Sarrail Ridge via Rawson Lake hike
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 wet or icy.
Take Highway 40 South from the Trans-Canada Highway for 63.4km. Turn right at the “Winter Gate” onto highway 742 and follow this 2.2km. Continue straight (passing the turn-off for Smith-Dorrien Trail) and continue for roughly 10.0km, 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.
|When to do|
June to September
Parking Lot, Rawson Lake
Out and back
Sarrail Ridge via Rawson Lake
Route Description for Sarrail Ridge 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’s rained or snowed recently, and the 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 find a wide path. Go left on this path and follow it while it follows the 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, just afterwards is a signed turn-off to the left for Rawson Lake. The sign lists the distance to Rawson Lake as 2.7km.
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 3.4km and 275m 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 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 get back at Rawson Lake, and from here the path is wonderful all the way back to your car.
Would you like to do a similar level hike? Check out the Pocaterra Ridge.
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 Avalanche and should not be attempted. Rawson Lake often doesn’t freeze, and people have fallen through in recent years.
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