly 10.0 km, turning left at the “Upper Lake” sign. Follow the road down the hill, and park in the far-left parking lot, known as Upper Kananaskis Lake Parking Lot.

Route Information

  • When to do

    June to September

  • Backcountry Campsites

    No

  • Toilets

    Parking Lot, Rawson Lake

  • Family friendly

    No

  • Route Signage

    Poor

  • Crowd Levels

    High

  • Route Type

    Out and back

Sarrail Ridge Hike via Rawson Lake Elevation Graph

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Sarrail Ridge Hike via Rawson Lake Reviews

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