Upper Kananaskis Lake

Kananaskis Trail
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Upper Kananaskis Lake

Distance: 16.5km
Elevation: 295m
Time: 4-5.5h

Difficulty Rating:

The hike around Upper Kananaskis Lake offers tremendous views, varied terrain and limited elevation gain – a great trail for all levels of hikers. This is also an especially good option for shoulder season in Canmore, when the route will be less crowded.

Getting there

Take Highway 40 South from the Trans-Canada Highway for 63.4km. Turn right at the “Winter Gate” onto highway 742 and follow this for roughly 12.5km, turning left at the “Upper Lake” sign. Follow the road down the hill, and there are two parking lots, an upper and a lower.

About

When to do

May through October

Backcountry Campsites

Yes

Toilets

Trailhead

Family friendly

No

Route Signage

Average

Crowd Levels

Moderate

Route Type

Circuit


Elevation


Detailed Description

We typically opt to park in the Upper Lake Day Use area, as there are usually many free spots here. Additionally, we recommend doing this trip counter-clockwise to see the great views early in the morning with good light and to finish with a bang with one final postcard view.

Start by walking across a causeway over the lake and then hug the shoreline. Make sure to check out the great views across the lake. After about 4.3km, you will come to the North Interlakes Day Use Area, which also has parking. Continue past here and cross a bridge. The Lower Kananaskis Lakes will be on your right. Both the Upper and Lower Kananaskis Lakes are natural lakes that were turned into reservoirs to provide hydroelectric power and flood control, as well as water reserves for Calgary.

Continue on the trail until you’re presented with the options of both an upper and lower path. Both go to the same place, however we prefer the upper path. The route brings you through the trees and emerges on a fantastic landscape very similar to the surface of the moon – the natural landslides have produced a rugged beauty. Make sure here to descend to the trail that contours around the lake and don’t continue along the route to Three Isle Lake, although this is also a great backpack option.

Another great campground comes up quickly as well – Point Campground – appearing at roughly 8.0km into the trip. This is a great starter backpacking trip, and it is fun to explore the shores around the area.

Savor the remaining views, as you’ll soon enter the forest and pass Upper Kananaskis Falls. Going through the trees can reveal some recent snowfall, and on one trip we followed bear tracks for 7.0km back to the parking lot. As you walk through the forest, you’ll notice options to continue to the rocky beach, populated by eerie forests of dead trees. If you’re feeling brave, venture down here for some beautiful views that’s also a good place to explore for the whole family – no we’re not kidding!

The trail continues along the lake in the trees, though closer to the lake shore. At approximately 15.0km, a track heads up to your right to Rawson Lake, another great hike in the area. Soon enough you are back at the parking lot.

Insider Hints

  • Get here early as it can get busy, especially on weekends.

  • Carry bear spray, especially in shoulder season. On numerous occasions, we’ve seen evidence of bears on our hikes.

  • Stop by Boulton Creek Trading Post for an ice cream after your walk.

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