Elbow Lake hike

Kananaskis Country
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Elbow Lake hike

Distance: 4.3km
Elevation: 130m
Time: 1-2h

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9 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 62.0km. Turn left into the Elbow Pass Parking lot.

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When to do

June to October

Backcountry Campsites

Elbow Lake


At trailhead

Family friendly


Route Signage


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Route Type


Elbow Lake
Elevation Graph

Route Description for Elbow Lake hike

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 1.0km. At the 1.0km 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.


Peggy Rosie 6 months ago

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

8.0 Overall Rating
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MaggieRoy 6 months ago

Lovely spot, we've taken lots of nice pictures there. Very easy to get to.

10.0 Overall Rating
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1h 00m Time Taken

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