Snowshoeing to Chester Lake is one of the most popular Snowshoe routes in Kananaskis. The spectacular view of Mount Chester rising above the meadows surrounding Chester Lake justify this trip as the most popular snowshoe trail in Kananaskis.
The trailhead is located on the unpaved Highway 742, also known as the Smith-Dorrien Trail. From Canmore drive towards the Nordic Centre. Continue past the Nordic Centre and travel 41.0km before reaching the parking lot. If coming from Kananaskis Lakes in the south, the distance is approximately 20.0km.
|When to do|
December - April
Yes - On Leash
Out and back
Snowshoeing to Chester Lake is one of our favorite snowshoe trips in Kananaskis. It’s scenic, a great workout, sees plenty of snowfall, and travels through very safe terrain, rated as Simple – Class 1 terrain by Alberta Parks. That rating is the avalanche risk on the established snowshoe trail to Chester Lake. Exploring around or above Chester Lake is significantly more risky, and not recommended.
The trail starts at the Chester Lake trailhead. After crossing Chester Creek (about 1 minute from the parking lot), watch for the orange snowshoe sign on the right indicating where the snowshoe trail diverges from the ski trail. From here, the trail meanders through forest, climbing gently and weaving through old sections of logging road for less than 1.0km. After this section, the true ascent starts, and it is very steep! Keep marching on and fairly soon you’ll find yourself on a gentler grade, emerging from trees and getting your first view of Mounts Chester and Galatea, The Fortress, and Gusty Peak. The last ascent is visible near a band of trees in the distance.
Once reaching Chester Lake, continue along the SW (left) shore until the trail ascends left through trees towards the Elephant Rocks. Within 10 minutes you’ll arrive at your viewpoint; total time from the parking lot, about 1.5 hours at a slow but steady pace; 2 hours if you take breaks.
At the beginning of the trail there is a split where skiers go to the left and snowshoers go to the right, be sure to stay on the right trail. It can be very dangerous snowshoeing up the trail skiers are descending on.
This is a great trail to do with your family as there is no avalanche danger.
Consider stopping in at the delightful Mount Engadine Lodge for a snack on the way back. They have a variety of options for hikers, and their weekend brunch is great.
Snowshoeing in the Kananaskis is a remote activity. Make sure you are prepared for an emergency with warm clothes, extra food, matches and ideally a satellite transceiver, like a Garmin InReach. Cell phones do not work until you get to Canmore.
Always check the avalanche forecast for Kananaskis before heading out.
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